Archdeacon: Remembering Eric Love, a Central State legend

Eric Love during his Hall of Fame career at Central State, where he scored 2,052 points and grabbed 840 rebounds. At CSU he was a two time NAIA All American. CONTRIBUTED
Eric Love during his Hall of Fame career at Central State, where he scored 2,052 points and grabbed 840 rebounds. At CSU he was a two time NAIA All American. CONTRIBUTED

He was something of a celebrity on campus.

Eric Love came to Central State out of Colonel White High School in 1978, the same year fellow basketball player Lorrie Alexander became a Marauder after prepping at Xenia.

“We lived on the third floor of Broaddus Hall for three years and there was just one room between his and mine,” Alexander said.

“Now it was a totally different time in the late ’70s and early ’80s and I can’t tell you how many times he and I would be standing out in the hall talking or he’d be in his room when other students – and I’m talking women and men – would come up there just to see what he looked like.

“And nine chances out of 10, he had his shirt off and, I’ll tell you, he had a body that was ripped! He was like Charles Atlas. He had muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles and those students were just blown away.

“With him being a great basketball player and looking like that, he could easily have been a jerk or a snob. He could have had a huge ego and been nasty to people, but he never was that way. He was humble and mild-mannered and approachable. He was one of the best liked people on campus.”

Alexander, who now lives in Durham, N.C. and works as a senior human resources business partner at Duke University, said the CSU athletes from other sports respected Love for the way he carried himself and, of course, for his talent.

A two-time NCAA All American, he became one of the greatest scorers (2,052 points) and rebounders (840) in CSU history.

In 2016 he was enshrined in the Central State Athletics Hall of Fame.

On May 27th – after a battle with pancreatic cancer – Love died in Washington, D.C., where he’d lived and worked for over three decades. He was 62.

A memorial service put together by his son, Lamont Hoard, who lives here in Dayton, was held Wednesday in D.C.

Saturday, Love’s funeral is being held back here in Dayton at the Thomas Funeral Home at 4520 Salem Avenue. The viewing is at 10 a.m. and the service is at 11. Burial will follow at West Memory Gardens.

Eric Love (center) at his Central State Hall of Fame induction with then VP of Athletics Jahan Culbreath and former CSU President, Cynthia Jackson Hammond. CONTRIBUTED
Eric Love (center) at his Central State Hall of Fame induction with then VP of Athletics Jahan Culbreath and former CSU President, Cynthia Jackson Hammond. CONTRIBUTED

His passing has brought tributes and remembrances from across the country.

James Marable was Love’s teammate in high school and at CSU, where they were roommates

“I’ve got one tidbit a lot of people don’t know,” said Marable, a procurement analyst at Wright Patterson Air Force Base the past 36 years. “My junior year he received a letter from the Seattle Seahawks. Even though he never played college football, they invited him to camp for a tryout.”

Although he decided to stay in school, Love would have made his presence felt in Seattle said those who knew him from his high school days – which includes three years at Patterson before transferring to Colonel White as a senior.

He was one of the city’s top quarterbacks and he was just as impressive in track.

“He was almost a one-man team when (Colonel White) went to state,” said John Sherrer, who just retired after working 33 years in the labs at Good Samaritan Hospital and Good Sam North. He had teamed with Love at Cornell Heights Elementary, Patterson and Colonel White. “He was just an all-around gifted athlete.”

Cliff Pierce, who played basketball at Fairview High and graduated in 1978, now runs Bulldog’s Barbecue and is immersed in Dayton Public Schools’ sports history.

“When you talk about the totality of what he was – football, track and basketball and at the very top level in each – he is, in my estimation, the most complete athlete ever to participate in City of Dayton sports,” he said.

“If the United States had been looking for someone to be a decathlete, his combination of size, speed, strength, vertical leap and professionalism would have made him the perfect choice. He was as compete of an athlete as I’ve ever seen.”

And that’s why 73-year-old Doris Black – the history-making head basketball coach at Colonel White when Love was a senior – was shaken when Sherrer called her Georgia home with the news.

“My heart just sank,” she said. “I loved Eric to death. It was just such an honor to coach a player and, more importantly, a person of his caliber.”

Prodigious talent

Although he was raised mostly by his mother, Hoard said he enjoyed going around with his dad – who never married – when his visited Dayton from D.C.:

“Everywhere we went, we ran into people who knew him. I’ve heard all the stories.”

And when it comes to sports, Love’s stories begin early in his life.

Steve Bayless, who played at Xenia High and Central State and is now a personal trainer in Des Moines, Wash., near Seattle – recalled a rec center game he played in as a kid.

He’d joined the Bomberger Center team which was coached by his uncle, Mickey McGuire, the former Baltimore Orioles infielder.

Their opponent that day, the Westwood Center, featured Eric Love.

Bayless laughed at the memory: “They beat us 52-2.”

Love was part of the Cornell Heights seventh and eighth grade teams that won city titles.

Eric Love’s Cornell Heights Elementary eighth grade team photo in 1974. Love is third from left on top row. CONTRIBUTED
Eric Love’s Cornell Heights Elementary eighth grade team photo in 1974. Love is third from left on top row. CONTRIBUTED

When he transferred to Colonel White, he helped Black make history. She became the only woman ever to be the head basketball coach at a Dayton City League school. The Cougars went 16-5 that season and won the City League.

One memorable game was a sold-out affair against Roth, which featured the city’s great basketball talent, Dwight Anderson.

“It was real barn-burner even though the refs called 40 fouls on my team,” Black said. “They fouled out my starting five.”

“They beat us something like 101 to 98,” Sherrer said.

“I might start some controversy, but I’d say, next to Dwight, Eric Love was the best thing I saw come out of Dayton in my era,” said Eric Salter, who starred at Xenia High before going to Kansas State two years and then returning to Central State. He’s now an assistant coach at Wilberforce University.

“Eric was just a gifted athlete whether it was football, track or basketball. He was awesome and he became a real legend at Central State.”

Two of his most glorious games came his senior year when the Marauders played Wright State twice at UD Arena.

“They were ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II,” Steve Walker, the point guard teammate of Love in high school and at CSU, recalled of the second meeting. Now living in Temecula, Calif., he’s a contractor with the US Air Force. “We erased a huge deficit and came back to win by double digits.”

With Love again leading them – he had scored 40 points a month earlier in a close loss to the Raiders – CSU routed Wright State by 21 points.

Eric Love during his Central State student days. He was a two time NCAA Division II ALL-American then. CONTRIBUTED
Eric Love during his Central State student days. He was a two time NCAA Division II ALL-American then. CONTRIBUTED

‘That’s a life well-lived’

Everybody you talk to brings up what a humble and decent guy Love was off the court and on.

“He was just the nicest guy and you weren’t going to get any garbage coming from him,” Bayless said. “He didn’t run his mouth.

“But when I saw him play, the term that came to mind was Quiet Assassin. And if you weren’t careful, you’d get a hell of a (butt) whippin’ because he was so gifted and strong.

“I put a tribute to him on my Facebook page and talked about how humble he was and Butch Carter (former Middletown High and NBA player) made a funny statement.

“He told about a time he tried to pull some stuff on Eric and the next thing he knew, he was on his back on the ground and Eric was over him. The meaning, without ever saying it, was ‘Dude, don’t do that! I’ll hurt you!’

“Now I know Butch. He can be a sneaky one, so for him to ‘fess up and admit that shows his respect for Eric.”

Alexander felt the same about Love: “As great of an athlete he was, he was an even greater person.”

That so many people say that proves one thing Pierce said:

“To be a good athlete at an early age and then lead your high school team to a championship and be an All-American in college and go in the Hall of Fame, that can be a hard ball to carry. So many times when people make that climb, there are dissenters and detractors, but not with him. I’ve never met people who didn’t like him.

“And when people who were your friends at the beginning are still there at the end, you’ve really completed the story.

“That’s a life well-lived.”