Harley Edward “Skeeter” Swift, GW ‘65
PREXIE PROFILES, by Larry McGuire ‘55
“On a bad snap from center, in a football game against Annandale, instead of running the ball he drop-kicked a field goal which won the game”. In a basketball game against W-L, with just seconds remaining in the first half, he threw the ball full court and made it”. “Magic Moments” indeed provided by the one and only Harley “Skeeter” Swift, GW Class of ‘65. These are feats still talked about today anytime Alexandrians gather to reminisce about the great athletes in GW history - he is always at the top of the list.
“Skeeter” lived in Old Town on Prince and Royal Streets back when the area consisted of bars, warehouses and wholesale plumbing operations – nothing like it is today. His parents owned one of the bars and when they separated, his mother took over running the bar.
He ran away from home when he was 15 and lived with the families of various friends while he attended GW. He didn’t apply himself to his studies and by his own admission was not a good academic student.
His early years were spent during the time of integration. He rode his bike for miles looking to play ‘pick-up’ basketball and was accepted by the black as well as white players. Those early experiences not only prepared him, but inspired his participation in sports at GW where he could excel and he really shined in basketball. He was selected as a High School All-American and during his high school career he led the Prexies to a pair of berths in the State Group 1-A Basketball Tournament in Richmond.
His list of home-town honors could fill a book! They include the “Alexandria Sportsman Club Basketball Player of the Year in 1965”, “Alexandria All-Time Dream Team Selection” in 1999, “One Hundred Greatest Athletes of the Past Century” honors in 2000, and Alexandria Sportsman Club Hall of Fame Membership in 2005. The Alexandria Gazette sponsored a “Skeeter Swift Day” on October 18, 1969 and his high school uniform jersey number, “42”, was retired.
Accepting a basketball scholarship to East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee, “Skeeter” played there from ‘66 through ‘69. He garnered “Ohio Valley Conference” Freshman Player of the Year honors and was Player of the Year in ‘69. In his senior year he was named to the Associated Press All-American team, finishing 59th in scoring with a 21.7 average. He was on the All-Star Conference Team 3 years and was “Most Valuable Player” in the ‘69 Tennessee-Kentucky All-Star Game.
In 1969, the same year Kareem Abdul Jabbar was drafted #1 in professional basketball, “Skeeter” was drafted second by the New Orleans Buccaneers (ABA) and third by the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA). He chose New Orleans and in his first year was selected to the All-Rookie team ‘69-70. He led the (ABA) in 3-point field goal percentage at 39% and was a top ten all time free-throw shooter. While playing with the Pittsburgh Condors he led in assists. His pro career spanned a 6-year period playing with various pro teams, ending with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.
After his pro career, he coached basketball with various teams and in the 1979-80 season his team “Oak Hill Academy” won the National High School Champions title posting a 36-0 record. He was named “Coach of the Year”by the Roanoke Times and World New Times Land.
He was inducted into the “East Tennessee State University Hall of Fame” in 1982. They wouldn’t give “Skeeter” his old GW jersey number “42” in college, but in 1990 the number they gave him, “54” was retired in his honor.
As a result of his induction into the “East-West Hall of Fame” along with the likes of Washington Redskins former head coach, Steve Spurrier, his picture is hanging in the Tri-City Airport in Blountville, Tennessee. In October, 2004, he received an “Alexandria Mayoral Proclamation” for all he has done to promote the values of teamwork and sportsmanship in the city. On December 14, 2004 he was honored with the “Johnson City, Tennessee Mayoral Proclamation” for his outstanding achievements and they proclaimed their special pride in his contribution to the community and the world of sports.
“Skeeter” and his wife of 13 years, Demetria, now live in Kingsport, Tennessee. She is a teacher and he is in the chemical sales business - still a playmaker breaking lots of sales records. He has 4 children from a previous marriage.
He has published a manual on ball handling and does speaking engagements about the benefits of sports participation.
Not bad at all for a young man who left home at age 15.
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