Sharks Move to Old Washington Gym Friday to Honor MLK

By: Ted Williams Email
By: Ted Williams Email

Port St. Joe, FL---Monday is Martin Luther King Day when we honor the great civil rights leader.

What better way for a basketball coach to make his players realize what that holiday is all about, than to let them live...if you will, a piece of history. Friday night St. Joe will host Blountstown in a gym that was a part of segregated Washington High School.

Forty three years ago. That was the last time the Old Washington Gym, at segregated Washington High School, would host an official game. In 1970, Washington High and Port Saint Joe integrated, leaving places like this gym a reminder of this country's regretable past.

A past, Port Saint Joe Head Coach Derek Kurnitsky says he hopes we never forget.

"That's something Dr. King would absolutely love, of bringing the communities together. Bringing black and white together and people of different races, different religions. And that was his whole idea and it just worked out perfect and that's really what we want we're really all just one community."

This Gym holds a special place in Clifford Jones heart. Jones, a former player for Washington, reminisces on a typical Friday Night on the hardwood here.

"During the time when we had a game," says Jones "you could go downtown and rob anything downtown because all the police were right here in the gym. You couldn't...there wasn't standing space."

Walking around the gym it's very easy to notice how old the structure is, which makes one wonder if it can support a very crowded Blountstown-St. Joe game 43 years later.

"(laughter) we are going to find out. We are going to find out on Friday. I mean, it should be awesome. It should be wall to wall. Something you see on TV like Hoosiers."

Which you might say, makes Coach Kurnitsky Norman Dale, but as for that riveting pep talk gene Hackman's character gave in that movie, Coach K says it will not be necessary,

"They have been talking about it since the summer. It will be one of those games you don't have to give a pregame speech, they already know. I don't have to say a word Friday night."

That game with Blountstown set for 7:30 eastern.


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