“He took his role and played it well,” Bob Dagley said. Dagley, head coach of the Gibbs Eagles’ 1964-65 basketball team, was talking about Ron Graves, a senior starter for the Eagles. “I don’t think he realized how important he was to the team. When he set a screen, he set a solid one. He caught the defensive player and started the screen in motion, and teammate Les Spitzer knew how to take advantage of it.” Dagley added, “Ron was a blue collar worker. He was consistent, an accurate scorer, a good rebounder on offense and defense, and had a soft touch.”
Graves’ performance peaked in a tournament game. While Ron set those solid screens, the team tried to get the ball to Les Spitzer. The heavily guarded Spitzer kicked it back to Graves who capitalized on the plays. Dagley found a clipping from the Knoxville Journal in his scrapbook giving a vivid description of Graves’ performance. It told how the “deadly shooting of unsung Ron Graves” helped Gibbs pull away, sending the score from a 2-2 tie to a 21-10 Eagles lead after one quarter; Graves “pumped in” five straight shots which netted 11 of his total 17 points.
After leading the Eagles to the District 6 Championship and No. 3 in the state, Graves graduated from the small school and attended Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). Later, he served in the United States Army, including a year in Vietnam. This former Eagle who played basketball in the United States also played in two other countries–Vietnam and Germany—while in service. Ron was the free throw winner at his 45th class reunion. He has played recreation ball at Chilhowee Park, in the Cumberland Presbyterian League, and at Piney Grove Baptist Church where he was league director.
Ron was employed at Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for 38 years. “I loved my job,” he said of his chemical operator position. He was married 41 years to the former Brenda Norman who passed away last August. Now retired, Graves enjoys traveling and spending time with his family, including four grandchildren. Ron ushers at The University of Tennessee sporting events, giving him lots of opportunities to meet and talk with fans and players–seems like a perfect fit for this former Eagles basketball star! (This is the 11th in the 1964-65 Gibbs basketball team series and concludes my interview with Ron Graves. The series resumes in July with another Gibbs great from that amazing team.)