The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

June 2, 2013

Sweetland led ABS to 1st championship

— Smooth.

That’s how peers describe Cody Sweetland’s style of play on the basketball court.

Just ask them.

“He wasn’t flashy,” said Wayne Kuykendall, who coached Sweetland at Athens Bible School. “He was smooth. He would have 25 or 30 (points) and you wouldn’t know it. It was before the 3-point shot, so Cody would get open and flop around inside.”

Sweetland led Athens Bible’s basketball team to its first state championship in 1976 and was named MVP of the state tournament.  Nearly four decades later, Sweetland will be inducted next month into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame for his prowess on the court.

“That was the first time ABS had won anything,” said Sweetland about winning the state championship. “We were playing some good teams, so we would play in the (Huntsville) civic center a lot. I think that helped us when we got down to Tuscaloosa for the championship.”

Another thing that helped was how much the team scored that season. Sweetland and his teammates averaged 97 points per game on their way to a state title.

“It wasn’t that we were running up the score,” said Kuykendall. “We were playing good teams. For a 1A school to have those kinds of athletes on back-to-back teams is unusual. We should have won it in 1975. That team was even better.”

That ’75 team averaged more than 100 points per game, but was eliminated by Red Level at the regional tournament. ABS got revenge the next season when they beat Red Level at the state semifinals by one point on a put-back shot from Sweetland with eight seconds remaining.

“Cody turned 18 his senior year and blossomed,” said Kuykendall. “What really happened is he peaked at tournament time. He had been good for us the whole year, but from that point on, he just lit it up.

“He was named MVP of the state tournament and he deserved it, but there were a lot of other good players on that team. I’m not even sure who had the highest average that year.”

In an era before the three-point line, ABS dominated in the paint with most its starting lineup standing above 6-3. Kuykendall said as many as 10 players from that team could dunk.

Randy Price was a sophomore on that team and remembers watching Sweetland get better as the season progressed.

“He was smooth, the way he could make shots,” said Price. “He would score a lot and you would think, ‘those are easy shots.’ But they weren’t easy, he made them look easy.”

Sweetland parlayed a solid senior season into a basketball scholarship at Huntingdon College in Montgomery.

“The traveling aspect of it I liked,” said Sweetland. “We would travel around the state. I remember coming back to play Athens (State). That made it a little more special. I still have a lot of friendships with those guys.”

Sweetland now lives in Niceville, Fla., but says he still calls Limestone County his home.

“I know so many people that have been inducted from teams I’ve played against,” said Sweetland. “It’s an honor to be able to accept it from my home county. I still call it my home.”

The Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held Saturday, June 15, at the Athens-Limestone Event Center. Tickets are available for $25 at the RSVP Center at 409 W. Washington Street.

 

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