Basketball fame isn’t what the legendary Archie Talley is proudest of most.

It is the way he has treated people at every stage of his life, the all-time Salem College great said here Saturday.

He led the nation in scoring in 1976 (41.1 ppg) and still ranks third all-time in career scoring (3,720 points).

“People could care less about what you did in basketball,” said Talley, now 52. “That stuff fades real fast.

“It’s what you do when you leave the limelight. The people that remember you are the ones that you treat good when that light’s on.

“You can be the best every year, but that doesn’t last.”

Talley was in town for two speaking appearances at WVU women’s coach Mike Carey’s summer camp in the Coliseum.

A native of Washington, D.C., he tours the nation as a highly regarded motivational speaker.

“I prepared professionally over the years (for the role),” he explained. “I have an agenda. And I know many, many big-time speakers around the country.”

He mixes wit and wisdom with some of the things he learned as a basketball superstar.

‘”For every audience, you have to have their trust and their attention, especially with kids,” Talley said. “They know that I care about them.

“I want them to know that I’m genuine, and I get their attention with all the basketball stuff.”

Talley earned all-state recognition at Central High in the Washington area, and eventually enrolled at Salem by accident.

An alumnus of that school was an assistant coach at Machin High, against whom Talley played, and he offered to drive him to Salem for a visit.

Don Christie, then Salem’s head coach, was interested in a 6-9 center at the former Tiger’s high school. But the big guy was sick that day and delayed his visit a week.

That disappointed Christie because it was the bigger prospect that really attracted his interest.

It didn’t take long during that visit, however, for the Salem mentor to take notice. Talley was allowed to show his ability in a scrimmage.

“Coach Christie watched me play 10 or 15 minutes, then stopped the practice session,” he recalled. “I thought he was going to cut me, so I’m sweating.

“All I was thinking, ‘When he cuts me, I’m not going to cry.’ That’s all I was thinking. I wanted to go back to D.C. and tell my buddies I didn’t cry.”

But Talley remembers that Christie looked down at him and said, “Son, we want you! We really want you!”

The 18-year-old didn’t know what to say. The coach tried to calm him by saying Talley would get various grants from Salem.

“Excuse me, sir,” Talley interrupted. “I don’t know the particular meanings of these grants you’re talking about.

“I just have one question to ask you: ‘Do I have to pay anything to go to college for four years?’ He said, ‘You do not have to pay one penny.’

“Then he said, ‘No, no, no. Go home and talk it over with your mother.’ I said, ‘She’ll sign, too!”

So Talley wound up a Tiger, earned All-America and national attention. And after his first year, numerous NCAA Division I colleges wanted him to transfer.

Rumors spread statewide that he would be doing just that.

Meantime, Talley noticed that he felt like being at a funeral as he made his way around the campus.

“Everyone knew I was transferring but me,” he recalled.

“So I went to Coach Christie’s office, and he told me he had promised my mother that he’d teach me how to drive and how to swim. I couldn’t do either.

“And my point — to show how important West Virginia and the people are to me — is that it’s all attributed to a guy like Don Christie.

“This man thought he was losing his best player of all time, and he never mentioned basketball to me. Not one time.

“Basketball was not important. All he was worried about was ‘I want to make sure you take the right classes to get a degree.’

“Everybody can graduate taking just any courses. But he never once mentioned basketball.

“He loved me as a person. That really introduced me to West Virginia and the people are like that here.”

Talley reassured Christie that he wasn’t about to transfer anywhere.

“I said to him, ‘Coach, you were the only ones that believed in me enough to give me a chance to come to this school. Transferring never entered my mind.

“’I’d do the exact same thing again. I love you, Coach!’”

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