Purnell Ayers to join Allen, Bishop and Baird in Basketball Hall of Fame

January 5, 2018

Ayers and Bishop - Those two names from Cape basketball history are always mentioned together, and fans from 40 years ago still argue which player was better. A pair of tough guys – you couldn’t outmean either one – who looked like NFL linebackers led Cape to consecutive state title in 1975 and 1976. Purnell – sometimes called Pete – will be inducted into the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday, Jan. 27, at a luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel on South College Avenue in Newark. Started in 2007, the hall has previously inducted 48 members. Ayers was Delaware’s Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976, when he led Cape Henlopen to consecutive state titles. He became the state’s all-time scoring leader (1,540) and led Cape to a regular-season record of 59-1 over three years. He was named Delaware’s Player of the Decade by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Ayers joins Cape’s John Bishop, Jimmy Allen and coach Ralph Baird, who were previously inducted. There will be six players inducted and honored at the luncheon, including Jermaine Medley, the Delaware Player of the Year in 1996, who went on to start and star at Villanova. Tickets are available at

Give it up - You just have to give it up for the Sussex Tech pep band for how they rock at home basketball games. I’m always in contention for one of the top five oldest people in the gym, and I’m down with the noise. Plus, I get in for free, so it’s like a benefit concert, and I’m one who benefits. The cheerleaders are great as well. I feel the Ravens are rediscovering themselves after enduring some wobbly leadership. Enough said about that.

Hierarchy of heroes - The Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association presents the Buddy Hurlock Award each January in memory of Buddy, whose special focus was high school sports. Buddy was a good guy, and this award goes to someone who has overcome obstacles just to participate in sports. There are lots of submissions, then discussions, then we members vote. If I nominate, then present an athlete, I obviously vote for that person, but I don’t vote against the others because who even thinks, “My hero is better than your hero?” The solution for me is to travel my beat with a box of trophies and certificates, and to award them to any person, no matter the team or sport, who inspires me, and I will write their story too, but somewhere in the process someone has to buy me a pizza. 

Sportsmanship is subtle - There are no rules, you just have to "get it.” Inside a frenzied but respectfully played basketball game at Sussex Tech Jan. 2, a Tech player was knocked to the floor then rolled to the sitting position. A Cape player offered a hand to assist in the "get up," but the Raven swatted the hand away. Everyone saw it and knew "bad sportsmanship." Coach Damon Ayers, a longtime friend of mine, took his player out, and I don't remember him coming back into the game. Coaches are teachers, and sometimes their "observed" lesson is taught in front of a diverse community crowd with a band and cheerleaders. The coaches do a great job. Real coaching is dealing with the unanticipated moments.

Snippets - A major lesson I learned from watching so many bowl games is how many great players and leaders there are on the football field, and many of them are not the most hyped, like true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm from Georgia (Rose Bowl), Central Florida sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton (Peach Bowl) and Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook (Orange Bowl), a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore who played at nearby Malvern Prep. It was good to see Dr. Brittany Adkins Hazzard at the Sussex Tech game with her twin daughters Rylie and Reagan, and also Bill Collick and the Rev. Mifflin comparing topcoats after the game. Should a middle school wrestler with less than 10 percent body fat ever be encouraged to drop weight? The answer is obviously no, but it happens every day and Sundays. Go on now, git!