Basketball was the game of choice when Gunter Sweat grew up outside Paxville.
“I played all positions in the seventh grade at Paxville Elementary School,” Sweat said. “In high school, I was a shooting guard and forward.”
In his senior year at Manning Training School, Sweat was the captain of his basketball team.
“It was always my dream to come back to my hometown as a basketball coach,” he added. “I love basketball. I always have.”
Sweat said he wanted to help young athletes as he was helped growing up.
“Success comes with losing,” he added. “When I was coaching, I stressed academics really hard.”
Sweat said that at the beginning of each school year he would put a form in each teacher’s box asking them to notify him immediately if they had any problems with his players either academically or disciplinary.
“That helped a lot,” he said. “I kept my players under control.”
Sweat said he’d visit his players over the summer break to check them out and see if they could play ball.
“Some players were better than others,” he said. “But, on a team, you roll as a team. If you’re not a shooter, don’t shoot. If you’re more of a defensive player, then that’s where that player needs to focus.”
“There are always a lot of shooters,” Sweat said with a laugh, “but they don’t always make the baskets.”
In 1965, Sweat’s seventh and eighth grade players at Scott’s Branch Elementary School won the conference title and finished the season with a record of 10-2.
After two years serving his country in Vietnam, Sweat returned to coaching.
In his first year back on the sideline, his Manning Middle School team won as conference and tournament champions.
Sweat’s many accomplishments included being named 3A Region Coach of the Year five times, 1A Region Coach of the Year twice and All Item Coach of the Year.
Sweat was the first head coach of any sport at Manning High School to take a team to play for a state championship.
In 1989, Sweat was awarded a plaque from the Manning Branch of the NAACP for Guidance, Leadership, Direction and Service to the youth of Clarendon County in athletics.
In 2008, the Brotherhood Black River Missionary Baptist Association presented Sweat with a plaque recognizing his 30 years of Outstanding Leadership in the community as a basketball coach and mentor for the young men of Clarendon County.
Throughout his tenure as a basketball coach, Sweat was a successful coach, winning 533 of the 743 games he coached.
“Not only has (Sweat) been a great coach, but he has been a great role model as well as father-figure, especially with his players, which he continues to do,” said Andrew Dorch Sr., a former student and player of Sweat. “He has been instrumental in instilling positive morals and values in the lives of the players and students.”
Even after coaching, Sweat has continued to be active in his community by advising, mentoring and communicating with the younger generation, Dorch added.
“Coach Sweat has been a father figure in my life,” said the Rev. Eddie Lesaine, a former player for Sweat. “Growing up without a father in the home was very difficult. What I love about Coach Sweat was his interaction with his two sons and the way he treated all of us.”
“I did graduate from college on the dean’s list, played three years in the European League and coached junior varsity basketball. I’m married, have two children; I’m an entrepreneur and the senior pastor of Spring Branch Baptist Church,” Lesaine added. “But, I thank God all the time for allowing Coach Gunter Sweat to be a father to me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him. He has made a tremendous impact on my life.”
Sweat described being chosen as an inductee into the CCAHOF as a “great honor.”
“I was surprised and humbled,” he said.
“A part of me was on that stage last year with Glenn Murray,” Sweat added.
Sweat said his success as a basketball coach or teacher would not have been possible without the tremendous support of his wife, the Rev. Ethel Sweat.
“She was very supportive in all aspects of my life,” Sweat added. “She kept stats. She was our cheerleader. She was super coach.”