Culpeper County High School is known as a basketball school for good reason.
For more than 40 years, the Blue Devils have consistently been a contender for district, regional and state titles and that lineage can be traced back to the foundation John Averett set forth.
Now, Averett and his 1973 state championship team – along with the girls state championship teams from 1976 and 1979, all-state players and 1,000 point scorers – will be honored at CCHS Feb. 2 beginning at 5 p.m. prior to the Blue Devils’ game against James Monroe.
Gary Deal, Culpeper County Board of Supervisors West Fairfax representative, said that constituents originally came to him with the idea. He in turn reached out to Culpeper County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Brads and soon CCHS principal Danny Soderholm was a enthusiastic member of a committee that began searching for players from the boys and girls championship teams. The girls, coached by Kate Carter, won titles in 1976 and 1979 and will also be honored that night along with their all-state players and 1,000 point scorers.
“Those days back then were special and there was a lot of enthusiasm back then,” Deal said, in the interest in honoring those squads.
Culpeper’s basketball legacy can be directly traced back to Averett, who coached former CCHS boys head coach and athletic director Billy Thornhill. After Averett left, his assistant Simon Poole coached for a few years before Thornhill returned to take the helm. Thornhill remained at CCHS through the mid-2000s when he handed over control of the basketball program to current head coach James Thompson.
“It is pretty neat to see that,” Soderholm said. “I don’t know how many schools can say that. It’s pretty unique. I can’t wait to get that picture of that coaching tree that night.”
Averett’s influence extends to Eastern View High School as well, as Thornhill’s son Patrick is the head basketball coach for the Cyclones’ boys team.
Hard work was the signature of those teams, and that remains today, Deal said.
“Coach Averett worked hard on implementing a summer league back then,” Deal said. “He’s always kept up with those players from back in that day and he has a relationship with all his players.”
That relationship has paid dividends as Averett is a member of the search committee – along with Deal, Soderholm, Vanessa Allen, CCHS athletic director Trish Oliver and Sonny Bowles.
“As you do this, you start with something simple and then you come up with a way to recognize 60 different people – whether they are coaches, players or athletic directors,” Soderholm said. “It really is neat.”
Deal wanted to make sure both the girls and boys were honored as both were extremely popular and successful. Carter, who finished her career with 526 wins, passed away in 2008.
“The impact Coach Carter had, you can’t minimize at all,” Soderholm said. “Two state championships, just an incredible woman who gave over 30 years of her life to Culpeper County.”
Two members of the boys team – William Smith and Mike Jameson – have also passed. Another key player on the boys team – Pee Wee Chapman – is battling illness.
Chapman plays into one of Deal’s favorite stories about the team.
When CCHS was down by two in a regional game and there were two seconds left in the game. Coach Averett was attempting to call a timeout to set up a play to tie the game, as this was before the advent of the three-point line. Instead, Chapman swished a half-court shot to send the game to overtime where the Blue Devils prevailed.
The committee expects many other stories like that one on Feb. 2.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to shut the lights off in the gym that night,” Soderholm said.
Deal said that the committee has many of the names and addresses but they are still looking for a few people – and hope to connect via social media or through family members still living in the area.
Some of the key players from the years who have said they will attend include Keith “Mister” Jennings – who still leads CCHS and the Battlefield District in scoring and played in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors.
Harold Jones, who played on the 1973 championship team and was the Virginia State Player of Year, will also be in attendance.
“Harold may have been the all around best team player to ever play for Culpeper,” Deal said.
Pictures and statistics from the players will be broadcast throughout the school on Feb. 2 and a reception will be held in the library at 5 p.m. A ceremony will be hosted between the junior varsity and varsity games to recognize the 60 honorees.
For more information or to help provide information on players, Deal can be reached at 540-219-8835. Soderholm can be reached at CCHS at 540-825-8310.
Members of the boys 1973 Championship team:
John Averett, Head Coach
Simon Poole, Asst Coach
Dr. George Broman, Team Doctor
Ron “Goofy” White
Pee Wee Chapman
Ernest ”Skeet” Brent
William Smith (Passed)
Mike Jameson (Passed)