High Schools

Kinston builds legacy of basketball championships

tstevens@newsobserver.comApril 2, 2013 

Perhaps no other small community in the country can match Kinston for the accomplishments of its basketball players. The Lenoir County town of about 22,000 has produced four ACC stars and three current or former NBA players.

An all-town team of Charles Shackleford and Tommy Mattocks (N.C. State), Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell (Charlotte), and Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock (North Carolina) might be unmatched by any similarly sized community.

“It’s just a special place,” said Perry Tyndall, a former Vikings player who capped his first season as head coach at Kinston High with a N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A championship.

Kinston became the 11th school to win NCHSAA boys’ and girls’ basketball titles in the same year when the girls knocked off Canton Pisgah 51-40 and the boys defeated Waxhaw Cuthbertson 56-53. For the boys, it was their second straight title, third championship in four years and ninth overall crown.

The Kinston boys won state titles in 1950 (1A), 1955 (2A), 1956 (2A), 1964 (3A), 1965 (3A), 2008 (3A) and 2010 (2A) before adding the past two 2A titles.

Kinston’s nine state championships and its 19 title-game appearances trail only New Hanover (14 titles, 20 finals) and defunct Durham High (13 titles, 22 finals).

Tyndall can recite much of that history. He played for former coach Paul Jones and remembers going to the coach’s summer camps as a youngster and being overwhelmed by the state championship banners and the honored jerseys in the gym.

“It was overwhelming,” he said. “There is just so much of it. I wanted to be a part.”

The town is celebrating. Tyndal has gotten congratulatory telephone calls and messages from people he has never met, and he and the teams attended a Rotary Club luncheon in their honor. When he walks the halls, the school still buzzes about the two state championships.

As the school’s athletics director, Tyndall has had little time to process where this year’s accomplishments rank historically. He worked the gate, collecting tickets, at the Vikings’ baseball game two days after the title games.

“To tell the truth, I’m looking forward to spring break,” he said. “I really want to process what he kids accomplished.”

Tyndall distributes credit for the double championship like goodies at an Easter egg hunt.

He is not the only youngster to begin the quest for basketball excellence at an early age. The parks and recreation department does an incredible job of reaching the entire community, he said. He credits rec league coaches, middle school coaches and the former greats who still drop by the school where state championship trophies’ reflections seem to light a path to future greatness as much as they shine on past accomplishments.

The expectations almost are impossible, he said. People are talking about winning a third straight championship before the new title plaques need dusting. He suspects some fans mentioned the possibility of a three-peat as they left the Smith Center in Chapel Hill after this year’s title games.

Tyndall said he has no idea how many times next season has been mentioned to him, but he is more concerned now with keeping a consistent message to his players and other students.

Valedictorians don’t get trophies or have their tassels retired, but Tyndall said his job is to give students more than the coaching that helps win basketball games.

The state basketball title is the goal every year at Kinston, but he stresses that success can’t be measured solely in winning state championships. He told this year’s team it had added to the school’s tradition before the playoffs began.

“We had a great year even if we had been unlucky in the playoffs,” he said.

He stresses to the players that they must have bigger goals than adding hardware to the bulging trophy case or eliciting gasps with a resounding dunk. He talks about being good people, making good decisions and working as hard in the classroom as they do on the court.

He wants them to be successful in their jobs, their marriages and with their families.

He doesn’t want winning a state title at Kinston High to be the highlight of their lives.

Tyndall points with pride to DeQuain Joyner, who may be the senior class valedictorian, and notes that Denzel Keyes and Jeremy Taylor also are among the top 15 in the class academically.

“We had three starters among the top students in the school,” Tyndall said. “That’s success. That’s the message. You can be great in the classroom and on the court.”

And greatness is the norm at Kinston High.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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