By Ralphine Major

Growing up, they were neighbors. They played on the Gibbs High School basketball team and walked home together after practice every day. For David Widner and Tommy Everette, home was in the Ritta Community. Widner has appeared in earlier Focus columns. Everette played center for Coach Bob Dagley. The coach recalls the two teammates’ friendly rivalry.

“At first, Tommy was not as aggressive as he would be later. I put a deflector ring in one of the side goals and had Everette and Widner go one on one, alternating them on offense and defense. Everette found out that Widner could beat you to death with those elbows and forearms. Widner made Everette a better player and Everette made Widner a better player from this one on one drill,” Dagley said. That makeshift basketball court in the woods evidently worked! The coach remembers one time when they had been going at it one on one just before the end of practice. “Since practice was over, I sent the players to the showers. I turned to do something and heard a commotion behind me. All the players had gone to the showers except Everette and Widner. They were going at it again one on one. If there had been a referee calling the fouls, neither one would have lasted two minutes. I think both of them would have to agree that they never played against another player who was as rough and tough as they were on each other,” Dagley said. “Later, I found out that someone had strung some lights in the trees where they had an outdoor court; and after they had walked home from practice, they continued playing at night.” No wonder the Eagles posted a 31-2 record-setting season in 1964-65.

In Everette’s senior year, Dagley bought a device called the tip-o-matic. “It was driven by a motor and set down in the goal and had fingers coming out from the motor,” the coach explained. “The ball could not go through the goal because when the ball landed on one of those fingers, it would flip it and could go in any direction. The idea was for the player to keep the ball in play. It provided a good workout,” he added. “I was asked to bring it to a local coaching clinic at Holston High School and have a player demonstrate it,” Dagley continued. “I took Everette with me because he had been working out on it, or maybe I should say he had been worked out by it. After he had demonstrated it, I remember a coach on the back row yelled out, ‘forget the machine, I’ll take the boy.’” (This is No. 21 in the Gibbs Eagles’ series; next in the series, Everette’s basketball days after Gibbs.)