ASHEVILLE — When the Duke-North Carolina game tipped off in Chapel Hill, all 10 starters on the floor were African-American.
At the Coastal Carolina-UNC Asheville game Saturday, seven of the 10 starters were young black men.
It is not unique — more than 60 percent of Division I college basketball players are men of color.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When Henry Logan, the star guard at Stephens-Lee High — Asheville’s all black high school — first stepped on the court at Western Carolina in 1964, he was a pioneer, the first black man to play basketball there and among the first to play athletics at a predominantly white school in the still mostly segregated South.
He didn’t feel like a pioneer then, but a half-century is a long time for reflection and understanding of what transpired and the impact of playing a game actually had.
“I never really thought about it at the time, that I was doing something important or historic,” Logan, 68, said from his Asheville home. “I just wanted to play ball.”
And play ball he did, better than anyone else from Western North Carolina in the history of the game.
Except for that time in Louisiana, where he and teammate Herbert Moore were not allowed to dress for three games because interracial mingling on the basketball court was not allowed.
In four years at WCU (‘64-68), Logan averaged 30.7 points a game over 107 games.
His 3,290 career points scored is more than 1,200 ahead of the second-place guy on the school’s all-time list, his 1,037 assists nearly 400 ahead of anyone else.
Those are records that not only will never be broken, but likely will never even be approached.
But beyond the amazing leaping ability, shooting touch and quickness of first step that left defenders waving as he went by, Logan’s legacy includes paving the way for generations of players who were more accepted because he and Moore took the abuse, racial slurs and death threats from opposing players and fans.
“I never had any problems in Cullowhee,” said Logan, whose brief pro career included winning the 1969 ABA championship as a rookie with the Oakland Oaks before a knee injury and drug and alcohol abuse ended his career.
“My teammates, students, coaches, everyone was real nice to Herbert and me.”
Moore, 68, who lives in Hampton, Va., was a high school teammate who spent his first two years of college with Logan at WCU.
“(Then WCU coach Jim) Gudger picked us up one day in Asheville and took us to Cullowhee to scrimmage,” Moore recalled.
“We had no idea where Western Carolina was, didn’t know it existed, didn’t know if was possible for black kids to go to school there.
“But Henry was such a great player, they wanted us there. He was the best I ever saw.”
Logan said the problems came during road games, racial slurs and taunts, even one fight in Boone when an Appalachian State player kept fouling him roughly and both benches cleared.
“It got pretty bad sometimes on the road, but it just made me play harder, made me want to score more and beat them worse than we were,” Logan said.
Neither player found out they wouldn’t be allowed to play in a series of games in Louisiana during the 1964-65 season until Gudger told them on the trip south.
“It was a situation we didn’t expect, and we didn’t like it, but back then we were just kids in college and we had to go by the rules that were in place then,” Moore said.
“It bothered me a lot, and I told coach Gudger it bothered me,” Logan said. “He told me that we made the trip because the school was going to make a lot of money, but I still didn’t think it was right.
“We had to sit on the bench in our street clothes and watch the white guys play.”
Logan’s post-basketball career was rocky, but a failed suicide attempt in 1979 led to a religious conversion that brought peace and understanding — and acceptance — to his life.
He finished school at WCU unable to read, but taught himself by reading the Bible, looking up words he didn’t understand in the dictionary.
Now retired and with grandchildren, Logan lives a quiet life, still reading his Bible daily in a small office in his home, with plaques on the wall that remind him that he was an incredible basketball player.
And he knows he was much more.
“We got a lot of press about being the first black players at Western, but we didn’t realize at the time the impact we were making, how important this was to a lot of people,” Moore said.
“Back then, I just wanted to have that basketball in my hands, because I could do anything with it,” Logan said. “But what we did was more important than winning games and scoring points, and I’m proud of that.”