Bill Bolton didnt hold the first summer high school basketball camp, but he might have had the best one.
Bull, as he was known to his friends, died Sept. 22 after suffering a massive heart attack, and he leaves quite a legacy from his summer camps that attracted the best prep players in the nation.
Having coached at Stetson, Mississippi and Florida State, he knew what type of summer camps would attract the top players and coaches, and he formed the B/C All Star Basketball Camps in 1977. It was an invitation only camp that had a 16-year run and was attended by more than 24,000 campers.
That first camp in Milledgeville had 160 players and included future NBA all-stars Dale Ellis, Mark Aguirre and Buck Williams. In future years, you would find the likes of Steve Alford, Jeff Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Ralph Sampson, Doc Rivers, Jalen Rose and Shawn Kemp, to mention a few.
When womens sessions were added, that list would include, among others, five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Jennifer Azzi, Daedre Charles and Nancy Lieberman.
Coaches flocked to the camps in search of the elite talent. It was not uncommon to see coaching legends Dean Smith, Denny Crum, John Thompson and Pat Summitt, plus untold others, in attendance. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dr. J (Julius Erving), Charles Barkley and Isiah Thomas were among the counselors and lecturers featured on a yearly basis.
While the camps began in Milledgeville, which was considered the home base, they expanded to Texas, Pennsylvania and Indiana during the 16-year period.
As mentioned, Bolton coached at Florida State as an assistant for Hugh Durham and was on the Seminoles staff in 1972 when they advanced to the NCAA title game, where they lost to UCLA 81-76. Bolton never thought that team received the recognition it deserved, and, to give you an idea of the type of person he was, just this past spring he orchestrated a reunion of those players and presented each member of the squad and coaching staff with a ring signifying their accomplishments.
Even though he grew up in Lenoir City, Tenn., and graduated from Ole Miss, where he starred in basketball at both locations, he had strong ties to the Middle Georgia area. In addition to starting the B/C All Star Camp in Milledgeville, he got his first coaching job at Middle Georgia College in Cochran in the mid-1960s as an assistant to J.L. PeeWee Padgett, and he has owned a home in Montezuma for more than three decades until the time of his death.
I first got to know Bull when he was at Middle Georgia, and we developed a friendship that endured. We would talk at least several times each year, and, in recent months, much more often. He was one of the most PR savvy people I have ever known and was involved in more deals than Monty Hall. (For you younger readers, Monty Hall hosted the television show Lets Make A Deal during the 1960s and 70s.)
After shutting down the BC camps following the summer of 1992, Bolton formed a legislative consulting firm in Tallahassee and worked with clients in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Washington D.C. He and his wife, Maryann, also owned an antique furniture business.
Bill Bolton was fun guy to be around, and I am certainly going to miss him.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org