Beaufort native Kenny Washington was praised Monday for his role in Coach John Wooden's first two NCAA basketball championships at UCLA.
But when Washington was inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame in Columbia, he took the audience of 800 straight to the Lowcountry.
"Let's not forget, I am a Geechee from Beaufort, South Carolina," he said.
Washington was one of seven children of U.S. Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant Fred S. Washington Sr. who always told them, "If you're looking for a helping hand, look at the end of your arm."
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But the man who's lived his life in California wanted on this stage to pay homage to the family, friends and teachers, "that whole village," who made his recognition possible.
"That was fundamental," he told me Tuesday.
Also fundamental to his message (they had to start playing music to get him to shut up) was that he was by no means the best athlete in his hometown, much less one of the best of all time in the state of South Carolina.
"He said he was representative of of all those who did not make it," said his brother, Fred Washington Jr. "There are many people more talented, but they never had the opportunity. He represents the vast number who have potential but just need opportunity."
Kenny Washington was ready when his chance came.
He'd left Beaufort, first for the Mather Academy in Camden and then to live with a sister in Columbia where he played on a state championship team for the Booker T. Washington High School Tornadoes.
In summers in Philadelphia with his sister, Delo Washington, who was in Columbia for the big milestone, he caught the eye of UCLA's Walt Hazzard in pickup games. And in Wooden's first national championship win, Kenny the skinny sixth-man was ready. He scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
That's a message they still remember at Singleton's Barbershop on Beaufort's Charles Street.
"It highlights the quality and type of people who were here back in the '60s," said Ken Singleton. "Motivated. With personal drive."
He then shares the wisdom of a gray-haired man who watched mankind since he was shining shoes at his daddy's barber shop at age 5. He has words from Winston Churchill's shortest speech framed behind his chair. "Never give up. Never give up. Never give up," it says.
"We don't know how or why certain people get opportunities, but that's the way life is structured," said Singleton.
He also made the trip to Columbia for the banquet attended by a who's who of South Carolina sports.
Among others from Beaufort to go were Ed and Cindy Duryea, Fred and Barbara Washington and their daughter Simone, their sister Delo Washington, Walter and Mammie Clark, Robert "Bobby" Jenkins, county Coroner Ed Allen and Henry Frank Fyall.
Jerry Norman, the longtime assistant coach to John Wooden, came from California. Kenny Washington was introduced to Bobby Cremins of Hilton Head Island, a fellow member of the S.C. hall of fame. Washington's friend from UCLA, Kim Hocker, who now lives in Moss Creek, drove up with Ed Williams of Sun City.
On Tuesday, back at the barbershop, "Mr. Ken" Singleton was sounding like a hall of fame coach.
"You have to have that motivation and stimulation to make it happen," Singleton said. "That's what I preach every day."
2018 South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame Class
Bobby Richardson Sportsmanship Award: Tim Bourret
Willie Jeffries Ambassador for Sports Action Award: Sam Wyche
Felix “Doc” Blanchard Citizen for Sports Award: Louis Sossamon
Herman Helms Excellence in Media Award: Phil Kornblut
Dom Fusci Leadership in Action Award: Paul Kennemore