The 1972-73 West Fannin boys’ basketball team finished with a record of 22 wins and 2 losses, the best record posted by any team during Coach Tom Foster’s 14-year career at the school. 2017 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Winston Beaver was the co-captain of that team, along with fellow senior Charles Zachary. It was a very balanced team with each starting player averaging more than 10 points per game. Winston Beaver was selected as the Most Valuable Player on that formidable squad.
Winston grew up in the community of Epworth, about equidistant between McCaysville and Blue Ridge. He played Dixie Youth Baseball as a youngster and made the Epworth Elementary School basketball team during his 6th grade year. He played with future West Fannin teammates Glenn and Garry Patterson while at Epworth as the Epworth boys won three consecutive Fannin County championships. His coach at Epworth was the legendary Jack Myers.
Winston played on the West Fannin Junior Varsity team in 1969-70, his freshman season. A couple of things happened that helped shape Winston’s basketball future during and shortly after that year. First, he watched an injured and hobbled Willis Reed of the New York Knicks lead his team to an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed’s inspirational performance in the 7th game of that series spurred Winston to a greater dedication and excitement about the game of basketball. Second, Winston grew 3 or 4 inches in height during that summer so that when he reported for pre-season drills as a sophomore he sported a lanky frame that stood about 6’ 5” tall. His growth spurt earned him the nickname ‘Weed’ from his teammates.
He earned a starting role as a post player as a junior in 1971-72, a season full of excitement and surprises for the Yellow Jacket team and their supporters. Winston averaged more than 13 points per game as West Fannin finished the regular season with a very good, but not great, 14-7 record. The high point of the season for Winston and his teammates was a 72-42 victory at Dalton. At the time West Fannin was a class A school and the Catamounts were in the AAA division.
The Yellow Jacket boys were given only an outside chance to run the gauntlet of the Region 6A tournament unscathed, but that is exactly what they did. Victories over Gilmer County and Murray County in the subregion tournament, followed by a close 43-40 win over Jefferson High and another win over Murray County earned West Fannin the Region 6A Championship and an invitation to the State Class A tournament in Macon. Winston Beaver enjoyed some of his finest basketball moments in the Region tournament and was named as the Tourney MVP. He scored 22 points in the championship game vs Murray County in a game played at Chatsworth. The Jackets defeated arch-rival Murray County four times during the 1971-72 season.
West Fannin’s first round opponent in the state tournament was Coosa High School, led by future New York Knicks standout Mike Glenn. In undoubtedly the finest moment in West Fannin basketball history, the Yellow Jacket boys held Glenn reasonably in check and won going away, 77-62. One of Winston’s biggest thrills in athletics was reading the sports page of the next day’s Atlanta Constitution and seeing the bold headline ‘WEST FANNIN SLAPS COOSA’. The magic ended the next day with a narrow loss to Stone Mountain, but the 1971-72 West Fannin Yellow Jackets would up their season with a gaudy record of 19-8.
Winston’s hardcourt performances were not lost on area college coaches and Winston was awarded a basketball scholarhip to attend Gainesville Junior College. He joined West Fannin teammate Gary Mealer and East Fannin star Bill Stephens at Gainesville for the 1973-74 season. Winston enjoyed a productive career at Gainesville, averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds per game during his senior season of 1974-75.
After completing two years at Gainesville, Winston continued his basketball career at North Georgia College. He earned two letters at North Georgia for his play during the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons. He also found his life’s career calling during the summer between his two seasons at North Georgia.
In the summer of 1976 Winston Beaver worked at Lake Lanier Islands in Hall County. He worked in various departments there and began a full time career with Lake Lanier in 1979. He worked there for 30 years rising to the position of Captain of Boats before his retirement in 2009. He continues to work as a boat captain at the resort and for other clients around the lake.
Winston and his wife Lori make their home in Spring Hill, Georgia. They have two grown children, Chris (32) and Tori (28). Winston is a quiet, unassuming man who prefers to lead by action rather than words. He is a welcome addition to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.