Members of the 1964-65 Berry Academy Falcons basketball team returned to campus in December to commemorate the golden anniversary of one of the greatest seasons in Berry history.
Fifty years ago, these men dominated their competition as one of the most formidable high school basketball teams in Georgia. Thriving under the strict leadership of head coach Jerry Shelton (58C), the Falcons soared to a 30-5 record that included a 17-game winning streak to start the season, a four-game sweep of the Rome News-Tribune Invitational Basketball Tournament (now called the Holiday Festival), and a seven-overtime win over Cartersville that propelled them into the state tournament for a second consecutive season.
Five decades later, the bonds of brotherhood that made them such a powerful unit were still evident as team members, fellow alumni and friends gathered for a reunion luncheon in the Berry Alumni Center. Later, the Falcons took the court together once more to be honored before a packed house at Berry’s own Cage Center during halftime of the final game of the 2014 Holiday Festival tournament.
The players were effusive in their praise of Shelton, a standout athlete during his college days at Berry who went on to a distinguished career as an educator and administrator, eventually serving as director of the basketball tournament he’d won as a coach at Berry Academy. They also remembered his late wife, Joyce (63C), the team’s “greatest, most loyal” cheerleader.
With obvious respect and good humor, they painted a picture of a man meticulous in nature, rigorous in his training methods and creative in his coaching. Jerry Chastain (65A), for example, recalled a practice in which Shelton armed defenders with tennis racquets to help his shooters prepare for a particularly tall opponent.
“He made us winners,” declared team captain Tom Butler (65A). “He taught us that we were worthwhile and powerful, to shoot beyond what we thought were our limits, that we were somebody because we were men of Berry. And because of this, we found out who we really, truly could become.”
Bill McWhorter (65A, 69C) added, “Through [Shelton's] guidance and with a student body that supported a team that loved to play basketball and loved each other, we were able to make the Berry schools proud, not just the high school but the college as well. It’s an honor for me to say that I’m a graduate from Berry Academy, and I was a member of the greatest team ever.”
The reunion was spearheaded by Bob Williams (62H) and his wife, Kay.