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The Stuff of Legend

What’s almost as amazing as a kid scoring 50 points in a YMCA game – which features a time-shortening running clock –  is how little everyone remembers about it.

Here’s what is known. It happened when the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA was located on Tams Street. And the player that scored half of 100 points, Kevin Madden, was so good that seeing reach the half century mark was almost normal.

Dominating is just what Madden did.

Before Madden went on to completely rewrite all the record books at Robert E. Lee High School, he rewrote them all at the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA first.

“I thought he scored 50 every time he played,” said Dickie Bell, who served as the YMCA’s youth director when Madden was part of the YMCA’s youth basketball program. “He was such a dominant force in that age group. I don’t remember that game exactly, but I don’t doubt that it happened. It could have happened more than once.”

Madden doesn’t have one single recollection from that game. No two of his 50 points – a stat line he would repeat in high school as a prep all-American player – stand out in his memory. To him, the stat line didn’t matter as much as the bottom line.

“For me, I just wanted to win,” Madden said. “It wasn’t about scoring points just as long as we won the game.”

A STAR IS BORN

Madden is six years younger than his brother Mike, a star at Robert E. Lee known for his battles with three-time national college basketball player of the year Ralph Sampson when Sampson was at rival Harrisonburg High School.

“I wanted to be as good as Mike and play for coach (Paul) Hatcher,” Madden said. “That was my main thing. Mike taught me a lot about the game of basketball.”

Kevin’s story doesn’t start in the YMCA. It started on the outdoor court at Johnson Street.

“I worked every day,” Madden said. “Up on Johnson Street, they had a little basketball court. I was there 9:00 am until 11:00 (pm) at night, working to get better.”

It didn’t take long, however, for the YMCA to become part of Madden’s story.

His friend Dean joined the YMCA Youth Basketball League first. After losing his first two games of the season, he recruited Madden to join his team.

“I was 10 when I first started playing,” Madden said. “Dean, one my good friends, asked my mom if I could play. I remember them being 0-2. We ended up winning the last nine games and the championship. It was a fun experience.”

Mike Madden, who went on to play at Radford, is a basketball legend in the Staunton community, but Bell believes that Kevin is the best he’s ever seen.

“The first thing I remember was his tenacity and competitive spirit,” Bell said. “He was a fierce competitor. I don’t think Kevin had any idea how good he was or how good he could be. He was just tenacious, and he wanted to win. He wanted to be the best person out there from the first time I saw him.”

Lots of great players have passed through the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA.

But Madden was just different.

“It kind of looked like a young man playing with a bunch of little boys,” Bell said. “He was their age, and that was the only similarity. Kevin lived the game. He did it all the time. In his age group, he was just head and shoulders above. He just had things other kids that age didn’t have. Just special. It’s like he was born with a skill set for basketball. Kids he played against just kind of shirked away from him, and the kids on his team just loved him.”

MADDEN’S STAR GETS BRIGHTER

When Bell was young, the YMCA was in downtown Staunton. Sneaking into the Y – and promptly being thrown out – was a daily routine for Bell and his friends.

Likewise, Madden and his friends would sneak past Randy Lindamood to play pick-up games in the old Tams Street YMCA’s auxiliary gym. The teams were always evenly split to ensure the best competition, and they are some of the most iconic pick-up games in Staunton’s rich basketball history.

Soon, Madden would have the YMCA’s bleachers filled during AAU games, which featured onlookers like then University of Virginia basketball coach Terry Holland.

“Any time a high-profile college coach walks into your gym, everybody gets a little excited,” Bell said. “I don’t think in Kevin’s case it made him try any harder. He played at the same level every time. I don’t think he was intimidated. He wanted to put on his best effort. The gym might have been full of coaches, and it wouldn’t have made any difference.”

Madden received his first recruitment letter from Lefty Driesell at the University of Maryland in eighth grade. At that point, Madden loved Louisville and had a soft spot for Duke. The University of North Carolina had a player named Dudley Bradley that Madden loved. Like Dudley, Madden wore No. 22.

While watching Michael Jordan compete for the 1982 national championship, his mother told Madden how much she admired legendary UNC coach Dean Smith. Before his mom passed away, he promised her he’d be a Tar Heel if UNC ever offered.

The only player from Robert E. Lee High School to be selected for the McDonald’s All-American Game, the offer to be a Tar Heel came with hundreds of others.

And Madden kept his promise to his mom.

 WORTH 1,000 WORDS

 The Madden interview is taking place in Danny Moats’ Barber Shop. Not only is Moats his longtime barber, but he was also a great Lee High point guard in the early 1990s. Before that, he was one of the little kids sneaking into Lee High games to try and meet UNC legend coach Smith.

During Madden’s tenure at Lee, games were so popular that fans that didn’t arrive at halftime of the junior varsity game weren’t allowed access.

Moats is an avid Duke fan, but three pictures of Madden in his UNC days have made the barber shop’s wall of fame. The first is a picture of Madden casually hanging out with a fellow former UNC ball player, a shooting guard named Michael Jordan.

One of the others may be the most iconic picture in the history of sports in Staunton. The black-and-white picture shows Madden in his Carolina blue uniform stuffing in a putback dunk on the left baseline over University of Maryland legend Len Bias. The No. 2 pick in the 1986 draft, Bias, the player people thought had a chance to surpass Jordan,” died before ever playing a single game for the Boston Celtics.

“I remember that play it like it was yesterday,” Madden said of the picture. “Steve Hill shot from the right baseline. I came in from the left baseline. The picture you see behind me is from (UNC point guard) Jeff Lebo. One of his friends took the picture at the game. I brought it down here to the barber shop, because people don’t believe you. They just think you’re making up stories.”

GIVING BACK 

After earning all-ACC honors during his college tenure, Madden played professionally at six different places overseas. After playing for a national hall of fame high school coach in Hatcher and a legendary college coach in Smith, Madden has a lot to give back.

This fall, he was back at the YMCA, helping a new generation of Staunton High School players prepare for the upcoming season. At 6-foot-6, the broad-shouldered former forward towers over most of the players in the gym. Everything that this generation of players hopes to do – win a state championship, get a college scholarship, play professionally – Madden has already done.

Not only does he see coaching as a way to help players reach their full potential, but it’s also a way to use sports to mold young athletes into productive young men.

“I love this game,” Madden said. “It’s given me an opportunity to see the world.”

Watch the Kevin Madden video interview part one here and part two here.

 

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