- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

BUIES CREEK, N.C. (AP) - The cramped men’s bathroom is a mere eight footsteps from the sideline in Campbell’s Carter Gym.

Only three steps separate the court from the wide opening in the baseline wall closest to Carter’s main entrance, and six more steps are required to reach the large, custom doors at the front of the lobby.

When the Camels held their home games at Carter, a player might be moving so fast while crossing the baseline that he or she exited the building before returning to the court, which is 4 feet short of regulation size.

The space constraints are a key ingredient in the charm of Carter, which started attracting larger-than-life basketball coaches and players to Buies Creek shortly after the brick building opened in 1953.

“It’s not much for looks any more, but it’s kind of like that good friend that knows a lot and is good to have around,” says Andy Shell, Campbell’s director of campus recreation. “You can’t speak of anybody that played in the ACC or anywhere remotely in the area from the mid-70s to the early 90s that didn’t play basketball in this gym.”

Shell’s office sits adjacent to the front-right corner of the lobby, not far from where he cheered on the basketball team as a student in the 1990s and later called games as the gym’s public address announcer.

On this weekday afternoon, a handful of students are responsible for the rhythmic sound of bouncing basketballs. The current noise level is a far cry from what Shell remembers.

Carter had a capacity of 947, making it the second-smallest venue for a Division I program, and the crowd was right on top of the court. The sections are labeled 1 through 12, with seats going six rows high on the sidelines and eight rows high at the far end.

The end zone seats are so close to the court that they share space with the base of the goal, which is behind the front-row railing and a rectangle of protective padding.

“This place, without a doubt, is the loudest building I’ve ever been in,” Shell says. “When it was humpin’, it was loud.”

Three years after the gym opened, Camels coach Fred McCall and Horace “Bones” McKinney founded the Campbell Basketball School, which boasts an instructor list that includes John Wooden, Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy. Pete Maravich attended the camp each year from age 9 through 18.

The gym has played host to memorable games, notably the 13-overtime battle between Harnett County high school rivals Angier and Boone Trail in 1964, and has been the site of wild finishes, particularly the 1993 game in which Radford’s Doug Day hit an overhead light fixture on a 22-foot shot with Campbell holding a three-point lead in the closing seconds.

The Camels, like they did 62 percent of the time when playing in Carter, won the game.

Campbell moved into the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center in 2008, and more than 100 students a day use Carter for its basketball court, weight room and fitness classes. Banners recognizing women’s conference titles from 1989, 1991, 2000 and 2001 still hang above the court.

At least once or twice a month, Shell says, someone walks in with a request to check out the place where he attended basketball camp as a kid.

“It has a great history engrained with Campbell athletics,” Shell says. “You can’t tell the story of our athletic programs without this building. This was such an important piece of this campus.

“Now it’s being utilized in a different way, but even after 60 years, it’s still appreciated.”

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