Debates abound every basketball season about who the greatest scorer ever was for a group of fans’ favorite teams.
It’s a good debate and everyone has their pick. So who is the best scorer who ever pulled on the Henry County High School jersey? Let’s take a look at the players who rank in the top 10 for points scored in a single season. That should be a good starting point.
EDWARD LITTLETON (1975-78)
The slim 6-foot-2 Patriot guard scored the most points in a single season at HCHS when he hit for 690 points during his senior season of 1977-78. He also ranks No. 2 on the single season scoring list with 679 points as a junior.
Littleton was the first Patriot to average more than 20 points a game when he shot for a 25.1 average in the 1976-77 season. He followed with a 23.8 average as a senior. He set the school record for most points in a game with a 45-point explosion against Lexington in January of 1978.
Possessed with great speed and ballhandling skills, Littleton’s jump shot range extended all the way out to the HC emblems on the Gamlin Gymnasium court with regularity. Fans, you should remember that despite having that great range on his shot, he scored all those points without the 3-point rule being in effect during his career.
He left the school as the Patriots’ all-time career scoring leader and still is No. 3 on that list with 1,373 points. After graduation, he played first at the University of Tennessee at Martin before transferring to Knoxville to play for the Volunteers. He played point guard for Don DeVoe’s Volunteers, who were led by star Dale Ellis.
Broadcasting great Al McGuire once called Littleton the best point guard he had ever seen. Littleton had just thrown an alley-oop pass from near halfcourt to Ellis for a slam dunk.
MARCUS ETHERIDGE (2006-10)
A more recent scoring machine was undersized forward Marcus Etheridge, who hit for 647 points during the 2008-09 season to rank third on the scoring list. Etheridge wasn’t much taller than Littleton, but he had a strong body that could bang underneath with the best of them.
He was quick in the air and able to get off shots that seemed to always go through the net. Etheridge also ranks No. 9 on the all-time season scoring list with 518 points in the 2009-10 season.
He broke Littleton’s career scoring record during his senior season and now ranks as the Patrots’ No. 2 career scorer with 1,723 points.
Etheridge briefly played in college at Dyersburg State Community College.
RANDY HARRIS (1978-79)
Harris played the 1977-78 season with Littleton before becoming the team’s main scoring focus in 1978-79. He responded by scoring 597 points as a senior while averaging 20.6 points a game. The point total is No. 4 on the Patriots’ single-season scoring list.
He was a 6-foot-6 dominating force who could slam down backboard-shaking dunks or take an opponent out to the corner for jump shot after jump shot. A strong ballhandler for his size, Harris finished his career with 992 points that ranks No. 11 on the team’s career scoring list. Of course, his career was just two seasons.
In college, Harris played at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and at Austin Peay State University. Sadly, Harris died from a heart attack earlier this year.
JAMES KING (2015-18)
A more recent scoring ace was swingman James King, who threw in 44 points in a game at Obion County in 2018. As a senior, he piled up 589 points, which ranks No. 5 on the single-season scoring list.
King didn’t play above the rim with the flair that Harris did, but he could dunk when he broke free. He also could hit both mid-range and long-range jump shots at will when he got hot.
He twice was the Patriots’ leading scorer for a season, with his 21.0 average in 2018 being the last time a Patriot went over the 20 point a game mark.
He signed to play in college at Freed-Hardeman University.
RICHARD BYARS (1971-74)
The program’s first true big man, Byars was a 6-foot-8-inch power in the middle of the court. He was virtually unstoppable inside the paint and was a defensive demon blocking shots.
He totaled 584 points as a senior in the 1973-74 season to rank No. 6 on the single-season scoring list. He averaged 18.8 points a game that year. He also ranks No. 6 on the career scoring list with 1,227 points.
Byars, now deceased, was an All-State and All-America selection in high school. He played in college at Ashland College, Jackson State Community College and at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
SAM THARPE (1971-74)
Tharpe was the outside complement to Byars’ inside power for late coach Fred Gamlin’s squads in the early 1970s. Tharpe gave the Patriots a great 1-2 punch as he hit for 544 points in the 1973-74 season for the seventh-highest scoring season ever for the Patriots.
He had a silky jump shot and was a good passer who could find Byars running down the paint. He joined Byars on the All-State team as a senior. Tharpe finished his career with 915 points that ranks No. 13 on the career scoring list.
Tharpe played both basketball and baseball at Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kan.
He finished his college career playing at Union University in Jackson.
ADAM PARKE (1998-2000)
Parke was a lefty marksman who at 6-foot-7 had enough height to get his shot off in traffic, but also had the range to shoot the 3-point shot with skill. He hit for 543 points in the 1999-2000 season when he led the Patriots in scoring with an average of 20.1 points a game. The point total was good enough for the eighth-best season ever for a Patriot player. He was the first HCHS player to average 20 points a game since Harris in 1978-79.
Parke scored 846 points to rank No. 15 on the school’s career scoring list. He sits at No. 5 in career 3-pointers made with 104.
Parke played in college at Cumberland University.
KEVIN THEUS (1980-83)
Theus was an athletic forward-guard combo-type player who carried the nickname “Little Bird” because his older and taller brother, Wendell, was called “Big Bird” while they were starring at HCHS.
“Little Bird” burned the nets to score 513 points in the 1982-83 season for the 10th-highest scoring total ever for a Patriot. Of course, that number knocked “Big Bird” down to No. 11 on that list. Wendell Theus scored 510 points in the 1980-81 season.
SO WHO WAS THE BEST SCORER?
Any of these players and many more who pulled on the Patriots’ jersey could win a game for you, but you’ve got to go with the guy on the top in Ed Littleton.
He gives you everything you could ask for in an offensive threat. He had speed and he could handle the ball. He was a thief on defense who could steal balls and go in for breakaway dunks.
But, he is mostly remembered for his pull-up jump shots that it seemed that as long as he was inside the gymnasium, he was in his shooting range.
Wow, football season has just gotten underway, and looking back at these great Patriots just makes you want to shoot some hoops.
Go, Big Red!
TOMMY PRIDDY is a Paris native who has been sports editor at The Post-Intelligencer since 1985. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.