They call him the Sultan of Swish in Tennessee.
Growing up they called him Skeeter.
Today, hes the Legend of Alexandria.
Hes earned the titles.
Harley Skeeter Swift grew up on the streets of Alexandria. At about 10, before he had a two-wheel bicycle, he pulled a little red wagon up and down Washington, King and especially Lee streets, a little tyke going from pillar to post. He always had a basketball.
Skeeter Swifts remarkable career is being recalled in a biography Im writing. Its called, Skeeter: The Legend of Alexandria. Ive researched his life extensively, interviewed many of his high school friends and companions, who today are leaders of the community. Weve prepared a 15-chapter book.
Ive known Skeeter for many years. He is a living legend of his hometown, in Tennessee, his adopted state, and throughout high school, collegiate and professional sports circles. His story is a remarkable one.
Swift fell in love with basketball as a mere boy. He literally dribbled the ball everywhere he walked in Old Town. The remarkable thing is his basketball prowess began on a cobblestone alley, Swift Alley, next to Burke and Herbert Bank on Fairfax Street. Every day for three or four hours Id dribble, dribble and dribble on cobblestone.
The alley is not named for Skeeter, even though it should be. Its named after his parents, who operated a popular saloon at the time.
Although he still has family living in the Alexandria area, the 62-year-old now lives in Kingsport, Tenn. He has enjoyed a stellar athletic career as a player and as an outstanding high school and collegiate coach.
Rain or shine, Id just practice and practice, Swift recalled. I learned what to expect from the ball when I tried to dribble on a cobblestone. Then Id dribble as I pulled my wagon. I loved basketball.
A few years later, after Skeeter received a bicycle as a Christmas present, this growing, hulking boy with the ball in the basket was a familiar sight in Old Town. He wiled away his days, all year around and in all kinds of weather, at the Lee Street playground, shooting and dribbling.
I developed a dead-eye, jump-shooting all over the court. Nobody could beat me. I could shoot the ball. He honed his skills so well that he earned extra money from young basketball players from all over northern Virginia, Greater Washington and in Prince Georges County. They all wanted to test me. I always won. As someone said, It aint braggin if you can do it.
As a teenager he grew to 6’3″ and could play basketball better than most. He was not the big center on the team but a guard a 200-plus pound guard and he could shoot.
Skeeter Swift put George Washington High School, now a middle school, on the sports map of Virginia and Greater Washington. Many old-time Alexandrians still remember the 1965 high school football game when he drop kicked a field goal and George Washington High School defeated Annandale. Few people had ever seen a drop kicked field goal, which is still legal today. Most recall his legendary performances on the basketball court at Tulloch Memorial Gym of George Washington High School in the early 1960s.
Although he was aggressively recruited by Virginia colleges, he chose East Tennessee State University because of a full scholarship. (When he was first recruited by ETSU, the coach thought he was a football player because of his size.) I wasnt a very good student then, but I learned, he said.
And learn he did. Skeeter could dribble and shoot and showoff,” not only a great player, but also an outstanding entertainer. “I had to be a showman, he said. I had to be at East Tennessee. For the first time in the schools history, we filled the gym with fans.
Skeeter didnt let the fans down. The three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference player at East Tennessee State and the Player of the Year in 1968 was elected to the ETSU Hall of Fame in 1982.
Hes in many Halls of Fame and has been honored by numerous groups in Virginia, including the Alexandria Sports Club.
Skeeter Swift skill on the basketball court put East Tennessee State University on the national map. He went on to become a star in professional basketball, scoring more than 3,000 points in his career. Today he ranks as one of the top 10 free-throw shooters in the American Basketball Association, now the National Basketball Association.
He has been an outstanding coach, teacher and speaker. As a coach at Oak Hill Academy, he won a national championship.