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High school basketball: Charles Earls, remembered as a vital part of Gainesville High's back-to-back state titles in 1980s, dies at 57
Charles Earls
Charles Earls, left, Patrick Hamilton, center and Cris Carpenter shown in a picture on April 16 during the Gainesville High Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The three players were part of the Red Elephants' back-to-back state championship runs in 1983 and 1984. Photo courtesy Jane Carpenter

Charles Earls never looked for the individual acclaim. 

His satisfaction came from being a major contributor with a special skill set on Gainesville High’s back-to-back state championship basketball programs in 1983 and 1984. 

“He was a fabulous player his junior and senior year,” his former Red Elephants teammate Cris Carpenter said. “He was unguardable. He could drive. He could dunk and was a great shooter.”

On June 1, Earls died at age 57, following an extended illness. 

Visitation and viewing will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Wimberly Funeral Home in Gainesville. 

Earls’ funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker. 

The impact Earls had on Gainesville High basketball during his time was undeniable and won’t soon be forgotten. 

The Red Elephants’ small forward, Earls, averaged a stout 16.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per night his senior season, Carpenter said. 

“Charles was a complete player,” their head coach Jerry Davis said. 

Gainesville’s former coach recalls that Earls could ‘hide in ambush’ behind another player and pop out to steal the pass. 

And when he got to the rim, Earls was almost certainly going to finish the possession with one of his rim-shaking dunks. 

“Charles had some dunks that would bring the house down,” Davis added. 

However, it was the collective that was special with those two state championship teams: led by Patrick Hamilton (who went on to play at Georgia), Carpenter and Earls all playing equal parts. 

Those two seasons, Gainesville’s boys combined for a staggering 59-1 record. 

And that success wouldn’t have been possible without Earls, Hamilton said. 

“I don’t think we would have won half of those games we won without Charles,” he said. “Those were great teams, a great run.”

The three former Gainesville basketball stars were together in April for the Gainesville High Hall of Fame induction, not knowing it would be the final time they’d get to see Earls. 

Even though he was unable to speak, Hamilton said that Earls was one of the first to show up for dinner on the square the night before their team induction ceremony. 

“Charles was a great friend, great teammate and great father,” said Hamilton, who is an also extended family member to Earls. “He was just a good guy.”

At 6-foot-5, Earls also played with an edge on the floor. 

He wasn’t afraid to sacrifice his body for a loose ball or tussle with the opposition when things got close. 

“Charles was a steady person who you could always rely on,” Hamilton added. 

One of Hamilton’s favorite stories about Earls was one of the times they got in a bit of trouble from coach Jerry Davis. 

With the region tournament and a state playoff berth on the line the next day, Davis instructed his players not to stay past halftime of the girls’ basketball game in Habersham County. 

They didn’t listen to the coach. 

With the girls in the lead and headed toward victory, Hamilton said they stayed well past the time they were instructed to be back home and resting up for the next day. 

After being busted for breaking the rules, Hamilton said they were told by Davis the next day they would be benched. 

However, with the season on the line and trailing, Davis gave the green light for them to go on the floor. 

Hamilton jumped at the opportunity in the second quarter, while his friend lingered on the bench in frustration over not starting the game. 

After cutting into the deficit of the playoff qualifier before halftime, Earls finally got back on the court in the third quarter and took over the game. 

“Charles came back in that game on a tear,” Hamilton said. “He always bounced back in big ways.”

Even after Earls’ playing career ended, he stayed active in basketball. 

Earls was active for many years training athletes and running gyms, Hamilton said. 

The basketball teammates were also known to get together on the golf course regularly. 

Even recently, Hamilton received a message from Earls, saying he’d be back on the course in ‘a month or month and a half.’

“This is a tough loss for all of us,” Hamilton said. 


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