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Tribute to a Mountain Lion, Burcham, D'Antonis

By Frank Giardina

TWO OF THE best teams in the history of high school basketball in the Kanawha Valley were the Charleston High Mountain Lion teams in the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons. Under the direction of Lou Romano, those teams won back-to-back AAA state titles, defeating Parkersburg 76-56 in 1973 and Logan 81-74 in 1974.

Last weekend, one of the starters on the 1974 team, Curtis Cabell, passed away in Urbana, Ohio. The starting lineup in 1974 was Lowell Harris and Ameche Watson at guards, Cabell and Sam Brooks at forward and Mike Jones at center. John Britton was the sixth man.

All went on to play college basketball. Cabell and Mike Jones both signed with Gale Catlett and Cincinnati, Brooks signed with Louisville, Harris with Kings College in Tennessee, Watson with West Virginia Tech and Britton with Akron.

Cabell was a junior high phenom at Dunbar. His mother taught at Charleston High and he went to Charleston Catholic to play as a sophomore. He then transferred to Charleston High but had to sit out his junior season of 1972-73. He then took the place of graduated Dennis Harris the next year as the Mountain Lions won another state title

"Curt was an incredible leaper and athlete," recalled Watson this week. "He was also a very skilled player and had a great mid-range jumper. He was also one of the nicest guys you would ever meet.

"I do recall one funny incident from his time at Cincinnati. Coach Catlett put him in a game against Louisville and when Curt went to the scoring table he was so excited that he pulled too hard on his warm-up pants. The warm-up up pants and his shorts both came down, leaving Curt's backside exposed.  After that, folks at Cincinnati started calling him Reverend Moon after Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a national figure in the news at that time." 

Those Charleston teams will not be forgotten by many area fans. Here's hoping Curtis Cabell will be remembered today. 

  • USA swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in our nation's history. I was reminded this week that Phelps' parents, Fred and Debbie Phelps, both attended Fairmont State. Fred played football as a defensive back for the Falcons in the 1970s and got into training camp with the Washington Redskins. He is a retired Maryland state trooper.
  • Speaking of the Olympics, our state's distance running phenom, Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham, hopes to run for Team USA some day. Burcham, now a senior, is one of the best distance runners in the world in his age group and is in the middle of an incredibly intense recruiting battle.
  • Reportedly, the top four schools on his list right now are Stanford, Colorado, Wisconsin and, surprisingly, Kentucky. UK climbed into the Burcham sweepstakes after hiring former Stanford coach Edrick Floreal in July. 

  • Finally, isn't it amazing where a simple childhood toy like a basketball can take you?
  • In the case of one of one of our state's greatest high school coaching legends, Lewis D'Antoni of Mullens, that ball has taken him from every small gym in southern West Virginia to major NBA arenas and to international and Olympic Games wound the world.

    D'Antoni is the father of two of our state's greatest point guards, Danny and Mike D'Antoni, who both starred at Marshall and have had long coaching careers in the NBA. Mike just helped lead Team USA to another Gold Medal in Olympic basketball.

    Lewis D'Antoni was a high school coaching legend at Pineville, Mullens and Chesapeake, Ohio, for 28 seasons, compiling a record of 450-200. He won a state title at Mullens in 1955 coaching future WVU star and Logan coaching legend Willie Akers, future Virginia Tech star Terry Penn and future Marshall football coach Rick Tolley.

    Not many have had as amazing a life and journey in basketball as Lewis D'Antoni. He will be 99 years old on Dec. 31 and, amazingly, he played golf up until two years ago.  

    Reach Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.


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