Memories of Black and Gold

The North Augusta High School boys basketball teams of 1997-98 and 1998-99 gather (with some family members) for a picture Dec. 12, when the two-time state semifinalists got together to visit and share some memories during an evening of basketball action in their old gym.

The evening of Dec. 12 at North Augusta High School included basketball action versus Silver Bluff, as well as a flashback from a couple of decades ago.

Honored during the break between the two varsity games were members of the boys basketball teams from 1997-98 and 1998-99, representing two region titles and the only times when a boys team at the high school reached the state basketball semifinals.

Among those most prominent on the honor roll were several players who were on both teams: Tyrone Walker, Sean Mims, Matt Collins and Isaac English. Ron McKie was the head coach for both seasons, and his assistants along the way were Micheal Rouse, Bo Rouse and Wayne Marchant. Tony Harrell, a 1993 NAHS graduate (and basketball player from his sophomore through senior years) now known as the coach of the Yellow Jacket boys, was an assistant coach in 1998-99.

The 1997-98 squad also had Chris Anderson (currently the coach of the Yellow Jacket boys junior-varsity squad), Curtis Wheeler, Roosevelt Walker, Walt Dunaway, Kevin Smith, Mark van der Linden, Marcus Robinson and the late Toyian Williams.

"We were excited to be honored like that after so long," said van der Linden, also known as the director of the Aiken County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

"We had a fantastic run back then, and we built a lot of friendships and bonds and won a lot of games. The crowds were always amazing, the students showed up and the support was great from the community."

Van der Linden, referring to the Dec. 12 gathering, added, "The event really brought back a lot of those memories, and we were able to pick up just like it was yesterday."

The 1998-99 squad, which won 25 consecutive games, had a roster that also included Anthony Hawthorne, Ron Dunbar, Jeff Battle, Byron Harris, Lamont Fairey, Randy Brown, Rob Randall and Orlando Washington. Ryan Abel served both teams as videographer. 

"It was a great turnout," Harrell said, acknowledging that McKie had not been on campus for a North Augusta game "in about 19 years."

Harrell, referring to McKie and the various assistants, added, "It was just good to give back to them for their achievements that they did 20 years ago."  

Yellow Jacket basketball alumni, in a few months, are likely to face an entirely different scene in terms of basketball. The current gymnasium, which opened (with the main campus) in 1969-70, is to be demolished in 2020, as a part of the school's ongoing renovation project. Plans are afoot to have two gyms added in the months ahead.