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Contributed photo / The family of Wayne Golden is seeking financial help for the former UTC basketball star as he deals with a health crisis. Golden was a high school legend in Kentucky before teaming up with some of his fellow Louisville natives to lead the Mocs to the 1977 NCAA Division II championship.

Every now and then, when Herbert "Book" McCray makes his way back to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to see family and friends, all the basketball players he grew up with play a word game involving which of their Derby City contemporaries was the best shooter, the best passer, the best rebounder, etc.

"When it comes to the best shooter, it always comes down to Wayne Golden and Ron King," said McCray, who starred with Golden at Louisville's Shawnee High School, then joined him in signing with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where the pair helped the Mocs win the 1977 NCAA Division II national championship.

"And Ron King (who played at Louisville's Central High) was great; he helped take Florida State to the NCAA title game against UCLA (in 1972). But Wayne was better. Wayne's the best shooter I ever played with."

His UTC stats alone would confirm that. Golden scored 2,384 points during his four years with the Mocs, which was a school record at that time. And that's without a 3-point line.

Beyond that, he once scored 84 points in a high school game against Portland Christian, a single-game record that still stands in the Bluegrass State. No wonder Shawnee rolled through Kentucky's iconic state tournament in 1973 with McCray, Golden and future Oklahoma State star Ronnie Daniels running the show.

"Wayne didn't miss many that night against Portland," McCray said Friday. "But the ones he did I rebounded and threw them back to him to shoot again."

Unfortunately, Golden now needs friends to throw him some money in the worst way after an unexpected medical event last week.

"It's not life threatening," said McCray, who added that the family has asked for privacy at this time. "But there's going to be a lot of rehab needed. Wayne's not destitute or anything, but the bills aren't going to stop coming. Medical bills. Utility bills. And his youngest son is still in college, which he's paying for. He just needs some help."

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Staff file photo / Former UTC basketball star Herbert Book McCray, center, called former teammate Wayne Golden the best shooter he ever played with. Golden and McCray helped lead Louisville's Shawnee High School to the Kentucky state championship in 1973, and four years later they helped UTC win the NCAA Division II championship. The former Mocs stars have both gone on to work with youth through nonprofit organizations.

To help provide that help, Golden's family has start a GoFundMe campaign. The goal is to raise $10,000. Begun last week, contributions had already eclipsed $3,200 as of Saturday morning.

Wrote Wayne's niece Tracy Golden-Crawford on the website this past Wednesday: "Currently, Wayne is being stabilized in the ICU. His care team is running tests to determine what precipitated this health crisis. We anticipate transferring him to a rehabilitation facility soon. Please keep the prayers coming."

We are all in need of prayers these days as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and life as we once knew it seems further and further removed from our present. We are all beginning to fray around the edges. But Golden's medical issues are fresh, dramatic, costly and without a certain end. They could last for several months, maybe even years.

As Golden-Crawford also wrote: "By the grace of God, Wayne is still with us; however, his recovery effort will be arduous and quite expensive."

It can be difficult to explain the impact those championship Mocs of 1977 had on the Scenic City. Maclellan Gym was almost always sold out in those days as the town embraced UTC coach Ron Shumate's goal to reach "Rocky Top" long before big brother Tennessee stole the bluegrass classic for its own.

Louisville natives Golden, McCray, William "Too Quick" Gordon, Gary Stich and Kevin Gray were at the center of that climb, though Gray graduated the year before the Division II title.

Wrote lifelong UTC fan Bob Mulkey of Golden on the GoFundMe page: "Wayne gave me lots of enjoyment watching him play as a Moc!"

Added Ron Bush, who retired from the Times Free Press in 2020 and was the sports editor of UTC student newspaper The Echo during Golden's playing days: "Wayne provided me with great basketball memories and writing content."

Then there's UTC super fan Pam Henry. She and her husband Sam had moved to Knoxville before the championship season. They would drive back to Chattanooga for every home game. But when the '77 national title game against Randolph-Macon College arrived, they couldn't get the game on television in K-town.

Wrote Henry in an email Friday night: "We didn't want to leave our baby, but couldn't get the Chattanooga channels in Knox. So we made a reservation at a hotel in Sweetwater that could pick up the game. We watched it there! It was so exciting. Wayne was such a smooth player."

He grew into such a fine adult. While McCray has long been one of this city's giants when it comes to mentoring at-risk youth through his Independent Youth Services Foundation, Golden has made a similarly huge impact in Austin, Texas, since he left the military in 1989 with his Life Works nonprofit organization, which also focuses on improving the lives of at-risk youth.

"Just trying to make sure they get the help and guidance they need," he told this newspaper a few years ago. "Help out with their academics, their home life, keep them pointed in the right direction."

Let enough Mocs fans contribute to Golden's recovery and support fund on his GoFundMe site, and one of the smoothest players in UTC history should have his return to health pointed in the right direction for months, if not years, to come.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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