Largest induction class for Stanly Sports Hall of Fame receives honors

Published 6:57 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

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The largest induction class of individuals who were not members of the same team joined the ranks of the Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame at Monday night’s induction ceremony.

Football standouts T.A. McLendon and Quan Stuardivant, softball standout Shanna Smith and high school coaches Al Andrew and Greg Speight were inducted as part of the induction class of 2023,

Wes Durham, son of the late Woody Durham, a Stanly Sports Hall of Fame member and longtime “Voice of the Tar Heels,” gave the keynote address.

Durham, the radio voice of the Atlanta Falcons, said small towns like Albemarle, or where he grew up in Apex and his current residence in Cartersville, Georgia, are alike.

“That’s where you’re from. That’s where your loyalties are from,” Durham said.

He mentioned an event earlier in the day at which he spoke where legendary retired coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams sat together. The two coaches combined for nearly 2,200 basketball games and eight national championships.

“All they wanted to do is coach,” Durham said, noting both were influenced by high school coaches like his father was influenced by Albemarle head football coach Toby Webb.

Andrew, who won 470 games as the head coach of the Albemarle men’s basketball program, related a story about his time as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

He ventured into Carmichael Auditorium one Friday afternoon and saw legendary coach Dean Smith conducting a practice for his team.

As he sat down, a manager came up and asked if he would like to watch the practice, telling Andrew every Friday was an open practice.

“So guess where Al Andrew was every Friday during basketball season,” Andrew said, indicating he was at those open practices.

Sports was one of the best parts of his life, McLendon said during his acceptance speech.

He thanked his coaches for getting him and others to perform at high levels, and those who helped him along the way.

“You’re nothing without your team. You’re nothing without your family. It takes a village to raise a child, and I appreciate my village,” McLendon said.

Smith, who is an assistant softball coach at Eastern New Mexico University after a storied playing career at N.C. State, talked about overcoming an ACL injury before helping start the Wolfpack’s softball program.

She said her coaches “pushed me out of my comfort zone” by playing her at first base before moving to the starting shortstop midway through her freshman year.

Smith said her greatest joy as an assistant coach is “seeing those young ladies walk across the (graduation) stage to get their diplomas.”

She said will not forget what she accomplished because of the “countless newspaper articles” cut out for her by family.

Speight was introduced by a former assistant coach, another member of the Hall of Fame, 2013 inductee Jack Ingram. In his address, Speight said Ingram was more of a co-head coach than a true assistant.

A coach of 448 wins in basketball, including three sectional titles, and a two-time softball state championship at two different Stanly schools (South Stanly in 1998, North Stanly in 2017), Speight said he was only standing at the podium because of his players.

“I’m only here because I had really good players, really good people who tried to do what we asked of them,” Speight said.

He said he knew he was not destined to be a pro athlete growing up. Sharing a room with his brother, Jeff, a.k.a. “Tiger,” whom Speight said was a better athlete, he noticed, “I might be the best athlete in my class, but I wasn’t the best athlete in my own bedroom.”

Sturdivant was introduced by his cousin, another former West Stanly football standout, Ralph Jackson, who coached North for five seasons before his current position as head coach for Anson Senior High School.

A former Colts and UNC football standout, Sturdivant thanked the committee and congratulated the fellow inductees. He also joked with his former head coach, Rich Williams, saying he was “glad he changed the offense because he couldn’t play in a straight-T offense.”

He also joked about former North and West Stanly head basketball coach and P.E. teacher Rudi Heath. Heath led the Comets to the 2A state finals in 1998 and later coached and taught Sturdivant at West.

“I had (Coach Heath) for health and P.E. as a freshman and I got an 81 at the midterm. I was like, ‘Coach, how do I have an 81?’ He wanted to make me run all the time. I was like, ‘C’mon, Coach. This is P.E.’ ”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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