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Gate City’s Arwood has special perspective on basketball

Tanner Cook • Mar 29, 2020 at 9:30 AM

GATE CITY — Scorekeeping in basketball is one of those jobs that if you do it right, people never know you were there.

Gate City scorekeeper and Rye Cove class of 1977 graduate Gary Arwood not only does it right, he goes above and beyond to keep every small detail in line.

“I’ve been doing scorekeeping for the boys varsity for 13 years and I did the junior varsity for three years prior,” Arwood said. “I coached my two sons — Abram and Austin — from the time Abram was 6 years old in travel ball and AAU. I tell people this all the time when they ask why I do scorekeeping: I tell them I do it because it keeps my mouth shut.

“I was one of those as a coach that yelled at the refs or yelled at the coaches. It’s a completely different perspective.”

Both of Arwood’s sons played for Gate City and both appeared in a state championship game, which remains one of his proudest moments as a dad.

“I told both of my sons that there are not a whole lot of kids that get to appear in the state title game and that it shouldn’t be taken for granted,” he said.

Arwood is meticulous when it comes to providing media members with such stats as free-throw percentage, game and season points totals, career points, etc., before the start of a game.

“My oldest son actually set me up with an Excel (spreadsheet) because I had access to a computer and I wanted to do something like that,” Arwood said. “I figured that it gives writers more to write about and when the radio came around three or four years ago, it gave them more to talk about on the broadcast.”

The 2018 VHSL Class 2 championship game — in which Scotty Vermillion’s Blue Devils beat R.E. Lee-Staunton 80-65 — also stands out. And it’s not just because that was when the program finally got over the state title hump.

“Austin’s wedding was back home in Gate City the next day and we were still in Richmond because we played the late game,” Arwood said. “I pretty much had to do the game, take the book into the locker room at VCU and then jump in a car with one of my church friends to get back home.

“We got home at like 4 a.m. and the wedding was at 10 o’clock that morning. I had missed the rehearsal the previous day, but my son said it was OK because it was Gate City in the state championship. He understood, but that sure was a long weekend.”

Arwood’s unique perspective — being involved with the team while also watching from the scorer’s table — provides an insight to the success of Gate City boys basketball over the past two decades.

“I think Scotty hit the nail on the head ... the other day,” he said. “It’s more than just basketball. It’s about building young men and it really is all consistency and character. I can name three doctors right off the top of my head that have come through this program and two preachers.”

Anyone who’s ever watched a game inside the Gate City Middle School gym knows it’s one of the hardest places to play in all of Southwest Virginia.

And escaping with a win is no small task.

Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, the Blue Devils are 75-2 in home games. Since moving into the middle school gym partway through the 1990 season, Gate City has lost fewer than 25 games.

“I think what makes it so difficult to play in is all of the passion that the fans have,” Arwood noted. “There are people that come to games that haven’t had kids play there in 20 years and they wouldn’t ever miss a home game. Everyone is yelling ... and it can get pretty loud in there when it’s a big game.”

Watching Gate City over the years hasn’t been all peaches and cream, though. Arwood recalls how the 2010 season ended for the team that included some of the kids he had coached in travel ball with his son Austin.

“We had a good team that year and we were unbeaten in the district, 19-5, and the top seed in the region tournament,” Arwood said. “Scotty had shirts made up thinking we were going to win the region tournament again. Well we lost to Honaker at home in the first round of the regional tournament and I had never felt so bad for a group of kids.”

In all his time as Gate City’s scorekeeper, Arwood has missed a total of three games. One was because of a work trip and the others followed deaths in the family.

“In the 13 years I’ve been keeping the books for the varsity, I know I’ve missed fewer games than Scott has,” Arwood quipped.

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