CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College one hundred years ago, Harry Stansbury was staying busy.
A Raleigh County native, he played quarterback and led the Bobcats to football victories over West Virginia and Marshall in three consecutive seasons. He was captain of the baseball team and manager of the basketball and track teams, as well as president of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Track Association.
While still a Wesleyan student, he became the school's athletic director in those embryotic years of college athletics, arranging schedules and typing up press releases that he mailed to area newspapers. Wesleyan's 1914 yearbook described him as a "born leader.''
Starting in 1917, three years after his graduation from Wesleyan, he spent 21 productive years as WVU's athletic director and helped bring about construction of the original Mountaineer Field and the Field House, which still bears his name.
But perhaps his greatest contribution to West Virginia athletics was the state high school basketball tournament, which will be staged for the 100th time starting Wednesday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Newspaper stories of the era say young Stansbury founded the tournament on the Wesleyan campus in Buckhannon in 1914. It started as a modest venture matching the state's two best teams, Elkins and Wheeling.
From there, it grew to an astonishing 72 teams in 1924, giving the little town of Buckhannon an early taste of hoops hysteria, and has settled in to an annual, high-profile sports staple that soon will begin its second century.
It's probably safe to say that Wesleyan's brand-new gymnasium, which opened in September of 1913 and survived until 1974, played a role in the tournament's birth. It's likely Stansbury or a business-minded Wesleyan higher-up saw a statewide basketball tournament as a way to showcase the new gym, which seated about 1,200 spectators and housed a pool, baseball batting cage and running track.
"Wesleyan can boast of having the finest gymnasium in the state,'' the school's 1914 yearbook proclaimed.
Moreover, Stansbury surely realized that the budding sport of basketball, which had been invented just 23 years earlier, would lend itself to a popular, cost-efficient tournament involving teams from throughout the state.
Whatever the case, he received the school's blessings and began spreading the word in early 1914 that Wesleyan would play host to a tournament in March of that year and that all schools would be welcome.
As it turns out, the logistics of a full-fledged tournament on such short notice apparently proved too challenging, and thus only Elkins and Wheeling, the teams with the state's best records, played in what is considered the state's first high school basketball tournament on Saturday, March 21, 1914.
Elkins won 28-13, having built a 15-6 halftime lead that proved insurmountable.
A Wheeling Daily News correspondent captured the moment: "Both teams showed flashes of brilliant passing, but in this department, as well as basket shooting, Elkins excelled.''
Elkins captain Harry Leslie led the Tigers with six goals and impressed the Daily News.
"Leslie was undoubtedly the star of the game,'' the newspaper reported. "This red-headed chap seemed to be all over the floor and was the backbone of the Elkins offensive, as well as defensive, playing.''
Elkins also held an advantage in crowd support, the Daily News added.
"The Elkins contingent was particularly noisy, and enthusiasm was at a high pitch throughout the contest,'' said the newspaper.
The Wheeling Register attributed part of Wheeling's problems to nerves.
"After the start of the game, the Wheeling players seemed to be suffering somewhat from stage fright,'' the newspaper noted, "and fumbled passes and wild shots played havoc with their chances of scoring.''
Describing the game in a brief front-page story the next day, the Elkins Inter-Mountain called the crowd "one of the largest ever to witness a basketball game in the state'' and said both coaches gave their teams "a severe grilling at halftime.''