frontier reads

For several years, Tulsa native Scott Ellsworth told me about a secret basketball game that was played between a team composed of African American college students and one composed of white college students. It was played in strictly segregated North Carolina in the mid-1940’s, in absolute secrecy.

John McClendon, a coach who learned the game from James Naismith, himself, taught his team at the North Carolina College for Negroes how to play run-and-gun basketball long before anyone else thought of it. They beat teams by as much as 60 points. The all-white team at cross-town Duke University Medical School beat nearly anyone they faced. The two teams met, merely for the sake of athletic competition, in an empty gym with the windows blacked out, with no crowd, no press.

The Secret Game is an extremely interesting basketball story. But, it’s about far more than a basketball game.

The Secret Game is a social history that should be read by anyone interested in the development of race relations in America. Scott follows several young men, basketball players and coaches, through the first half of the 20th century. He describes their lives and the courage that was necessary for them to follow their dreams.

Basketball and the secret game helped to increase understanding and acceptance between blacks and whites in the South. It was a difficult and sometimes violent time. But, it’s part of our history that we should understand.

Scott has written a wonderful book. If you buy the audible version, he’ll read it to you.

Rick Westcott is an attorney and former Tulsa city councilor. His favorite book is “Roughing It” by Mark Twain. COURTESY