Charles Allen holds up a ring commemorating the 1963 Holden Rockets as Class C state basketball champions. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 7:29 PM
Charles Allen’s shooting stroke helped Holden win the 1963 Class C state basketball championship. Fifty years later, Allen and his teammates finally received championship rings.
The team received the rings at a ceremony in December, when they were honored at a reception.
Allen was an all-state guard for the Rockets before moving on to play at McNeese.
“We were very good,” Allen said of the title team.
“We got upset in the quarterfinals the year before that, we probably should have been in state that year. We were Class C, had 315 students in the school, K-12, 20 in my graduating class. We knew we were going to be pretty good, we only lost one senior from the year before. All we did was play basketball back then, no other sports. Our coach, Alton Leggette was a fanatic. We played our best every day. We probably got chewed out more not because we won or lost, but on how well we played. If we were not doing our job, he really got on our case. He demanded perfection - no whining, no complaining and no excuses.”
Allen said the team generated some attention by winning a prestigious tournament in Baton Rouge.
“You had to get invited to it, they waited until November and if you were doing well you get invited,” he said.
“We played Port Allen, a Class 2A school, and beat them. We played Baton Rouge High in the semifinals and beat them by 10 or 12. We played Istrouma, the big dog in that day, and beat them in double overtime. That was almost as exciting as winning state. We were the little country boys, that is the write-up we got in all the papers. That put us on the map. People knew who we were then and would come watch us play.”
At the state tournament, the Rockets beat a couple of familiar names.
“In the state semifinals, we beat Lisbon,” he said. “They had Glynn Saulters, who played at Northeast Louisiana and the Olympic team (in 1968). We beat them 62-60, they were the only team to score 60 on us all year. In the championship game, we played Reeves. Dr. Joe Savoie from McNeese was their mainstay. We beat them by about 20 in Shreveport. Probably everybody in Holden was there. When we got back to Holden, the whole town was there again, in the gym.”
Allen averaged 16 points a game that season. Teammate Ed Green also made all state. The duo decided to go to college together.
“We were 12 miles from Southeastern,” Allen said. “Maybe they assumed we were going there, I don’t know. We came McNeese visited, and Ed said ‘I kind of like it over here.’ We chose to come here. I got to play some, I wasn’t a star.”
Allen earned a degree in education and became a teacher.
“I taught at LaGrange High and helped coach there, was an assistant,” he said. “I was a math teacher. I taught Mayor Randy Roach one of my first years. Those were great days back at LaGrange. We had a successful JV team, we were undefeated one year, 22-0. I have had a lot of success in athletics. I enjoyed teaching other people skills. (At Holden) We did fundamental drills the day before the state championship game. If you have that with a little ability, you can play. I enjoyed the teaching part of basketball more than anything else.”
Allen then became an administrator, serving as vice principal and principal at F.K. White. He said he relied on lessons from basketball as an administrator.
“I used a lot of principles I learned from my coach, about teamwork, every one having a role on the team,” he said. “I applied those throughout my career. Everyone has a role, we all do our part, we all do our best every day.”
Allen received a call in August informing them that the ‘63 basketball team could be getting rings to commemorate their championship.
“A guy (Sherman Mack) was a freshman when we were seniors, his son, Sherman played at Holden in 1990,” he said.
“The son became an attorney and became a state representative a year ago. He came up with the idea and bought the rings. When I got the invitation to the reception on Dec. 17, I was really excited to see my buddies and coach,” he said. We had a lot of fun, we had a good reception and told a lot of stories. We were good in ‘63, we was amazing in 2013. It is funny how much better we were in those stories. He emceed the program and talked about growing up with his dad telling stories. It was neat of him. That was exciting to go back. It was amazing how many people were there that remembered us and traveling to watch us. That made you feel good, people knowing who you were 50 years later. They were as much a part of it as anyone else.”
Allen still plays basketball in a friendly game at F.K. White every Friday. He said the game can teach valuable life lessons.
“First, you learn how to work with other people,” he said.
“I still say that a good basketball team, every one has a role to play, even if you are a sub and don’t get to play much. You have a role, you accept that, and you are important. On a team, it teaches you to take responsibility for wherever you are, and your role, and you do your best in that role. Everybody is not the boss. Some of have to go out to work every day, do a job and do it well. Basketball teaches you that, it is one of the most team-oriented sports. You can see it when you watch these teams play, how they know where everyone is going to be and how well they work together.”
Allen spent the past week working as a volunteer at the girls Top 28 state basketball tournament. This week, he will be a team host for the boys tournament.
Allen takes a point of pride in the fact that all 13 members of the team at the reunion were still married to their first wives.
“I think that is because of our coach,” he said. “He instilled in us that we were going to make things happen. He instilled in us hard work. I was as excited about that as much as the reminiscing. I have been married 46 years. That’s why I stayed in Lake Charles, my wife Beverly was here. Those guys all worked hard and are all doing well in their fields. All that is a tribute to our coach.”
Warren Arceneaux writes a weekly column on interesting people in Southwest Louisiana each Monday. Have a story idea about someone in Southwest Louisiana? Call him weekdays at 494-4087. Email him at email@example.com.