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Older brothers Rodney, Tommy set bar high for Arnold family

Tanner Cook • Jun 17, 2020 at 7:00 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series detailing the success of the basketball-playing Arnold brothers at Lynn View and Sullivan North.

Lynn View basketball was a dominant power in the Upper Lakes Conference before Granville Arnold came along and that was due in part to his older brothers Rodney and Tommy.

Youngest Arnold brother, Granville, guided North hoops in glory years

The Lynxes made it all the way to the Class AA tournament semifinals in 1977, Rodney’s senior year, before bowing out to Treadwell of Memphis.

In 1976, Tommy’s senior year, Lynn View fell to Kingston in the substate.

Both brothers went on to play in college and serve as models for younger brother Granville.

RESILIENT TOMMY

During his sophomore campaign, Tommy was involved in a car accident in which he was thrown through the windshield, causing major back injuries.

He was sidelined for over a year and doctors said he wouldn’t be able to play basketball again.

“I was a freshman and he was a sophomore and he had to sit out for some time,” Rodney said. “Tommy had to change his shot a little, but he could still play and ended up being a fantastic player.”

Tommy defied those odds and returning to play for Lynn View, averaging 12.6 points and shooting 46% from the field. He signed with Roane State where he joined his brother Bill.

“Tommy came back from an adverse situation and was lucky to be playing basketball,” Lynn View coach John McCrary said. “He was kind of the runt of the litter, but he was still a really good player for us.”

A SCORING MACHINE

“Granville was a really good player, but in my opinion, Rodney was better. He could score from anywhere on the floor and averaged probably 35 points a game his senior year,” McCrary said.

And all-state performer, Rodney could — and did — make a shot from anywhere.

“John was the best coach I’ve ever had at any level,” Rodney said. “He taught me everything I know. I was fortunate to be good enough where he’d let me take all of those shots.”

He carried the Lynxes all the way to Murfreesboro and put on a show for the two games Lynn View played.

Against Treadwell’s Eagles, “Rocket Rodney” swished 42 points in his final high school game and matched Buddy Cruze of Knox East for the record for made field goals in a state tournament game with 19.

Rodney’s single-game point total was just shy of the then-tournament record of 47, but he broke the two-game record with 72 points.

Lynn View stayed step for step with Treadwell for most of the game before falling 72-68.

“I seem to remember one of our last offensive possessions that I was trying to make a pass and ended up throwing the ball away,” Rodney said. “One of the best things that I remember about high school in my senior year was playing in the TSSAA All-Star Game.

“I guarded Elston Turner and ended up winning MVP honors. Nobody thought that a boy from Kingsport could go out there and do something like that.”

After graduation, Rodney spent his freshman year at Furman before transferring to Florida State to finish out his career.

SINKING THE TAR HEELS

Rodney got to experience the thrill of a lifetime while at Furman when he helped the Paladins sink third-ranked North Carolina 89-83 in a nonconference game in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February 1978.

“They called it the ‘North-South doubleheader’ and I had actually gone to the game the year before. Little did I know that the next year I’d be playing in the game,” Rodney said. “We played their four-corners offense against them and of course towards the end of the game, they were going to foul the freshman.

“Thankfully, I was a decent free-throw shooter and I made like seven out of eight.”

Rodney hit seven consecutive free throws at the end of the game to put away the Tar Heels and secure the massive upset.

The cheer lasted only about a span of 27 seconds of game time, but the fans in the Furman section chanted “Rodney, Rodney” — a half-minute to remember for years to come.

“That year, we went to the NCAA tournament and played Indiana in the first round,” said Rodney, who was a Southern Conference all-freshman selection for 1977-78. “Bob Knight was coaching and I guarded Mike Woodson. I ended up with either 11 or 12 points and took the last shot of the game from about halfcourt when we were down one. We ended up losing.”

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Like brother Bill, who transferred from Roane State to Concordia and ended up averaging over 20 points in his final seasons, Rodney packed up his bags for greener pastures.

“When Coach (Joe) Williams went to Florida State, I just tagged along and sat out my first year there,” Rodney said. “I had a blast down there. It was just a fantastic team and the old Metro Conference was really good back then.”

He had an up-and-down career with the Seminoles, but he scored in double figures in 19 games with the team.

Rodney’s best effort came against Toledo in the first round of the 1980 NCAA Tournament in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The eighth-seeded ’Noles won a thriller 94-91 behind his game-high 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting.

Florida State lost to Kentucky 97-78 in the next round.

“The game against Toledo, I didn’t even start and I had a really good game,” Rodney said. “In the next game against Kentucky, they had Sam Bowie, Kyle Macy and Derrick Hord. Derrick, being from Tennessee High, that was an old high school rivalry that played out in college.

“That was really close for a while, but neither team could hit a free throw in the first half. They ended up beating us, but if we could’ve made our free throws in the first half, we could’ve been up six or eight points.”

Rodney averaged 7.3 points per game and scored 358 points over his two seasons in Tallahassee.

“I was fortunate enough to go to three NCAA tournaments with two different teams while I was playing,” Rodney said. “Back in those days, the tournament field was only 32 teams, so you had to be really good to get in.”

ARNOLD FAMILY LEGACY

“We just did what we did and we all really liked playing basketball,” Rodney said. “Bill started it and then there was Tommy, me, Rita and Granville. Rita was a great player and I think she scored something like 48 points in game when it was 6-on-6.

“The one thing that sticks in my head from those days is that when the games would be going on, our dad would be sitting in the corner of the gym watching. He came to every game that we played.

“That’s the kind of stuff you remember when you get older that makes you smile.”

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