The Wolfpacker

January 2021

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 47 of 51

48 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER L ike so many others during World War II, LeRoy Jay was the next man up. He was never a soldier, but the native of Aurora, Ill., and former NC State basketball and baseball player stepped in to fill the role as his alma mater's head basketball coach when his predecessor, another former two-sport State player Bob Warren, was drafted into the Navy eight months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For Jay, who had come to NC State to play basketball for Dr. R.R. Sermon and study business administration during the height of the Depression, it meant elevating from his part-time role as freshman basketball coach to become a part-time varsity coach during the dif- ficult days of the world's largest international conflict. He's a largely forgotten, hard-luck contributor to the school, even back when he was a star player for Sermon in the days that State's ath- letics department was a mulling mess, thanks primarily to a meddling donor, a revolving door of football coaches and a basketball team made up largely of North Carolina natives who came to play other sports. His athletics career as a Red Terror was practically heartbreaking, though he was the easily best player on teams that included Ray Rex, captain George McQuage, Woody Lambeth, Stu Flythe and Sam Womble. In December 1931, he played in what he thought was an exhibition game against Atlantic Christian College (now Barton University) that came back to bite him. During February of that freshman season, the young player was found unconscious in his dorm room after suffering an unknown blow to the head when he returned from classes. Though the injury itself turned out to be minor, Jay spent several days in the campus infirmary in a coma. A campus investigation couldn't explain how he was injured. In the winter of 1933, Jay returned to the infirmary to be quar- antined with several dozen other students as a seasonal influenza outbreak was particularly virulent. As a junior in 1934, he was a productive forward, helping the Wolfpack win eight of its first nine games, compile an 11-6 overall record and qualify for the second Southern Conference Tournament played at Raleigh's downtown auditorium. (Only the top eight of the SoCon's 10 teams at the time played in the tournament; State was eliminated in the first round of the 1934 event.) Just as he was preparing for what was expected to be an excellent senior campaign, Duke coach Eddie Cameron happened to mention to a friend at Durham's Morning Herald that Jay had played in the exhibition game against Atlantic Christian as a freshman. A contro- versy ensued, with the Southern Conference investigating whether PACK PAST Former Pack Player LeRoy Jay Stepped In To Coach His Alma Mater During World War II Jay (top left) played basketball and baseball at NC State, and took over as the head basketball coach during the 1942-43 season when the original Wolfpack coach was drafted into the Navy. PHOTO COURTESY AGROMECK

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