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‘˜Wimp’ molded boys into strong men

They buried Oscar Wimberly the other day after an elaborate funeral service in which many of those whom he touched over his long athletic and coaching careers shared memories of the man known as Wimp. Wimp was one of the first people I met when I moved to Barnesville in 1979. Suddenly I found myself writing about high school basketball and he was the master of that domain. I gathered his stats every Monday during the basketball season. Wimp was standoffish at first. It took time for him to warm up to you but when he did you had a friend for life. I always enjoyed our visits. I was young. Wimp had forgotten more about basketball than I knew but I learned. I loved the tale his lifelong friend Howard Glover shared at the funeral. Ballard and Hudson high schools in Macon had merged and the two of them were among about 150 boys trying out for the basketball team. There were 16 uniforms awaiting those who made it. As Glover told it, the coaches thinned the herd by giving the boys a basketball at the front door and asking them to dribble the length of the floor and make a layup at the other end of the court. If you missed, you were gone – you were cut. Wimp dribbled down and missed. Not to be denied, he went out the back door, around the gym and got back in the line. No one noticed and he got another chance. He missed his layup again only to return to the line and make the easy shot on his third try. Glover made his first layup and both of them made the team on which they starred. They remained friends, calling each other almost daily until Wimp left us June 5. For all the years I worked with him, Wimp coached basketball but he supported the other sports. He followed the football team even in the lean years. I remember one game at East Laurens. It was freezing, the sky was spitting ice crystals and LC was getting killed. The Lamar contingent at the game consisted of Wimp, Dewaine Bell, Robert Myles, Dr. E.H. Harris, a bus driver and me. After he retired, Wimp still went to basketball games but sat on the other side of the gym in deference to the coaches who followed him. He would analyze the performance of the Trojans and Lady Trojans but quietly. As far as I know, he never forced his opinions or analysis on any of his successors. That is where i saw him last – in his familiar spot at a playoff game earlier this year, cutting up with his son Jamall and former players who would stop by and chat. I vividly recall a trip to the local gym in 1982 when the Trojans were battling Crawford County. The Eagles had the great Kenny ‘˜Sky’ Walker, a 6-8, 210 pound behemoth in the middle. In the gym were coaches Joe B. Hall of Kentucky, Sonny Smith of Auburn, Hugh Durham of Georgia, Terry Holland of Virginia and Joe Williams of FSU. Those are the ones I recognized. I am sure there were others. Before the game, Wimp held court with the college coaches who queried him about Walker, his strengths, weaknesses and how to defend him. ‘We ain’t got nobody who can defend him,’ Wimp quipped and he was right. Walker put on a show, fouling out every player Wimp assigned to guard him. Walker of course went on to star at Kentucky for four years. He was taken by the New York Knicks with the fifth pick in the NBA draft in 1986. He starred for the Knicks until knee injuries slowed him, winning the NBA slam dunk contest in 1989. Walker was a once-in-a-lifetime talent in high school. Sadly, Lamar County has never had a superstar like that. I wish we had. Wimp would have molded him into a great player and a great man. That was his life’s work and there are countless former players out there to attest to it. That is why the gym at the new LCHS now under construction should be named for Oscar Lewis Wimberly and known as ‘˜The Wimp’. Let’s make it happen!

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