Teammates remember championship runs

From left to right: Alvin Little, B.T. Williams and William Griffin, members of the Atkins Camels 1952 championship team.

Teammates remember championship runs
May 09
01:20 2019

The Atkins Camels won three consecutive state championships in men’s basketball from 1952-54. Six members of those championship teams are still alive and three came together recently to reminisce about those championship runs.  

Alvin Little, B.T. Williams and William Griffin were the three members who gathered at The Chronicle office to speak about their momentous achievement. The three men vividly remember how good their championship teams were and are very proud of being the first Forsyth County team to win three state championships in a row.

According to the members of the team, the major reason for their success was that they all grew up playing together from elementary school all the way through high school. They said they knew each other’s moves, so there was no reason to run many sets, they just passed the ball to the open man.

Although the group lost in the playoffs during the 1951 season, they knew they had a good team coming back for the 1952 season. The guys were prepared to make a run due to the solid core they had on the team.

“From the beginning of the year, we sure did think we could win the state championship,” said Griffin. “We knew that we were that good, because it was four or five of us that came up together at 14th Street School and we played together all our lives and we were not selfish.”

For their first state championship, the Camels defeated Gastonia High School by the score of 40-36. The Camels got out to an early lead and protected the ball in the final seconds to win the school’s first title in men’s basketball. Coming into the game, the teammates said they were filled with confidence.

“Nervous is something that I have never been,” said Williams when asked about his state of mind going into the game. “All I wanted to do was just get out there and play.”

They had a feeling of pride and accomplishment after winning their first title, said the teammates. For the next year, they lost a couple of their key players to graduation, but the confidence remained.

The Camels posted a 22-2 record during the 1953 championship run, including four victories against crosstown rival Carver, with the final win coming in the state championship game.

“I always thought we were going to win, I never thought about losing,” said Williams about the 1953 season.  

“Yeah, we thought we were going to win it again,” Griffin added. “In fact, our freshman year we went to the state tournament and the team that beat us in the semifinals, we had just beat them by 30 points, because we got cocky. That team our freshman year may have been the best team we had, but we didn’t win it all.”

The guys spoke fondly about their rivalry with Dudley during the days of segregation. Most often, there were two rival black-only schools in the major cities throughout the state of North Carolina during that time, they stated.

Little, who had transferred to Carver for the 1953 season, said he knew Atkins was the superior team when it came to talent. “I knew it was going to be a hell of a fight,” he said.

For their third championship run in 1954, many would think it was a foregone conclusion that the Camels would win it all again, but that was not the case. The team cruised through the season with a 20-4 record.  When it came to the championship game, they faced off against Laurinburg, which was a private school that recruited players from across the country.  

They defeated Laurinburg 58-53 in the championship game. Unfortunately for the Camels, they were not allowed to go to the national tournament, but Laurinburg did and won it all.

The teammates said they will forever have fond memories of their championship runs. They said they personally enjoy how the game was played back then versus how it is played today.

“Back then we were not selfish,” said Griffin. “Back then we did not concentrate on statistics, all we wanted to do was play ball and our game was to hit the open man, that’s why we didn’t run many plays.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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