A name out of the blue

I was driving home from the gym last night and had just turned into the neighborhood, when out of nowhere a name from long ago suddenly popped into my conciousness.  “Winford Boynes.”

Boynes with the Dallas Mavs

I had not thought of Boynes for decades.  If I had, I don’t remember it.  That his name would break the surface of my brain and spill out into the cool air of a sedate Phoenix evening all but blew a synapse or two. 

For the rest of the drive home, I wondered what had triggered the moment.  The only thing I could think of was that I was half-listening to a radio broadcast of an ASU basketball game at the time.  I made a mental note to look up “Winford Boynes” on the internet later that night.

If Boynes and I were to meet on the street today and chat, he would have no idea who I was.  I was mostly a phantom in his life story.  And I, after not seeing him in 36 years, would not recognize him.  I might say, “Now, there’s a tall, athletic guy.  Bet he played basketball somewhere.”  

This seemingly irrelevant stuff must be just laying there in the cranium crust of my mind, waiting for some obscure reason to explode.

In 1974, I worked as a sports writer in Oklahoma City, and Boynes was playing basketball for Capitol Hill High School.  At 6-foot-6 with the athleticism to play both forward and guard, he was the most talented, the most highly-recruited player in the state.  And he no doubt ranks still among  the top 10 basketball players produced in the Sooner State. 

While I’d seen Boynes play several times, I can not remember a single performance.  I do remember he was always dominant, a teenage man playing among children, stoic and methodical, carving up any defense that tried to stack the deck against him.  But it wasn’t until recruiting season that I established a limited contact with him.  The readers of The Oklahoman wanted to know what major college would land this phenom and thus so did I.   Boynes was the kind of player that could literally overnight turn a losing basketball program into a winner.

It was sometime after the high school season that I showed up one night at the house where Boynes lived not far south of downtown.  Recruiting season was coming to a close.  Boynes had narrowed his selections to three or four colleges.  On this particular night, he was being wooed by Denny Crum, then the head coach at Louisville.  By the time, I arrived at the darkly-lit house, both coach and player were gone, off to where only the smirking gods of recruiting knew.  

I don’t know what I expected to find.  I do remember a pleasant woman invited me inside.  I do not recall if it was his mother, a grandmother or an aunt.  Maybe a small child was there too.  Anyway,  I stayed a couple of hours and left.  It slowly dawned on me that neither Boynes or Crum was going to return anytime soon and that neither was interested in talking to a newspaper reporter.  It was such a nothing kind of experience that I doubt I even wrote anything at all about it. 

Why is it then that “Winford Boynes” remains so close to my consciousness?  I think it has something to do with the smarmy world of college recruiting, a process done in secret where adults exploit and lure talented teenage athletes with offers of cash, sex, a new car, house rent for mom and pop, easy academic courses and high-paying summer jobs that require no work.   

While I do not know what transpired that night between Boynes and Crum, I suspected not everything was on the up and up.  And I think it was that gut feeling as I left the house that has stayed with me all these years, though I was not concious of it.

It is not just college recruiting.  Cheating and backroom deals seep into every aspect of life in this country.  Smoke and mirrors at every turn.  Most of us never really know the truth about anything.  We act on our gut feelings.  Reality is always an arm’s length away.  I think of all the conspiracy theories put forth about 9/11, the assassinations in the 1960s, the war in Iraq, you name it, and I always come up a bit empty.  There’s something there that Americans don’t know.  Or don’t care to know.   No one ever pushes.  We go on to the next thing.   And all the crud recurs over and over.

So “Winford Boynes” is my touchstone for the elusive truths of life.  I suppose his name will pop to mind again at some unexpected moment. 

As for Boynes, he did not sign with Crum or Louisville.  He ended up going to the University of San Francisco, became a star there on some very good basketball teams with the center Bill Cartwright, now an assistant coach here in town with the Suns.  One season while Boynes was there the Dons were 29-0 before losing to Notre Dame.  Boynes scored 40 points in a tournament game against Arizona State and was the 13th player chosen in the 1978 NBA draft.  That he only played three seasons in the NBA, first with New Jersey and finally with Dallas, startled my senses.  I thought he was more talented even than another Oklahoman, Alvan Adams, who played 13 seasons with the Suns.

It doesn’t seem possible but Boynes will soon be 53.  I did some brief internet searches to see where he is now, but could find nothing. 

I hope he’s enjoying a great life, and I wish him well.

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21 thoughts on “A name out of the blue

  1. [Re former basketball player Winford Boynes]
    He went to the Netherlands, I know that since he married my cousing and had one child, a boy who is [now] about 17 years old. He still lives in the same city as my cousing, but they difforced time ago, and to not have contact what so ever. Even with his son he does not want to have any contact, does not child support etc. His son woud like to know his paternal grandmother, but he is refusing to give the name and the address where his mother lives, so his son could meet his grandmother and all the rest of the family. His son’s name is Wendell Eggers. Since his mother decided not to gave him the last name of his dad.

    So if any body knows where the mother of Winfor Boynes lives, or any other family member I would appreciate it if you would contact me. My email address is: akkermannomden@aol.com. Please do not send any worltless mails or any sexually coments because I will forward those to the autorithies.

    Elizabeth

    • Hi liz, I was reading your comments about Winford. I have also been searching for him. We played basketball against each other in high school back in 1975. I played for Muskogee high. He was the best player in the state that year and I guess I was second. I never really got a chance to know him but I did try to keep up with his professional career.

  2. We, some of Winford’s teammates at San Fran, are looking for him too. We are all still in contact with each other, all but him. We lost track overseas. I too played in Holland, before Winford came there. I was the other starting forward our junior year opposite James Hardy. Our starting lineup was Boynes and Chubby Cox at the guards, me and James Hardy at the forwards, and Bill Cartwright at center. We would just like to hear Winford’s voice to know that he’s ok.

    • The question by patrick re winford is beyond my scope. I have no idea who Helen Thompson is nor do I have a clue about Rex’s sister. I know little more than what I originally wrote. I post patrick’s comment only because it may lead somehow to solving the great mystery of our time: What in the world happened to Winford Boynes?

  3. Very interesting comments!!! I had a great friendship with Win in High School and also at USF along with his Dons’teammates. We relived some great memories when the Nets were in town to play the Lakers!!! If anyone would like to correspond, feel free to Email me at bad-2007@hotmail.com!! Yes this a mystery!!!

    • Again, should anyone uncover this lingering mystery, Long Row hopes you’ll post Winford’s whereabouts and put an end to the festerig misery of his friends.

  4. I was a friend of Winford’s in jr. high, talking at school and on the phone often. Sadly, forced busing and race riots in high school made our friendship not safe to display in public (a white girl and a black boy). But I always caught the games at school and Woodson Park. Over the years, I’ve heard rumors of the lifestyle in college and the NBA destroying his talent and career. I have chosen to remember my friend as I knew him and wished him the best. Today is the first time I’ve searched the internet for him and am dismayed and concerned that no current info is available. The comment above that he is safe and well in Amsterdam is hopeful, but more info would be a relief. In my heart and in my thoughts…….

  5. I’m a Junior High classmate of Winford’s. He is one of the kindest, most humble people I’ve met, definitely one of a kind!

  6. Yes i often wondered what happen to him.. He and i grew up together on Southeast 15 in Oklahoma City… We all had a great time playing basketball and touch football in the apartments. I remember his brothers Tim and Anthony. They were very young then …My nickname was Brother..I’m glad to hear he’s doing well.

    • If you know Winford is “doing well,” you know more than I do. As far as I know, no one on Long Row has revealed his whereabouts. Some think he is in Europe, yet . . . . If you know where he is I hope you will mention it. Winford apparently has lots of friends who would like to know. Also do you know how I can reach his brothers?

  7. Sorry i take that back… I guess i read more into what his brother said… Anthony Boynes was quoted as saying, “I am one of Winford’s brothers. I was in touch with him briefly, but he seems to be very hesitant to have anything to do with his life in the US.”

  8. I hope Mr. Boynes is well. I met him in NJ when he played for the Nets. Our relationship was brief, but in that short length of time he seem to be a nice guy. It appears that he has a lot of people who cares about him.

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