He was larger than life — a 6-foot-3, 230-pound athlete known as one of the greatest legends of high school sports in Alexandria in the 1960s. On April 16, Harley "Skeeter" Swift returned to his hometown and alma mater for a day-long event that was part book signing and part class reunion.
"I remember playing with all these guys," said Swift as he was signing his new book "Skeeter: Harley Swift's Buzzer-Beating, Trash-Talking March through Madness" at what is now George Washington Middle School. "And if I didn't play with them, I remember playing against them since this was before integration."
Swift, now 64 and a resident of Kingsport, Tenn., organized the multi-school athletic reunion that drew close to 500 attendees, including past players and coaches, to celebrate the heyday of high school sports in Northern Virginia.
"Some of these schools don't even exist anymore," said former Groveton High School basketball player John Kreutzer of schools like Parker-Gray High School. "And Groveton is now West Potomac and Luther Jackson and GW are middle schools."
The lone Virginian and non-African American to be named All-Met in both his junior and senior year, Swift graduated from GW in 1965 and went on to lead his unheralded college team at East Tennessee State to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1968. He was drafted by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks but opted to play for the ABA expansion New Orleans Buccaneers, eventually retiring with the original San Antonio Spurs.
"I needed to do this," said Swift, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in the summer of 2009 and is undergoing his last round of chemo. "This is where it all started for me and there were so many guys I wanted to see."
Swift's wife Demetria, who helped organize the reunion, said it was an emotional day for everyone.
"It's been incredible to be here," Demetria Swift said. "Even with all these grown men, I've never seen so much hugging."