Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ronald Rogers, WCU Basketball Legend (1931 - 2014)

One of Western Carolina's basketball legends, Ronald Rogers, died Saturday at age 82.

Ronald William Rogers was born on November 25, 1931 and raised in Leicester, N.C.,  His father, Conley Rogers, played basketball at Western Carolina Teachers College (1928-1930) and his mother, Maude was captain of the Leicester High School girls basketball team (1930), so basketball was a Rogers family passion.

Ronald’s father was his high school basketball coach, while his mother kept the scorebooks and his girlfriend, Helen Penland, who he later married, was a cheerleader for the Leicester High School basketball teams.

Ronald followed in his father’s footsteps, heading to Western Carolina Teachers College in the fall of 1949. At WCTC, he had an outstanding career, where he shattered many school and conference records. For three straight seasons Ronald averaged over 20 points per game. He scored in double figures for 82 consecutive games over a three-year period and held both the North State Conference and Western Carolina Teacher’s College career scoring record at the end of 1953.

Ronald was the first player in the North State Conference to score back-to-back 600-point seasons. He set the conference single season scoring record, totaling 686 points and also set a four-year conference career scoring record, totaling 1,960 points.  Keep in mind, his scoring record was set  prior to today's three point shot and 30+ regular season game schedules.

Ronald’s basketball career accomplishments landed him on many select teams. He was named All Conference, All State and the highest award, he was named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Helms Athletic Foundation All American team for three consecutive years, the first player so honored three times.  He currently ranks third on Western's career scoring list with 1, 960 points and was the first Western Carolina basketball player to have his jersey and number (#15) retired. Ronald was a charter member inducted into the inaugural Western Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990 and was inducted into the Western North Carolina Sports Hall of fame in 1999, and inducted into the Leicester Hall of Fame in 2011.

In 1954, Ronald was drafted into the Army, where he served for the next 22 months. He was initially deployed to Seoul, Korea and then was transferred to Okinawa, Japan. Ronald was chosen to be a member of the Army basketball team (Signal Core #181) and the baseball team. After serving his country, he returned to the United States and in January 1956 he married his high school sweetheart, Helen Penland.

Ronald was employed by the American Enka Corporation in 1956, where he was the Athletic Director and player/coach for both he basketball and baseball Industrial League Teams. Later, he accepted a position in the Enka receiving department where he was responsible for materials used in the Nylon and Rayon Divisions. In 1986, Enka was purchased by BASF and in 1989 Ronald retired after 36 years with the company.