Backyard basket scene of memorable matches

The old basketball goal in the photo stood for decades on the Tom and Naomi Sexton farm in Little York. The court for this goal was dirt.

It’s a place from where I have good memories in the mid- to late-1970s. I played high school basketball with Keith Sexton, the third-youngest son of the family.

Keith was one of my best friends, and we played a lot of basketball together during and after we graduated from Austin High School. For Keith, that was in 1976, and for me that was in 1977.

I used to go out to the Sexton farm and work in the tobacco fields with Keith just for fun or a good meal. In the evenings, all the hard work was worth it, when we would play basketball for hours on this goal.

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Now, before I go any further with this story, let me tell you a little about the Sexton boys. From 1967 through 1976, there was a Sexton brother on the Austin Eagles basketball team every year, and they all were great players. All three brothers, Mike, Burt and Keith, were all-Mid-Southern Conference players during this period. Their names are easy to find in the Austin basketball school records.

Mike, the oldest, graduated in 1970 and is still considered by many the greatest pure shooter in the history of Austin basketball. I’m betting Mike could still play a pretty good game of H-O-R-S-E.

Burt graduated in 1973 and also was a very good shooter. In playing pickup games with Burt on the farm, I learned quickly on every shot he missed, he was fouled. The reason I know this is because every shot he missed, he would call a foul, and a lot times on me, even when I wasn’t guarding him on the play. Burt would stop the game and say with a smile, “Now, Red, you know you fouled me, give me the ball.” Keith would get mad at me for giving Burt the ball, and the two of them would argue forever.

Keith, like Mike and Burt, could shoot from anywhere. They are three of the best shooters I’ve ever seen, just amazing.

This story is about a game of H-O-R-S-E I watched around 1977 on the basketball goal in the picture. There were four of us — myself and the three Sexton brothers. Since I couldn’t shoot a lick, I didn’t last long, much to the delight of Burt, who reminded me that losers rebound.

About 30 minutes later, Burt was put out of the game after a miss, and for some reason, the losers rebound rule didn’t apply to him, as he got mad and went in the house.

By now, the game was getting serious because Mike and Keith were hitting every crazy shot they could dream up. Their father, Tom, was sitting in a chair laughing at all the crazy shots they hit. They were shooting from 30 feet, behind the backboard, off cars, off tractors, off the porch and anything else they could think of. Those two guys were so hot, even the cows in the pasture started watching.

That one game of H-O-R-S-E lasted nearly two hours. To this day, I have never seen anything like it. Shot after shot went in, and believe me, there was a lot of trash talking. If I tried to say anything or take sides, Mike would say, “Red, just shut up and rebound.”

The game went on and on, and even at 17 years old, I was certain I’d never see anything like that again. Finally, it was over when Keith hit a behind-the-back shot from about 10 feet out, a shot Mike could not match.

A couple of years ago, which would have been some 35 years later, I asked Mike if he remembered the game, and he said he did. But Mike says he won the game.

Playing basketball with the Sexton boys was always an adventure, to say the least. One time, after we were out of high school, we took a team to Tennessee to play in a tourney.

We played six games and won the tourney, as all three of the brothers put on phenomenal shooting exhibitions. For six games, and just like I did on the Sexton farm, I rebounded because they sure weren’t passing the ball.

Those guys loved to shoot, and they loved playing basketball, and they were great friends to be around. Every event with them was fun, and some of the best memories of my young life are playing basketball with Keith.

I have one more story about Keith Sexton I’d like to share. In the summer of 1979, on the outdoor courts at the Austin firehouse, there was a summer tournament. The tourney consisted of about eight teams, but a side addition was a one-on-one tourney.

After some tough games, it came down to two very good players, Keith and Elmer Smith, a big-time player from Scottsburg. The one-on-one matchup drew a crowd of about 300 people, with local barber Glenn Holland as the referee. The match lasted a long time in some serious summer heat, and when it was over, Keith had won it all.

P.S.: A fourth brother, Jeff, played for Austin from 1978 to 1980, and a younger sister, Sharon, was a member of the Austin Lady Eagles Final Four team in 1985.