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WIDNER: Going Wide for Rebounds (Part II)

By Ralphine Major
The Gibbs Eagles and their Head Coach Bob Dagley created an awesome 1964-65 basketball season.  Forward David Widner started claiming rebounds.  But the coach had a problem.  Dagley had another player who felt the same way—that every rebound belonged to him.  That player was Tommy Everette.  “Widner and Everette would battle anyone for the rebound, many times each other!”  Dagley said.  “I had to get after them for knocking the ball out of each other’s hands in trying to get the rebound.”  It was no wonder the Eagles soared so high that year with the players working so hard for their coach.  (Tommy Everette, who was the only junior starter on the team, will be featured in   upcoming Focus columns.)

“David and I lived beside each other growing up,” Tommy told me.  They attended Ritta Elementary together before going to Gibbs High.  “We walked home together after ball practice until David got a ‘41 Plymouth his senior year,” Everette added.

The Eagles’ coach continued on the Widner-Everette battle for the boards.  “We lost several rebounds because of this, but Ron Graves found out that he could pick off some of those loose rebounds; and if it was an offensive rebound, he would have it in the basket before anyone knew it.    One coach from another school called Graves “the garbage man” because he got so many of those loose rebounds,”  Dagley added.

The trio of tall players created some exciting plays for Eagles’ fans on their way to helping the team to a 31-2 record.  “I never have seen three better high school rebounders on the same team,” the Eagles’ coach said.  “They formed a strong rebound triangle.”   That was great news for the Eagles.

“Widner made more progress in the shortest period of time than I had ever seen,” Dagley said.  “David had strong shoulders and hands and took up a lot of room in his rebounding position.  His legs were strong, and he found out he could easily dunk the ball one handed; and then, two-handed came easy.  Those two-handed dunks could turn a ballgame around.  It was demoralizing to a team to have someone double dunk the ball on them.  Widner broke open several close games with his dunks.  I remember one game in the 6th District Tournament which was a close game.  Right before half time, Widner intercepted a pass near the half line, took two or three dribbles (though dribbling was not his strong point), and double dunked the ball.  The crowd went wild, and the second half belonged to us.”  Dagley continued, “The other coach called me the next day and asked if I could come to his house.  He had something to show me.  He had filmed the game and when he came to Widner’s dunk, he stopped the film and said, ‘that was the ballgame.’  He pointed out the expressions of his players who were trailing the play.  That spoke volumes.”

This warrior on the court later became a warrior for his country.  Next week continues with Part III of the David Widner story.

(This is No. 13 in the series about the Gibbs Eagles’ amazing 1964-65 season.)

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