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Legends: Campbell made ‘The Shot’ and is still on target

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

GREENSBORO — Doug Campbell drilled one of the greatest shots in a tournament that practically drips with history.

“People do still remember that shot from the Sam Moir Christmas Classic,” Campbell said with a laugh. “But the further away we get from it, the fewer people come up to me and want to talk about it.”

While Campbell has athletic recollections from football, as well as basketball, some of his strongest memories are from the 2006 Christmas tournament at Goodman Gym that contained semifinal ecstasy and title-game agony for Campbell, a 6-foot-1 guard for the Salisbury High Hornets.

“I think anyone who played in the Christmas tournament at Catawba never forgets it, and anyone who was lucky enough to win it carries it with them the rest of their life,” Campbell said. “I played in a time when Rowan County basketball was really strong. Just to get to that famous championship game against East Rowan, we had to beat an outstanding West Rowan team in the semifinals.”

That West team included Jamel Carpenter, K.J. Sherrill, K.P. Parks, Chris Smith and Kaleb Kimber. It was supposed to be West’s tournament or East’s tournament. East had the strongest squad it had boasted in three decades.

Salisbury crashed the party when it upset the Falcons. Campbell made a heavily contested, game-winning shot in the lane with the clock running down and dispatched the Falcons to the third-place game.

“I’d been kind of quiet in the second half, but I knew if I got the ball in my hands, it was going up and it was going in,” Campbell said. “That was a hard-nosed game that made us grow up a lot.”

Salisbury had quick athletes such as Ibn Ali and talented size — Joe Allen and Brandon Abel. In the standing room only final on Dec. 29, 2006, the Hornets squared off against an East Rowan team that was skilled and could shoot the lights out.

East’s plan was always to put the ball in the hands of point guard Spenser Davis. He would drive, draw and dish, and at some point, the Mustangs would rain ungodly storms of 3-pointers. Salisbury coach Jason Causby played it differently — stick with the shooters, defend Davis with Ali, and make Davis finish.

Salisbury led by seven in the fourth quarter. East came back to force overtime.

With 1:03 left in the first overtime, East was up seven.

Campbell’s desperate, pull-up 3-pointer from way, way out on the left sent the game to double overtime. Goodman Gym exploded with noise. People quite literally rolled in the aisles.

That shot gets a little deeper every year and every time the story is retold, but any way you look at it, it was one of the shots of the century.

“What I remember most about it is a lot of our fans were leaving, heading to the exits, and then suddenly they were all turning around, heading back into the gym,” Campbell said. “I’m not sure exactly how far out I was, but it was a shot that if I had let it fly under normal cirmumstances, I wouldn’t have played again the rest of the night. Still, I never had any doubt it was going in. Ibn got me the ball, and I knew if I got a clean look, it was going in.”

Salisbury finally ran out of gas in the second overtime. Davis, always reluctant to shoot, did what he had to do. He scored 15 and was MVP. East won the Christmas tournament for the first time in 31 years. But Campbell became a legend, even in defeat. And those back-to-back West and East games would transform the season for the Hornets. They exited Goodman Gym exhausted, drained and with a 6-5 record, but they went on to win the Central Carolina Conference, the CCC tournament and a 2A state playoff game.

•••

It’s not the NBA or the NFL, but today Campbell, married and the father of two young boys, at least one of them an aggressive future linebacker, has what he considers a dream job.

Campbell’s official title is associate director of financial aid for Guilford College.

“A lot of my work is with student-athletes, being that liaison between administration and football and basketball athletes,” Campbell said. “Education is the gateway for success, and I help families figure out the funding to get that education. The financial aspects of a college education can seem overwhelming. I take a great deal of pride in helping families overcome that.”

Campbell grew up in an athletic-minded family with Salisbury and North Rowan ties. His uncle, Fred Campbell, won a state championship at Salisbury and played Division I basketball at Providence in the early 1990s.

Campbell’s father, Doug Campbell, gave him not only his name, but solid basketball genes. That Doug Campbell played late in Bob Pharr’s coaching era at Salisbury and started on the 1978-79 team that Woodrow Boler led to North Piedmont Conference and NPC tournament championships

Campbell’s mother was a Sims, and several members of her family were fine football players for North.

When I was really young, I watched that great Salisbury football team (1995), but then Salisbury wasn’t good in football for a long time,” Campbell said. “When we were growing up,my best friend, Demarcus (Boo) Blakeney, and I talked a lot about helping to change that. Football meant a lot to us. It was important.”

From 1996-2003, Salisbury football was 9-57. Expectations for Salisbury football had dwindled to such a low ebb that when the Hornets went 4-8 in 2002, head coach Mike Peavey was named Rowan County Coach of the Year. But that would change when Joe Pinyan arrived as head coach in 2003. Campbell was a good defensive back. He made all-conference in 2005 and all-county as a senior in 2006. He had a two-interception game against Statesville and made two interceptions in the playoffs his senior year.

His greatest football moment — a pick-six against South Rowan on which Campbell went end zone to end zone, sprinting about 103 yards, was nullified by a block in the back during his return.

Teams didn’t throw as much then as they do now, so Campbell was tackling at least as much as he was in pass coverage. He wasn’t big, but he could be physical when he needed to be.

“When I was a freshman at Salisbury, experienced guys like (linebacker) Don Ambers had started to set a new standard,” Campbell said. “Coach Pinyan was building things up, and we had good seasons. Looking back, I  like to think I was part of an important transition period when Salisbury went from just hoping to keep it close against the good teams to taking the field expecting to win every game, no matter who we played.  Then that group of athletes that came along right after us — Romar Morris, Darien Rankin, John Knox — they won a lot of championships.”

On the basketball court, Campbell’s heart was broken by the Mustangs in the 2006-07 season, but Salisbury’s program turned a corner. The Hornets would take the next four Christmas tournaments. Rankin was fabulous in the tournament every year.

Campbell, whose favorite Hornet growing up was Randall Jones, says the turning point in his high school career was a January game against Lexington his sophomore year (2004-05). Causby was in his first year as the Hornets’ head coach. The Hornets were led by Scotty Robinson, Channing Powell and Campbell, but they had gone 0-for-2 in the Christmas tournament and were 3-7 overall heading into that CCC game against Lexington.

“Lexington was very strong, very talented,” Campbell said. “But I remember Coach Causby’s pregame message was that we were just as good as them and we belonged on the court with them. We went out there with a little bit of confidence, and lo and behold, we were as good as them. I scored 18  and we won by two. From there, it clicked for me and that  team.”

Salisbury would beat Lexington by two again in the rematch later that season. The teams tied for the CCC championship with 14-2 records.

Campbell would score 916 points in three high school seasons. He made three All-CCC teams and was CCC Player of the Year as a senior.

Late in his high school career, the 2007 CCC tournament championship game — Lexington vs. Salisbury one more time — brought out the best in Campbell.

“They face-guarded me and I didn’t do anything in the first half,” Campbell said. “But in the second half, I scored 22 points and we won another tournament championship.”

Campbell hoped that the highly regarded post-graduate prep school program at Fork Union Military Academy would be his next stop.

“I went up there for a tryout and played about as well as I could play and the coach (Fletcher Arritt) really liked me,” Campbell said. “I was all gung-ho for prep school.”

Arritt didn’t have room for Campbell, but he knew someone who did. One of his friends, Ken French, was the coach at Rio Grande in rural Ohio, and Arritt passed Campbell’s name along.

Rio Grande is pronounced “Rye-O.” It rhymes with Ohio.

Today, when people see Campbell’s diploma they believe he must have gone to school in New Mexico or Texas, but that wasn’t the case.

“I go up to Rio Grande, I get out of the car, I can see cows, and it’s absolutely the middle of nowhere,” Campbell said. “I knew there was no way I was ever going there, but my mother was smiling. She said, ‘This is it.’ ”

Campbell’s mother was right, but there would be rough patches.

“If you’d asked me about Rio at Christmas of my freshman year, I would’ve told you I was transferring,” Campbell said. “No way I was going to be there four years.”

He was a reserve his first two seasons, but there was a game his sophomore year that changed his perspective. Rio was playing nearby rival Shawnee State, and Campbell was on the floor at the end of the game for the first time in his college career.

“Rio-Shawnee State was like Salisbury-North Rowan,” Campbell said. “I made a big defensive stop and the coaching staff started having confidence in me. They could see that I was starting to get it. And once you’ve got confidence, then you can start making plays.”

He was a double-figure scorer for Rio Grande as a junior and senior.

When he went 5-for-6 on 3-pointers and scored 22 points against  Mount Vernon Nazarene as a junior, he was named Mid-South Conference Player of the Week.

But his most memorable performance was against West Virginia State.

“We’d changed conference affiliations, and we played against teams like West Virginia State that were really athletic,” Campbell said. “I scored my career high against them.”

He was credited with 29 points in the home book, although Rio’s scorebook had him with 31. Campbell, who made seven 3-pointers, is certain he scored 31.

The good memories for Campbell accumulated. He played with a fantastic shooter named P.J. Rase.

“One of my best college memories wasn’t anything I did, it was just being his teammate when he made 11 3-pointers in a game and broke records,” Campbell said. “By the end of that game, the fans stood up and raised their arms every time he shot.  You learn to care about your teammates and take joy in their success. I was fortunate to play with great teammates and for a coach who cared about me succeeding off the court as well as on it. Coach French had one player in 14 years who didn’t graduate.”

There was one more college basketball outing that Campbell will always treasure.

When Rio Grande played at D-I Marshall in February, 2010, Campbell showed he could compete with the big boy in a big arena. He made four 3-pointers in that one.

Kenyan Weaks, who played at Concord High and starred for the Florida Gators, was an assistant coach for Marshall.

“Kenyan was doing the scouting report on us and saw I was from Salisbury and told the Marshall guys I would be good because everyone from his area was good,” Campbell said. “I knew who Kenyan was. I’m glad I didn’t let him down.”

Campbell said he started buckling down academically at Rio Grande after a trip home.

His brother’s report card was posted on the refrigerator —  all A’s. That inspired him.

“I made the Dean’s List my last two years at Rio,” Campbell said. “It was time to start thinking about being successful in life after basketball.”

He’d given a lot to Rio Grande, and Rio was ready to give something back.

He was hired by the school as a financial aid counselor, processing student loans, not long after he graduated.

He’s still in that line of work, and he’s earned masters degrees in educational leadership and management.

Jobs took him to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, then back closer to home at High Point University and now Guilford. He’s been at Guilford about two years.

“We get some great student-athletes,” Campbell said. “Some people don’t realize D-III guys can play until they get into a gym with them. Then they get their feelings hurt.”

Campbell is famous for at least one more thing that should be mentioned. He’s the biggest Florida State fan around.

“That goes back to the Nick Maddox days (late 1990s) at A.L. Brown,” Campbell said. “We went to the A.L. Brown-North Rowan game at North that had an unbelievable crowd. We were right there close where Nick ran into the end zone for one of his touchdowns. Nick was huge in those days, a state and national player of the year, and I felt a connection to him. When he picked Florida State for college, I picked Florida State, too. I remember a game when Nick scored a touchdown against Georgia Tech, I got so excited that I knocked a picture frame off the wall at the house. I’ve been a Seminoles fan since the day he committed. I always will be.”

There’s probably someone somewhere who feels the same sort of connection to Campbell.

Someone who was a kid when he made that shot in the Christmas tournament.

 

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