Basketball (M)

Men's Basketball: Charles Lynn Played Like Barkley

by Mike London, The Salisbury Post,


The late Charles Lynn left behind basketball memories for everyone who saw him play for Price, Boyden or Catawba.  On Feb. 12, 1972, he staged his signature performance.  Catawba made its first 11 shots of the second half to break open a game against Elon.  Nine were knocked down by Lynn, a powerful center who stood 6-foot-5, 6-6 or 6-7 depending on who held the ruler.  Lynn registered 26 points in the second half and became the first to score 40 in Goodman Gymnasium.

When Lynn made up his mind to go to the rim, he scattered bodies with his raw strength, and his burly physique offered few clues to the athleticism it concealed.  "He was a bull, a Charles Barkley-type, a long time before there was a Charles Barkley," said James Brown, who teamed with Lynn in three different uniforms.  "Charles was one of the best big guys ever, but he never got the recognition," Brown said.  "To my mind, he's the one that started the great teams at Catawba." 

Lynn was a role player as a high school sophomore on a powerful team at Price, Salisbury's all-black school.  Lynn hinted at his talent when he scored 23 points against rival Dunbar his junior year, but he finished that 1967-68 season as Price's seventh-leading scorer.

In 1968-69, sophomore Kenny Holt averaged 23 points a game for Price.  The Red Devils went 14-4 and broke 100 four times in what would be their final season of competition.  Lynn and Brown, who was one class behind him, weren't part of Price's final season.  They had moved over to slowly integrating Boyden and would become the first great African-American basketball players at that school.

Coached by Bob Pharr, Boyden won its first 13 games in 1968-69 and finished the regular season 18-2.  Lynn's finishing kick that sparked the Yellow Jackets to the WNCHSAA championship was awesome.  He had 28 points and 28 rebounds to eliminate Davie County 57-52 from the playoffs.  Against North Rowan in the Piedmont championship game, he shot 11-for-11 from the floor and scored 30 points.  Finally, Lynn had 25 points and 15 rebounds in a 56-50 victory over Shelby in the WNCHSAA title game.

In his only year at Boyden, Lynn became the first in school history to score 500 points in a season.  He averaged 19.3, the best mark since Frank McRae's exploits in the early 1950s.
Catawba coach Sam Moir didn't have to travel far to scout Lynn, and he signed him as part of a strong freshman class that also featured 6-7 leaper Bill Bailey.  Lynn was courted by Division I schools, including Tennessee, but Catawba was home, and he was comfortable with Moir.  "Catawba got players like Charles Lynn and Bill Bailey that were definitely Division I players," Brown said.  "That's how Catawba got to be as good as a lot of Division I teams in that era."

Catawba had lost scoring machine Dwight Durante and planned to rebuild around its great senior Garland Davis when Lynn and Bailey were freshmen in 1969-70.  Forget double-doubles -- Davis had averaged nearly 20 points and 20 rebounds as a junior. 

Lynn scored nine points off the bench in his college debut against Guilford.  In late January, Catawba received a blow when Davis was ruled ineligible.  Lynn replaced Davis in the starting lineup and immediately scored 30 points in a victory over High Point.  In February, Bailey was stricken by the mumps, and Lynn had to become the main man sooner than anyone had planned.  He handled it.  Only 10-17 his freshman year, Catawba went 59-26 in Lynn's final three seasons.

Brown was reunited with Lynn at Catawba for the 1970-71 season.  Both were on the court when Goodman Gym was christened.  Catawba beat Tusculum 120-82, as players slipped and slid on the shiny, new floor.  Lynn kept his footing well enough to score 30. Bailey had 31.

Catawba was 19-9 Lynn's sophomore year.  It went 20-8 in a junior season that was highlighted by his 40-point explosion against Elon.  Catawba got off to a 13-3 start in 1972-73 but hit a February swoon.  Catawba had just about been written off when Lynn's fantastic game at Newberry -- 35 points, 12-for-18 from the floor, 11-for-13 from the line -- re-energized his teammates.

Lynn and Bailey finished their careers with a run that brought Catawba its first championship since 1960 and gave Moir his first title.  Lynn played with ferocity against Lenoir-Rhyne in the Carolinas Conference tournament semifinals.  He had 18 points and 10 rebounds, plus valuable intimidation.  Lynn started banging Bears to the floor like it was a hockey game.

"Charles was just a lamb off the court, but on it he would beat you up," Brown said. "He'd throw a few elbows, and after a while, no cutters were coming through the lane." 

Brown's last-second shot beat L-R and pushed Catawba into the championship game at Lexington YMCA against a Guilford squad led by future NBA players M.L. Carr and Lloyd Free.  Catawba beat the Quakers 72-69.  Bailey was MVP.
Catawba got down 14-2 to Winston-Salem State in the district tournament, couldn't rally, and the careers of Lynn and Bailey ended.  But the magnitude of Catawba's tournament victory over Guilford became obvious not long after that when the Quakers won the national championship. 

Lynn filled the Catawba record book with 1,649 points and 1,058 rebounds.  He's still tied for fifth in scoring and ranks fourth in rebounding.  He shot 56 percent for his career, the third-best mark on the books.  Lynn was inducted into the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Salisbury-Rowan Hall in 2004.

He spent his working life teaching school and changing young lives that had taken a wrong turn at Stonewall Jackson Training School in Concord.  Lynn married Neta White, settled in China Grove and raised a family.  He died at age 47 in 1999.

But the basketball genes live on.  Like her father, Charlena Lynn switched high schools as a senior, and she was one of Carson's best players.  Charlena couldn't score like her father, but the way she hit the glass and set a pick, it wasn't hard to tell she was a Lynn.

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