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Chuck McGill: Mother, son share unique basketball bond at state tournament

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lewis D'Antoni, who was born the year before Elkins claimed the first West Virginia high school boys basketball state championship in 1914, will hoist a ceremonial jump ball before the 100th edition of the state tournament commences today.

The 99-year-old former high school hoops coach guided Mullens High School to a Class A state championship in 1955. Two of his sons - Dan and Mike - starred at Mullens and Marshall. Mike, you may have heard, now coaches the Los Angeles Lakers and Dan is on his bench as an assistant. A third son, Mark, also starred on the hardwood and played collegiately at Coastal Carolina.

Basketball gets in the blood. It's passed on from generation to generation, whether it's a family like the D'Antonis who stay between the lines or near them - or a humble sports scribe like me.

My father shared many life lessons on the basketball court. His jersey isn't hanging in the rafters anywhere, but the wisdom he imparted during the years of one-on-one matchups on the unforgiving asphalt probably aren't different than what Lewis D'Antoni passed along to his three successful sons.

When yours truly takes a seat on press row at the Charleston Civic Center for D'Antoni's moment and the first game of the day - No. 3 Charleston Catholic vs. No. 6 Buffalo at 9:30 a.m. - my father will likely be over one of my shoulders watching the action.

This game, however, doesn't just bond men.

Charleston Catholic, the defending Class A state champions, has a senior guard named David Godwin. When he takes the court today, it'll be his fourth consecutive state tournament appearance. Three wins and he'll have a state title ring for each hand.

Hey, it's important for a guard to be able to go left or right.

Three decades ago, Godwin's mother, Lori Caldwell, capped a four-year career at Ravenswood High School. As a freshman and sophomore for the Red Devilettes, she reached the state semifinals. As a junior, Caldwell and older sister Kim helped Ravenswood rout Dunbar by a then-record 33 points for the championship.

Today, David will surpass his mother in state tournament appearances. Lori hopes her son concludes his career Saturday by passing her in titles, too.

"I'm his biggest fan," she said.

For them, basketball is a family affair, although Lori admits she hasn't been willing to step on the court with David since he was in the sixth or seventh grade.

"I can't take it because he'd beat me too bad," she said.

But she'll be there in the stands of the Civic Center watching her only child compete in the sport that has linked them since David first put his hands on a ball.

"He had a basketball in his hands from the time he was sitting and walking," Lori said.

She has pictures of David shooting a basket at 18 months old.

David is headed to West Virginia University in the fall where he will begin studying to become an actuary. He'll keep basketball as a life sport and compete through intramurals. He wants another title, but not for bragging rights.

"It's more important to me for my team than myself," David said. "But I guess it would be nice. I wouldn't complain about it."

Lori reminisced about her three state tournament experiences after getting there in 1980 and '81 and winning the championship in '82. The Caldwell sisters were named to the all-tournament team in 1982.

"It's always been a big deal for our family," she said. "Ravenswood is such a small town - there's like 4,000 people - so it was like 'Hoosiers' for us."   

There's a photo in the Dec. 10, 1982 issue of the Charleston Daily Mail of Lori, arms extended toward the sky and both feet several inches off the ground, as her team advanced to the '82 finals. Her sister, Kim, is to her left, mouth agape and right fist in the air.

Lori is wearing No. 25 - her odd numbered dark road jersey - in the picture. Her favorite number was 10, which was on her home uniform.

David wears No. 10 for Catholic.  

"Basketball is certainly a bond for us," Caldwell said, "but I also know what basketball taught me and what I carried through my life and how it will help him, too.

"The older you get the more you realize the life lessons you learn from basketball. You learn to win, to lose, to deal with adversity, to adapt, to deal with pressure, to be a leader, to help others and help develop other people.

"You learn so much playing basketball that you truly use in life, but you don't realize that when you're still playing."

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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