WSSU‘s Carlos Terry: What Could‘ve Been

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"By Steven J. Gaither
The News Argus

Sometimes, Jake Bradley finds himself peering into the trophy case of the C. E. Gaines Center.

As he takes a long look at the trophies and memorabilia packed inside, he thinks of his childhood friend.

Bradley works as an administrative assistant in Winston-Salem State‘s department of athletics. He grew up with former WSSU hoops star Carlos Terry down the road in Lexington.

During Terry‘s four seasons at WSSU, he led the team to a 92-28 record and a CIAA championship. He can also perhaps lay clam to being the best Ram this side of Earl Monroe.

However, Terry‘s basketball career and life took a turn for the worse after he injured his knee as an NBA rookie back in 1981.

Ahead of the game

As far back as he can remember, Bradley said, Carlos Terry had game. Both Bradley and Terry played at Lexington Senior High, and before that, on the playgrounds.

""You knew in high school,"" Bradley said. ""I saw this guy do stuff in high school that you don‘t see high school players doing.

""Man, Carlos could shoot. He had game. You see players in your lifetime, and in my lifetime I‘ve seen a lot of basketball players, but as far as potential, Carlos Terry had all the potential in the world,"" he said.

Someone else who recognized Terry‘s potential was Rams head coach Clarence ""Big House"" Gaines.

""Coach Gaines would come to Lexington and come down to the basketball court and just watch guys play,"" he said.

Bradley remembers one day in particular when Terry and his brothers all but owned the Lexington playground courts.

""Carlos was playing, and his two brothers, man, you talk about awesome, that was an awesome family.""

He brought the house down

Terry arrived on WSSU‘s campus in the fall of 1974, and it didn‘t take long for him to make an impact. As a freshman, Terry averaged 12.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, teaming with Tom Paulin to improve the team‘s record from 14-12 the previous season to 23-7 as the Rams went to the fifth round of the NAIA tournament that year.

Terry‘s sophomore season brought even more success as he averaged 15.8 points and 15.3 rebounds as the Rams went 24-6 in 1975-76. His best season individually came as a junior when he averaged 24.4 points and 14.2 rebounds per game as the Rams
played Cinderella in the CIAA tournament, winning the 1977 tournament despite coming in with 10 losses.

Terry is probably best remembered for his above-the-rim style. Al Harvey, a WSSU alum,
coached women‘s basketball at WSSU during that time. He said his most enduring memory of Carlos on court was a move he made against Johnson C. Smith.

""He made a move like Dr. J made underneath the basket and he did a 360 and dunked
it,"" Harvey said.

Harvey said that Terry‘s game was ""electric.""

Terry ended his WSSU career as the Rams‘ all-time leading rebounder with 1,467, averaging 11.8 per game for his career, despite standing only 6 feet 5 inches tall. He is also the third leading scorer behind Earl Monroe and Cleo Hill with atotal of 2,151, an average of 18.4 per game.

The next level
After wrapping up his college career, Terry was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in
the fifth round of the NBA draft (104 overall). Terry never played a game for the Lakers,
though. He played in the Phillipenes and the Continental Basketball Association for two
seasons before catching on with the Washington Bullets during the 1980-81 season.

After high school, Bradley joined the military, and he and Terry lost touch. He had heard
through friends that Terry was playing in the NBA, and one night while stationed overseas, he saw his old buddy play on a pro court for the first time.

""I was in Germany and we got games at like three o‘clock in the morning,"" Bradley said.
""One night I was staying up and the military station was showing the Washington
Bullets, and low and behold, I see Carlos on the court.""

erry played in just 26 games that year, but managed to average 7.2 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent in just under 20 minutes per game.
But his rookie season and ultimately his career ended after he injured his knee.

His rookie season would turn out to be the high point of his pro career. Terry played in a
combined 68 games over the next two years and saw limited playing time when he did get on the court. Those who know him best, including Gaines, said that after the knee injury he was never the same.

In all, Terry played three years with the Bullets, averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds per game. At the age of 26, Carlos Terry‘s NBA career was finished.

After his pro career failed, his life was never the same. Alcoholism and drugs took over, and in January 1989, Terry was convicted of cocaine distribution. Just two months later, at the age of 32, he was killed in a high-speed car crash on the Capital Beltway in
Prince George‘s County Maryland. Police said that Terry had been drinking and was speeding.

Although Bradley and Terry hadn‘t been in close contact in quite a while, he says Terry‘s
death was shocking.

""It hit hard,"" he said. ""I grew up with this guy and no matter what people say about him or
what he was doing in his life, we were friends from way back.""

What might have been
Now, more than 30 years after coming to see his friend play at WSSU, Bradley works
in the shadows of Whitaker Gym, where Terry once roamed the baseline.

Bradley said that since Terry‘s death, he thinks about how things could‘ve turned out

""I know for a fact that if his mind would have been more on basketball, he would‘ve
been great.

""I honestly think that if drugs hadn‘t have been involved and alcohol, that he would‘ve been... It‘s unimaginable."" Bradley said. ""You can only think about what could‘ve been."""

"Just read that article.  Though we were only in school together two years, we remained friends until his demise.  I was playing sailor at the time and got the news from a Falcon no less, via ""The Sporting News.""  Definitely a sad story."

Slim hit the yard my senior year. I remember how he never seemed be in the game before he took the floor. BUT, at the ten minute mark he would stand and stretch, then it was on. He was a great person and a great players.


I remember this guy coming to St. Aug in either ‘76 or ‘77 and just going off on the poor Falcons.  In that particular game, he had a cast on one of his forearms/hands and he still scored like 35 points, had 25 rebounds, and blocked about 12-15 shots.  It was truly amazing.  He looked like a pro playing with junior high players.  God rest his soul.

It was the 77-78 season Khawk.


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