The Big Time
College Hoops on the Rise, 1946–1965
In the winter of 1947 a group of students from rural Claremont High School made a hundred-mile trip to see a basketball game. The ride from Catawba County to the state capital in Raleigh remained a formidable journey on North Carolina's still-developing highway system, but the excited students paid little attention to the road. Word had begun to filter through the state that the team from North Carolina State College was playing basketball almost too good to be believed, and the Claremont players wanted to see it for themselves. They were not disappointed. Almost half a century later, one squad member sat back in his living room and recalled that night in words shot through with still-fresh amazement. “I remember the first time I'd ever seen a jump shot,” Bill Bost explained. “I believe it was Sammy Ranzino. He was an All-American at N.C. State. He shot a one-hand jump shot. And I was in high school, and everything at that time was a two-hand set. Everything. And I was awed—I'd never seen anything like it. And of course just as soon as we got back to the gym, everybody was attempting this one-handed shot.” 1
That group of Claremont players, trying in their cracker-box gymnasium to leap into the air and launch one-handed revelations, stood with thousands of their fellow citizens at the beginning of a new era in North Carolina sports. The speedy, athletic style that was transforming basketball around the country had taken hold in northern cities and midwestern towns and was fast becoming standard fare at several of North Carolina's African American colleges. But until a band of Indiana hotshots descended on North Carolina State, few of the state's white residents had ever seen it played. For Bill Bost and for tens of thousands of North Carolinians who followed the state's postwar teams, jammed college arenas, and crowded into airports to greet victorious squads, basketball became a window opening onto a larger world, offering possibilities of which most state residents had never dreamed.