Two Glasgow residents, like the heroes in the movie “Glory Road”, didn’t realize they were making black history over 40 years ago when they accepted an offer to play college basketball in Oklahoma.

Jerry Lee Wells and Charlie Hunter had been stars at Ralph Bunche High School, earning a trip to the Kentucky State Tournament when Wells was a senior and Hunter a junior.

Hunter was a high scoring guard-forward at Bunche, once scoring 55 points in a game. He was averaging 26 points a game as a junior when he and Wells led the Bluehawks to the 5th Region championship and a trip to state. Wells was a rugged rebounder and scorer, also averaging 20 points a game, and they had a talented supporting cast at Bunche.

The chance to play for a state title came only a few years after black high schools in the state were allowed to participate in district, regional and state tournaments.

After Hunter’s graduation in 1962, scholarship offers poured in and he was expected to take an offer from the University of Louisville.

But when Wells accepted a scholarship from Abe Lemons to play at Oklahoma City University, Hunter decided to join his old high school teammate there.

They were the first black Americans to play at Oklahoma City and four black starters there were a prelude to what would occur at Texas Western, the team that defeated the University of Kentucky for the 1996 National Championship. The team that both the book and movie “Glory Road” were based upon.

As seniors at Oklahoma City, Wells and Hunter played against the eventual national champs when Texas Western and Oklahoma City, both independents, met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma City had a 15-point lead at one stage of the game but a bevy of steals by the Miners’ Bobby Joe Hill gave the Miners the lead they would never give up. Texas Western eventually won by a dozen but Hunter had dropped 31 on them.

Wells and Hunter had outstanding careers at Oklahoma City. Hunter set a new freshman scoring record and earned the nickname of “Big Game” after scoring 55 points in a game. He led the varsity in scoring one year and was second two others.

Wells was so dominating that he earned All American honors for the Chiefs. At 6-2 and 180, Wells had always been a leaper. He led the team in scoring his senior year at 27 points a game and the Chiefs went 24-5 before losing to Texas Western. He had 41 points against Centenary that year.

Lemons was to say of Wells, “For his size, he’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

The Chiefs went to the NCAA tournament all three years that Wells and Hunter played on the varsity. During most games, the Chiefs had at least four black players on the floor and the fifth was a Native American, so meeting the five black starters for Texas Western was not surprising to them. The Chiefs played mostly in the west and southwest and most colleges had black players.

They were familiar with at Texas Western’s David “Big Daddy” Lattin, who had considered OCU.

Three players from the ‘66 Oklahoma City team got pro contracts, Wells and James Ware at Cincinnati and Hunter at Boston. Injuries prevented both the Bunche products from enjoying a pro career.

As he was about to start his NBA career, Wells was drafted and although his knee made him ineligible for the service, by the time he got back to Cincinnati, the Royals roster was set. He ended up playing semi-pro for Muskegon, Michigan for five years while teaching middle school before returning to Glasgow.

Hunter injured an ankle during a pickup game and during workouts at Boston learned the injury was serious enough to end his playing days. He spent several years in industry, later taught at the Job Corps, and is now a counselor at WKU-Glasgow.

Both Wells and Hunter have been named to the OCU Athletic Hall of Fame and both are members of the Glasgow-Barren County Athletic Hall of Fame sponsored by the Glasgow Daily Times.

We asked Hunter if he and Wells had ever experienced any of the racial incidents like those portrayed in the movie. Hunter said they were always treated equally and although Lemons was a tough taskmaster, he treated all his players the same.

Hunter has a particularly fond feeling for his freshman coach at OCU, Paul Hansen. “He had players in his home for dinners and was a fine person.”

He said Lemons’s personality was more businesslike. “He didn’t get close personally with any of the players.”

Hunter remembered one incident in New Orleans when OCU was there for a game. “We were at the hotel when Jerry and a teammate, a white player, went to the hotel restaurant. They brought the white player’s soft drink in a glass with ice and gave Jerry his drink in a ‘to-go’ cup.

The Texas Western players have said at the time they played UK for the title, they paid little attention to the fact that they were making history.

Like the Miners, Wells and Hunter didn’t think about making history. They just wanted to play basketball and get an education.


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