LEGENDARY | Campbell Basketball School

The history, big names and experiences that made the nation’s first basketball school world famous

In the heart of North Carolina is a place called Buies Creek, Where countless young men gather every summer for a week. Do you wonder why they go there? Do you wonder what they seek?

John Wooden, 1966

Many North Carolinians joke that basketball is a religion in this state. The rest agree, only they aren’t joking. Its chapels are found in Chapel Hill and Durham. Raleigh and Winston-Salem. Greensboro and Charlotte. Its preachers are men like Dean and Roy. Coach K and Coach Kay. The Gray Fox and Jimmy V.

Hidden away among the many pages in the Basketball Bible of the Old North State is the story of a basketball camp that began in a tiny rural town at a school considered a David to the sport’s Goliaths.

Every June, for a span of about 30 years beginning in 1956, Campbell College and its unimpressive Carter Gymnasium was the center of the basketball universe. The brainchild of Campbell coach Fred McCall, the nation’s first summer camp dedicated to round-ball fundamentals had humble beginnings, attracting about 150 kids in its first year. At its peak, Campbell Basketball School was a three-week adventure that brought in more than 2,000 kids, in addition to the biggest names the sport had to offer.

John Wooden, the greatest coach of all time.“Pistol Pete” Maravich, the greatest showman of all time.Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time. The list goes on. You could build an impressive Hall of Fame using it alone.

Generations of young men and women who’d go on to become professional athletes or coaches — as well as lawyers, doctors, writers and teachers — sweated through the lessons in cramped un-air conditioned gyms and came away not only better ball players, but better people, too.

The stories behind the school are the stories of legends. The two men who made it a reality. The legendary coach who fell in love with it. The meager gym that holds so many memories. The boy prodigy who grew up with it alongside his father. The kids whose Christmases came in June. The camper and counselor who went on to run an NBA franchise.

“There will never be anything like it,” insists Danny Roberts, who ran the camp in the 1970s and 80s after McCall, his mentor, left the sport. “It’s hard to put into words what this camp meant to people and to this community.”

Contributors

Billy Liggett Writer
Bob Dry Illustrator

This article is related to: