By David Elwell
Daily Sports Writer

For some people it may be difficult to see the connection between a "cotton patch" and basketball. For Ferrell Maples from Priceville, the connection is real. "Basketball was my way of staying out of the cotton patch," Maples said. Maples was a dominating inside player for the Priceville Bulldogs in 1965-66 and 1966-67. The Birmingham Post-Herald selected him as the Class 2A Player of the year in 1967.

Being the youngest of four brothers deserves at least some credit for turning him into the basketball player he became. "He caught the blunt end of everything growing up," older brother Charles said. "He had to be tough to survive playing basketball at our home."

Basketball was king in Priceville in the 1950s and '60s. The Bulldogs won state championships in 1951, 1955, 1961 and 1965. Maples was a young guard with a great jump shot in 1965, but he spent most of his sophomore season on the bench. After most of the 1965 state championship team graduated, Priceville coach Herman Myers moved the 6-foot-3 Maples inside. "We had plenty of shooters on the team," Maples said. "I was one of the biggest players on the team, so it made sense."

The move paid off for the Bulldogs. Maples averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds his junior year. He improved those numbers his senior year to 20 points and 15 rebounds.

The lead to a story in The Daily in 1967 about a Priceville win in which Maples scored 32 points described his play "as regular as fried chicken will be on Sunday's dinner menu."

"He had the ability to play anywhere on the floor," said Ronald Grantland, who played at Cotaco in the early 1960s. "He was a big guy who could handle the ball and shoot off the dribble. He was not your typical post player. Because he was so strong, he was an excellent rebounder."

Former Brewer girls coach Ricky Allen is Maples' first cousin. "He was my hero," Allen said. "He was one of the best basketball players around. He could have been a great point guard. I rank him right up there with some of the best that ever played in Morgan County." Maples admits learning to play inside was a lot like surviving in the backyard against his brothers. "You have to work at it," Maples said. "You can't just stand around. You have to push and I found out I could push harder than most. You also need good timing. You want to push when the officials aren't looking." Priceville went 30-4 in 1967 and won the Morgan County Tournament championship. The Bulldogs looked to be a contender for another state championship that season, but couldn't clear one big hurdle – Hazel Green. The Trojans beat the Bulldogs for the area championship in both '66 and '67. The 1967 loss was particularly tough. Hazel Green, which went on to win the 2A state championship, won 57-56. "We had a really good team with some great players, but so did Hazel Green," Maples said.

Maples' teammates included Gary Dobbs, Bobby Landers, John Williams and Hal Miller.

After high school, Maples carried his basketball talents to what was then Athens College. In his freshman season, the team advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. After his playing days ended, Maples got into coaching. He was an assistant at West Morgan, head coach at Falkville and an assistant at Brewer."I got to coach both boys and girls at Brewer," Maples said. "Eventually, I became the girls junior varsity coach. I really enjoyed teaching the game." Maples' induction into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame follows by two years the induction of his brother Charles, who also got into coaching.

"I was coaching at Cotaco when Ferrell was playing for Priceville," Charles said. "We had some good teams, but it seems like Priceville always found a way to win."

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