Though many may not have seen him play or even know the name, Don Fields was one of top basketball players in Clinton County history.
His greatness on the basketball court goes beyond his 2,135 careers points, which until Thursday night was the county’s all-time record. Wilmington High School senior Jarron Cumberland had a WHS record 52 points against Washington and now has 2,166 points for his career.
Points aside, the skinny 5-11 Fields was one of the best shooters in county history and made his mark in the fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball world after he graduated high school.
“He was a gifted athlete but I never thought I’d see this record broken,” said Don DeVoe, a former PW teammate of Fields. DeVoe won 512 as a Div. I college men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech, Wyoming, Tennessee, Florida and the Naval Academy.
DeVoe played basketball at Ohio State with legends Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and coached noted three-pointer shooter Dale Ellis at Tennessee.
“All those guys would have to take a backseat to Donnie as far as a pure shooter,” said DeVoe, who like Fields was a 1997 inductee into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame. “He was the best.”
When Fields played, the courts were much smaller. In some cases, the circle at centercourt intersected the circle of the free throw lane.
So it was not unusual for a player — Fields among them — to cross midcourt and fire up a shot if open. At that time, though, there was not yet a three-point line on the court. Every basket from the field was worth two points and everybody agrees Fields had three-point range when he played.
Fields was a consistent scorer from the time he was a freshman at Port William High School. Actually, even before that. He had 48 points in a junior game for the Bulldogs.
Playing for head coach Vernon Hooper Sr., Fields had 18 points in the first varsity game his freshman season.
The landscape of Clinton County high school sports was much different when Fields played than it is now. In the late 1950s, Wilmington was in the South Central Ohio League. Plus, it was not considered a “county” school because of its size. It was a “city” school and participated in the Class A post-season tournament.
The rest of the county high schools were in the Clinton County League and played in the Class B post-season tournament. Those schools were Port William, Adams Township High School, Clarksville High School, Kingman High School, Sabina High School, New Vienna High School, Simon Kenton High School, Martinsville High School, Blanchester High School and Jefferson High School.
With so many schools in the same county in the same league, contests were heated to say the least. At the end of the year, the “county” teams met in the county tournament — normally held at Wilmington College.
The county tournament then was much different than the county tournament of recent years. Previously, the county tournament determined which schools participated in the post-season Class B tournament. While Wilmington automatically qualified for the Class A tournament, the county schools had to “earn” the right to play in the post-season.
The number of county schools to qualify for the Class B tournament was based on the number of teams playing in the county tournament. Sometimes two qualified, other times it was three or even four.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.