- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

District of Columbia radio sports talk pioneer Harold Bell and sports historian Earl Telfair pass along news of the death early this month of Avatus Stone, 69, one of the best and most versatile athletes to come out of the District's Interhigh League back in the mid-1940s.
Stone lettered in football, basketball and baseball from 1944 to '46 at the old Armstrong High School and later was a triple-threat quarterback at Syracuse. He also played defensive back for the Orangemen and was considered one of the East's best punters before missing his entire senior season because of a leg injury.
Telfair is working on a book called "How Soon We Forget," which chronicles the exploits of many outstanding athletes from the District. It is scheduled for release in January and should bring back delicious memories for older fans.
Lenny Moore, the Baltimore Colts' Hall of Fame running back, recalls how Stone had a brief tryout with the club as a punter in the mid '50s.
"He didn't kick well that day, and he didn't make the team." Moore said, "but I had heard stories of his exploits at Syracuse for years. Until I met Avatus, I thought he was a white player, because you didn't find too many African Americans playing at white schools or in the NFL back then."
In fact, Stone not Jim Brown was the first black star at Syracuse in the early '50s, beating Brown by several years. Afterward, he played in the Canadian Football League and was named outstanding player in the Eastern Division for 1955.
Stone later taught and coached at Phelps Vocational High School here before becoming national director of recruiting for minority colleges with the Peace Corps. The ranks of those who saw him play sports in the District is thinning, but he remains a shining light of athletic accomplishment in these parts.

The Lefthander lives

Even if you're not the world's biggest Lefty Driesell fan, you've got to give him this: The old Lefthander never gives up.
Why is he coaching at Georgia State, which has the country's losingest NCAA Division I basketball program, at the age of 68? "I think Georgia State has a lot of potential."
Who's to argue. The Panthers had enjoyed exactly three winning seasons in 34 years when Driesell arrived in 1997. Under his tender ministrations, they've had three more since. And this time around, Lefty might have the peachiest team in the state. The other night, for example, it whacked Georgia 91-79 on the Bulldogs' home court, which wasn't supposed to happen. The Atlanta school caters to commuters and plays in the lowly Trans America Athletic Conference,
"This is the biggest win since I've been at Georgia State," Driesell said. "Hopefully, we will have a lot more before it's over. I like our club."
Driesell can't be picky about where he gets his players. His team is loaded with Division I transfers and those who came from the junior college ranks. The big star against Georgia was former Georgetown Hoya Shernard Long, who scored 30 points. Thomas Terrell, formerly of someplace called Copiah-Lincoln Community College, added 28.
And Driesell still knows how to motivate a team. Before the tipoff, he told his troops, "I've beaten North Carolina, Duke, UCLA just about every program in the country but this would be the biggest win I've ever had."
So, did this really rank at the top of the list for someone who has 734 victories at four schools, including Maryland, and is tied with Jerry Tarkanian as the winningest active coach?
"Wal, you know, I don't know," Lefty probably said. He's one of a kind, and long may he wave.

Holmes plays it dumb

Larry Holmes Jr. had to miss his old man's latest fight Friday night because his Easton (Pa.) Area High School football team had a game. He should consider himself fortunate. When you step into a boxing ring at age 51, as the former heavyweight champion insisted on doing against Mike Weaver, the odds that something good will happen aren't very good.
This scenario was all out of sync anyway. Shouldn't Holmes Sr. and wife Diane have been the ones watching while their son engaged in combat?
"It's a little upsetting both my parents won't get to see me play in one of the most important games of my life so far, but life goes on," said young Holmes, a starting defensive end. "I'm sure Dad and I will watch the fight and the football game together [on tape] when he gets home."
As regards his second fight with Weaver they first met 21 l-o-n-g years ago, the elder Holmes' timing was as deficient as his common sense. This was his first bout since June 1999, when he stopped James "Bonecrusher" Smith for the Legends of Boxing heavyweight championship in an uninspiring matchup of pugilistic senior citizens.
Isn't Holmes Sr. supposed to be a pretty sharp guy? So what in the name of Muhammad Ali is he doing in a ring with gloves on? "Without boxing, I'd just get up, come to my office and go home," he said. "It would be the same old routine. This gives me something to do and I get paid for it. People shouldn't knock someone for doing what they want to do. I'm just trying to live my life and have fun."
It could be said that fighting in one's sixth decade is inimical to both goals. Hey, Larry, get smart before it's too late.

Eminently quotable

Oregon State running back Ken Simonton, paraphrasing Lincoln on whether the Beavers ever doubted they would be in position to earn a Rose Bowl berth this season: "You can't divide a house and expect it to still stand." …
Browns coach Chris Palmer, on whether Cleveland fans were patient with the slow progress of his second-year team: "Half of them are, half of them are not, and we're going to have a recount here about 3 o'clock."

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