By KYLE LOVERN
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 2-part feature on former Burch all-state basketball player Billy Erwin.)
“I noticed Billy J.(Erwin) early as a player because when I was first hired as junior high coach, I started taking 2nd and 3rd graders to Stateline Camp of Champions in Parkersburg,” said former Burch High School coach Mike Smith.
Smith said he started taking other players from the Delbarton area, like Billy Stratton and Scott Caudill to those types of camps. Then he began taking Erwin as well.
“These kids went to several day camps also and by the time they were in sixth grade and above they were going to Five Star and BC All-star camps,” Smith added. “These kids never went on vacation, but went to several camps each summer. They each had notebooks with lists of drills they were required to do. So working on their games and being gym rats was in their blood.”
“Billy had the ability to handle the ball as well as being a good shooter. Plus he had the quickness that is needed to play at the next level. I did my best as a high school coach to schedule AAA and AA schools so colleges could not say the level of competition was only class A.”
“I told you before that he had ‘it’. I cannot explain what ‘it’ is, but can tell you when they possess it. Coach (John) Maynard , my brother Bill and I watched the day that Andy Paul Williamson moved up from the Harts Junior High championship team to starting in a regional high school game,” Smith recalls. “We knew that Andy Paul had ‘it’.”
It is something that in the sports world defines certain athletes as having a special quality.
“Billy J. was fortunate to have good players at Burch that were grades ahead of him like Stratton, Gary Marcum, Jimmy Scott and Caudill. It also helped him become a better player and be able to showcase his talent to have teammates like Greg Ferrell, Kevin Hatfield, Jason Stratton, Roger Workman, Walker Cisco and others when he was a sophomore,” Smith said.
“That was 1991 and he took the state tournament by storm and really played well. In 1992 we were No. 1 all year, but had a bad game in the opener to a quality Franklin High team who won it all.”
“So after that loss he became the old man of the team with a lot of young players. We had several players since 1985 get scholarships. So I wrote Billy J. a long letter challenging him to work harder than he had ever worked his last summer before his senior year and become the first Burch player to become a Division l player,” Smith remembers. “He had always worked hard, but he also was blessed with a lot of God given talents and some things came easy to him. He took the challenge and continued to go to camps, but worked hard on his game.”
“He had several Dl schools recruiting him as well as the conference schools. He visited one in Louisiana where former Tolsia head coach Randy Anderson coached. Morehead came in late, so he decided to attend Robert Morris which had signed classmate Kim Davis to the women’s team,” Smith added.
Erwin finished second in the voting for the state Player of the Year after his senior campaign.
Smith and other Bulldog fans were proud that Erwin went to Robert Morris, started and played against top-notch colleges like Kentucky, West Virginia and others.
“He got his degree and went in the concession business with a good friend and works for schools like Florida providing their concessions for athletic events,” Smith said proudly of the Burch alumnus.
Erwin’s Flava Puff cotton candy is purchased by all three of the professional franchises in Miami, the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins and sold at their games.
Smith and Erwin still talk, not only about basketball, but about current events such as politics and business.
“I guess the whole point is he used basketball to give him a great life,” Smith said of Erwin success. “Billy J. is one of many success stories we have had here at Burch High School.”