Talley, who will be honored during a ceremony Oct. 29 in St. Joseph, Mo., thrived in the underdog role, going from a lightly recruited, 6-foot-1 guard out of high school to the nation’s leading scorer in his senior season at Salem, averaging an NAIA record 40.8 points.
Despite a strong career at Central, where he and guard Mike Giles formed one of the best backcourts in the D.C. area, Talley didn’t garner much interest from Division I schools. In the spring of 1972, Salem alum Jerry Keith, an assistant coach at D.C.'s Mackin High, which would merge into Archbishop Carroll in 1989, was taking Mackin center Fred Bailey on a recruiting visit to Salem and offered to bring Talley along. Bailey got sick and stayed home, but Talley made the trip and impressed Salem Coach Don Christie enough during a brief scrimmage that he was offered a scholarship on the spot.
“He said, ‘Son, we want you,’ ” Talley recalled. “ ‘We really want you.’ I screamed and jumped up and down.”
Christie encouraged Talley to go home to talk over the decision with his mother, but Talley, unable to afford college without a scholarship, assured him there was nothing more to discuss. He was coming to Salem.
Talley, who could shoot from anywhere on the court and routinely burned zone defenses with his willingness to pull up from 30 feet, averaged 22.8 points as a freshman. He averaged 34.9 as a junior and made national news in January of his senior season when he scored 50, 53, 56, and 58 points in consecutive games, all in the same week. Salem’s next game, at Morris Harvey College, was relocated to Charleston Civic Center to accommodate the increased demand in tickets to see the nation’s most prolific scorer.
“I know I can play in the pros,” Talley told The Washington Post at the time. “My main goal is to get drafted high.”
Talley’s streak of 50-point games ended with a 25-point performance against Morris Harvey, but he had a 60-point performance later that season and scored at least 30 points in his last 12 games, including 44 in a quarterfinal loss in the West Virginia state college conference tournament. Talley finished with an NAIA season record 1,347 points and was named to the Associated Press’s College Division all-America team.
A ninth-round pick of the New York Knicks in the 1976 NBA draft, Talley joined the Harlem Globetrotters instead and later enjoyed a decade-long professional career abroad. In February 1980, Talley scored 116 points in a game for TV Clausen, a lower-level team in West Germany’s Bundeslige. When his playing career was over, Talley returned to Salem in 1989 and earned a master’s degree in education. He has spent the past 30 years as a motivational speaker.
Talley, 66, makes his home in West Virginia, but he has fond memories of his upbringing in D.C., including adventures with childhood friend Sugar Ray Leonard, pickup games at Watts playground in Northeast and Central games with Giles in front of packed crowds. Like Kevin Durant, whose documentary about Prince George’s County as a hoops hotbed premiered Friday, he takes pride in being part of the area’s rich basketball history.
“I’m proud to be from D.C., period, but to be an athlete from D. C.?" Watts said. “They got great talent in New York, great talent in Chicago and Detroit and L.A., but they don’t come close to D.C. We had the best basketball. We didn’t know how great we were until we got outside of D.C.”
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