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NELA Sessions: Q&A with LHSAA Hall of Famer Bobby Joe Douglas

The News-Star (Monroe) logoThe News-Star (Monroe) 6/1/2020 Adam Hunsucker, Monroe News-Star

** NELA Sessions is a series of informal conversations with the News-Star's Adam Hunsucker and prominent sports figures from across northeastern Louisiana. 

Bobby Joe Douglas always left the debate surrounding potential enshrinement in the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame up to others. Between ministry work and coaching career, he didn’t have time to dissect the merits of his candidacy.

Douglas always had Malcolm George, his coach at tiny Marion High School in Union Parish, in his corner. George led the charge for over three decades, refusing to take no for an answer or accept arguments about shoddy record keeping.

Those efforts came to fruition in January when the LHSAA announced that the most prolific scorer in the history of Louisiana high school basketball will take his place among the state’s all-time greats.

“I’m very grateful and I don’t know that it would have felt the same if it hadn’t taken so long,” Douglas said. “Just to have my name come up is humbling, but to be selected, I still don’t think that’s registered with me because it has been so long.”

Douglas averaged a national-record 54 points during an All-American and All-State senior year in 1980. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, Douglas ranks 13th nationally in points scored.

The battles between Marion and Hall of Famer Karl Marlone’s Summerfield High School have become basketball lore in Louisiana and Junction City, Arkansas, where two schools competed in the iconic Dual State Tournament.

Though some of his exploits have been lost to time — Marion was part of the consolidation that formed Union Parish High School in 2013 — the records show Douglas’ best game was a 77-point outing against Neville and he scored 36 points in one quarter against Oak Grove.

According to The News-Star records, Douglas had a blistering 93-point outing against Ouachita Christian during his senior year.

Douglas went on to play for Bennie Hollis and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Mike Vining at Northeast Louisiana University, now Louisiana-Monroe. He was part of the first NCAA Tournament team in school history alongside current ULM men’s basketball coach Keith Richard and Terry Martin, a three-time state champion coach at Richwood High School.

Douglas moved into ministry after his playing career and is the pastor at The Word Baptist Church in Grambling. He named the boys’ basketball coach at Farmerville’s Union Christian Academy in 2019 after apprenticing at Sterlington and St. Frederick.

Adam Hunsucker: How much did you think about getting into the Hall of Fame over the years?

Bobby Joe Douglas: I only thought about it when Coach George would bring it up. I had so much other stuff going on, I had my ministry and my daily life going on, that my focus was somewhere else. I would wonder from time to time, but I felt like there was some reason I wasn’t in the Hall of Fame and I respected that. I’ve always been the kind of guy where if it was meant to be, it would happen at the right time.

AH: Did you realize that magnitude of what you were doing when you scored all these points in high school?

BJD: No, I did not. Coming from a small town in Marion, and not being very knowledgeable on the broader perspective of the game, we just played because we enjoyed it and it gave us something to do. Coach George had it in his mind for me to break the scoring record. I was just going out to play and develop what I had in practice. Coach George had me playing with guys in the 12th grade when I was an eighth grader and he was the one who really saw the potential in me.

AH: What do you remember about those games against Karl Malone and Summerfield?

BJD: That was big-time basketball. It was great going up against Karl and naturally he developed into being one of the best of all time. Summerfield had a huge team and you couldn’t get anything inside unless you got a rebound. We did a lot of fast break and got a lot of outside shots because that’s what we had to do. Their coach realized he had to stall the ball against us and they did it for an entire quarter one time and ended up winning the game. They weren’t even trying to play.

We split in most years, but they did beat us in the playoffs. The first time we played, their players said they weren’t going to let me score 54 points, so they came to our place and I had 54 on them. I was just playing basketball and that’s what they didn’t understand. I was told to shoot the basketball and that’s what I did.

AH: Set the record straight. Did you really score 93 points against OCS?

BJD: I did. It was in the Sterlington tournament, but I didn’t know it was that many until they came and told me. We were running pretty and shooting jumpers, but a lot of them came from steals and going to the free-throw line.

AH: Your career at ULM wasn’t as prolific, but what stands out about your college days?

BJD: I got to play quite a bit as a freshman and that was one of the reasons I chose Northeast. I didn’t want to get to college and have to redshirt. They asked me to play point guard and I still wanted the freedom to shoot if I could. The problem was we had other guys that could play and as soon as you passed the ball, it was pretty much over because they were going to score. I appreciated the role, but it wasn’t beneficial for the kind of player I was at the time.

I did what I could to help the team and enjoyed having the chance to play with guys like Keith Richard. The crazy part was I became one of the best defenders on the squad. I was blessed to have an all-around game, not just scoring, and that was something Coach Vining saw in me.

AH: How did you get involved in ministry?

BJD: That’s a good question. In the 10th grade, I made the observation that if I didn’t get a college scholarship, my parents didn’t have the money to send me to school, I was going into the Army. If I didn’t go to the Army, I was going to start preaching. I had no idea what I was thinking. I just went to church when I went to church and that was it.

I’ve always had a heart for people and the people in our neighborhood had that kind of spirit. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t get involved in that I could have because it had a lot to do with my upbringing. My mother was such an extraordinary woman of God. Ministry only came out of my mouth that one time, but the strangest thing was when I went to college, I had a Bible with me.

AH: Sometimes it’s tough for former players, especially those that excel like you did, to relate to their players when they enter coaching. Did you have that problem?

BJD: I think the toughest thing was to see guys who did not put as much time into developing what they had. I’d already been coaching a little bit on the side after college and the reason I wanted to do it is because I saw a lot of guys not developing the way they should have. A lot of it was not on the coaches, but it was on the players because you have to get it on your own.

The jump to being a head coach was exciting because you get to run the show the way you see it. When I took the job at UCA, Kay Hicks, the principal at the time, also recognized I wasn’t in the Hall of Fame and she got on the phone and called Baton Rouge. Had I not been at UCA, there’s a possibility I might not be in the Hall today. When you look at it from that perspective, it has to be a journey you go through to get where you are. Even if it takes a lifetime to get there, that’s a great accomplishment.

Follow Adam on Twitter @adam_hunsucker

This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: NELA Sessions: Q&A with LHSAA Hall of Famer Bobby Joe Douglas

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