College of Coastal Georgia News
By Kevin Price, Feb. 16, 2019
Coaches often remind players to play their best and always hustle because you never know who might be watching you in the stands.
For David Jones, one of the best performances of his high school career came when his Ware County team upset rival Waycross in the sub-region tournament semifinals with Brunswick Junior College Coach Bob Woodward seated in the bleachers.
The coach was there scouting the talent to see if anyone playing was worthy of a scholarship offer to join his brand new Buccaneers team for its first-ever season in 1968-69.
The 27-point performance by Jones that game caught the eye of Woodward as did the games played by Harry Dougherty who also was a standout for Ware and Robbie Cone who was one of the top players for the opposing Bulldogs who were ranked No. 1 in the state.
A few nights later, the new BJC coach was also in attendance for the tournament championship between Ware and Wayne County when he also liked what he saw from Wayne star player Jimmy Hires.
Woodward eventually offered all four players the chance to come play for the Brunswick college and all four ended up accepting his offer.
The 1968-1969 Buccaneers were the first team at the College.
Jones, Dougherty and Hires will be among those here this weekend when the College of Coastal Georgia athletic department honors the school's first-ever basketball squad from 50 years ago as part of its Homecoming festivities Saturday when today's Coastal Georgia teams take on Thomas University in a 2 p.m. doubleheader at Howard Coffin Gym in the final games of the regular season.
Unfortunately, Cone and Woodward will not be here for the reunion as both are deceased and have moved on that Big Basketball Court in the Sky.
The anticipation of the reunion has brought back all sorts of memories for Jones who helped spearhead the event and locate as many players from the inaugural team as he could.
And really, that big scoring game he had in that tournament game at the end of his prep career ended up impacting the rest of his life as it helped him get to the local college where he got more than two years of education and two more seasons of playing a game he loved.
The time Jones and his teammates spent working and also having fun on Sea Island ultimately led him into a prosperous career within the hotel and hospitality industry.
You see, the BJC players first packed into a small house near the school on Campbell Street in Brunswick, but that wasn't working out so well as Jones recalled in a recent phone interview.
So, Woodward worked out an agreement with the Sea Island Co. for the players to stay at the Cloister Hotel on Sea Island. The players could stay in a two-bed room for $14 a week or a single-bed room for $17.
Jones said the players felt like they had hit the big-time with this arrangement. They ate square meals every day at the hotel cafeteria, and when they weren't doing school-work or playing ball, they spent time having fun on the beach or working jobs for Sea Island.
Jones worked with the landscaping department and also in the hotel dining room. He said his Sea Island experience is what really attracted him to the hospitality industry. Jones finished his college degree in zoology at the University of Georgia and spent one year teaching in junior high and coaching basketball in Hilliard, Fla.
He said he quickly realized teaching school wasn't for him and changed his career path. He went to work in hospitality and made a successful career in the industry which included 14 years with Marriott International.
"I certainly owe a lot to Coach Woodward and also Billy Gibson, the personnel director for Sea Island when we were there, for hiring me to work there while I was in school," Jones said.
As for playing basketball, Jones has fond memories of suiting up for the Buccaneers as a college freshman and sophomore and bringing basketball to the college for the first time.
"It was fun to be part of that first team. We were a big hit on campus," Jones says.
That first team that Woodward put together was made up of entirely freshmen. A game program from their game at Georgia Military College lists 15 players on the Bucs' roster.
In addition to Jones and the others already noted, that roster included Steve Dillard, Earl Calloway, Jim Tungate, Mike Cave, Gregory Lewis, Ron Ford, Christopher Mack, Dennis Betts, Tim Roever, Robert Norman and Tom Spook.
Woodward is listed as the team's only coach while Jim Otte is listed as the school athletic director.
Most of the players were from South Georgia places such as the aforementioned Wayross, Jesup, Reidsville, Savannah and Brunswick, but some did come from much farther away. Dillard was from Bedford, Ind., Tungate was from Bloomfield, Ind., Betts came from Nashville, Mich., Roever was from Cleves, Ohio, and Spook was from Atticus, Ind.
By today's standards, the Bucs weren't a very big team. Spook, at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, was easily the biggest player on the squad. Cone, who stood 6-5, was the next tallest player.
The Bucs held their own that first campaign, however, going 12-12 for the season. According to the school yearbook, they were a pretty fair defensive team as they held opponents to an average of 68.8 points a game.
The Bucs lost their first-ever game 82-64 to Middle Georgia, but would knock off Albany Junior College 70-69 the next time out for the program's first victory on the basketball court.
The Bucs teetered around the .500 mark all season, but had slipped to 8-10 with two games left in the season. They managed to take both of those final two games, however, defeating Middle Georgia 65-53 and Jones College 80-71 to get back to .500 overall for the season.
"I don't know that we were gonna win any regional championships, but we were a reputable team, I think," Jones said.
Now, all these years later, Jones doesn't remember the details of every game from that first season or even the next one, when the Bucs finished with a similar overall record. There are some things he can't help but remember, though, from his time playing at BJC.
One of his most vivid memories actually comes from the 1969-70 season when the Bucs played down in Jacksonville, Fla., prior to a Jacksonville University varsity game against Georgetown.
That was also the year the Dolphins, led by Artis Gilmore and Pembrook Burrow, became the smallest school to play for the NCAA national championship when it lost to powerhouse UCLA coached by basketball legend John Wooden.
The BJC players were in the stands for Jacksonville's game against Georgetown when the Hoyas' coach took his team off the floor following two brawls early in the game, thus ending the game suddently at that very point.
Jones also mentioned the Bucs' game at Brewton-Parker in Mount Vernon that same year when several BJC players were sick with the flu and couldn't play.
With several players fouling out before the final horn and no one else available to play, the Bucs were forced to finish the game with four players and managed to hold on for an 84-80 win over the home squad.
"It was our four against their five," Jones said. "We must have played the last five or six minutes with four players and still won the game."
One of the biggest thrills and lasting memories stems from the first game the Bucs played in the brand new Howard Coffin Gym.
Prior to getting its own gymnasium in the middle of that first season, the BJC team used Brunswick High's home court across the street from the college for games and practices.
The Bucs played in Coffin for the first time on January 4, 1969. That day, they fell to Norman Park by a 62-58 score, thus dropping to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the Georgia Junior College Conference.
According to a report on the game by longtime Brunswick News sports editor Murray Poole, neither team shot the ball well that night. Both teams took 65 shots, and Norman made one more field goal than BJC while shooting 35.4 percent (23-65) from the floor to 33.8 percent by the Bucs (22-65).
Also, Norman shot just slightly better from the foul line, making 16 of 22 free throws while the Bucs made 14 of 21.
The loss in the new building was disappointing, but the night was special, says Jones.
"It was nice to be on our own turf. Everyone was excited to have our own gym," he said.
Jones is looking forward to being back on campus with several of his old teammates this weekend. They will notice a lot of changes as they walk the grounds, too.
Of course the school name has changed several times over the last 50 years, and Coastal Georgia is now a four-year school. When the athletic department made the switch to the four-year level, too, for the 2011-12 school year, it left the Georgia junior college league and became a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Long before that, though, the school changed its nickname to the Mariners, but the college went from offering only a few sports to the eight it has now when it moved into the four-year ranks.
And also, the school colors have switched twice from the baby blue and gold scheme worn by the Bucs to the green and gold first worn by the Mariners and now the royal and the lighter blue that is used in the College's sails logo.
The old players will also see more buildings, some new and others remodeled, and more students than the 700 number that Jones recalls from 50 years ago.
But while the gym has received a facelift in recent years and the floor has been painted with the school's current color-scheme and logo, the Coffin will look similar to what they probably remember from when they played.
The Bucs went to dinner Friday night with current Coastal Georgia coaches and administrators. On Saturday, they will spend the day with the Mariners, starting with the team's morning shoot-around.
The 1968-69 team will also be introduced along with the current Coastal Georgia men's and women's teams during the Homecoming tailgate party on campus and will also join the Mariners for lunch in the school dining hall prior to heading to the gym for the afternoon doubleheader.
The Bucs will have reserved seats for the games and they will be introduced on the floor to the crowd during a media timeout in the men's game.
The 50-year reunion will end with a postgame celebration and meal with the Coastal Georgia players and coaches and other invited guests upstairs in the Coffin building where the athletic department is housed.
"We are very excited to host the reunion for the 1968-69 team," said William Carlton, Coastal Georgia's athletic director. "It's an honor to connect to the 'roots' of the program and to have these gentlemen back on campus.
"It's especially important for the 2018-19 team to meet with and interact with the former players and to get a glimpse into what it means to be a team and a good teammate for years into their futures after college and after basketball ends. This will be a really fun day of activity and reminiscences for everyone."
- Story written by Kevin Price, interim sports information director for the College of Coastal Georgia.
Originally published on Coastal Georgia Sports.