Longtime News & Observer sports columnist and Harnett County native Caulton Tudor died Tuesday night.
According to the N&O, Tudor wrote for the paper for over 40 years, covering 35 ACC basketball tournaments, 24 Final Fours, 22 college football bowl games, the 1996 Olympics, a College World Series and numerous NFL and NHL playoff games. In 1999, he was inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame, was named N.C. Sportswriter of the Year three times and was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year.
But Tudor was a big part of North Carolina sports history long before his career began. As a high school athlete in Angier in the early 1960s, Tudor was a student in Campbell University’s legendary Basketball School, the nation’s first summer basketball camp, where he learned the game from legends like UCLA coach John Wooden (he would later interview Wooden as a young sportswriter and became friends with the Hall of Fame coach before his death in 2010. Tudor talked about his experience in a 2014 feature on the camp in Campbell Magazine.
He was also a player in the legendary 13-overtime game between Boone Trail and Angier high schools on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 1964, in Campbell’s historic Carter Gymnasium. On that cold winter evening, the two schools met to decide the Harnett 1-A Conference tournament championship, and Boone Trail eventually won 56-54 in the game recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest basketball game ever played.
And Tudor was one of the many reasons the game went so long — he missed a potential game-winning free throw to end the third overtime. He and his team’s other four starters (and all five starters for Boone Trail) played the entire 71 minutes with no substitutions. The game was nearly halted after the seventh overtime because sanctioned sporting events in North Carolina couldn’t be played on Sundays (and this game had gone well past midnight on a Saturday night). When referees couldn’t reach the executive director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association by phone, they decided to keep the game going.
Another fun fact: Teams usually didn’t drink water during games back then, but they made an exception on this night. “A doctor came out of the stands and said he wouldn’t allow the game to go on unless we all got a drink,” Tudor told the Fayetteville Observer in 2003, on the 40th anniversary of the game.
Tudor’s colleagues on social media have been singing his praises today. Check out what they’re saying here.