IR days still special for Rayne

On April 1, Charlie Rayne was announced with the latest class going into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. Delaware State News file photos

When Charlie Rayne got the news a few weeks ago, he dug up his old yearbook.

It’s been 39 years since he graduated from Indian River High.

The memories, though, came flooding back for the former Indians’ basketball star.

“I looked back at the pictures of the guys I played with,” said Rayne, now 57. “I had flashbacks, man. I wish I could do it all over again. I wouldn’t hesitate.

“It brought some water to my eyes,” he added with a laugh. “That feeling gives you chill bumps. It was fun.”

There’s no question that, almost four decades later, Charlie Rayne’s basketball legacy — especially at IR — has stood the test of time.

On April 1, he was announced with the latest class going into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted, along with nine others, on Oct. 14 at the Chase Center in Wilmington.

Of course, Rayne was also a standout at Temple and was one of only a handful of Delawareans drafted by the NBA. And the Bayard resident — about 10 minutes from Bethany Beach — did earn some notoriety for being a college recruit with a pet cow.

But Rayne first took his place in the spotlight when he led Indian River to back-to-back state titles in 1980 and 81. Only three teams have won two championships in a row since then.

“The first one was great,” said Rayne. “We couldn‘t believe it — it took a while. But the second one was even better.

“We brought in a couple new guys and we just … played even better my senior year. I can see it now, up at Delaware (Field House).

“We’d been playing together since we were like in sixth or seventh grade,” he said about his old teammates. “Everything we did playing ball, we all played together. It was awesome, it was awesome.

“It was like family. We all had each other’s back — even in the school, the teachers and the students. We just bonded. It was a great year.”

A two-time first-team All-Stater, Rayne always seemed to do his best work under the basket.

In the Indians’ first title game, a 66-65 win over Cape Henlopen, the 6-foot-5 Rayne was limited to 26 minutes because of shin splits. But he still pulled down a game-high nine rebounds despite limping for much of the contest.

A year later, Rayne grabbed 15 boards as IR edged Howard, 48-47.

“I could have counted five or six times where we had Rayne blocked out and he still got the rebound,” said Wildcats coach Joe Hussey.
“When we won the first one, we heard the talk when we played in the summer leagues, ‘We’re going to get you the second time,’” said Rayne. “‘Well, OK, we’ll be back,’ we used to tell them.”

A second-team All-Stater as a sophomore, Rayne was the first Delaware player to be ranked in the top 10 in the state for three seasons in a row.

Rayne, who has lived in Atlanta since 1991, said he still talks to one of the other stars of that team, Matt Spence, about once a month. He used to keep more in touch with his coach at IR, Dave Cook — even visiting him in Bangor, Maine.

Being recruited by Temple and the Owls’ coach, Don Casey, was an interesting experience for both sides.

At the time, Rayne had a pet cow named, Mike.

“Anybody that would come up, he’d walk up to you,” said Rayne. “He’d follow you everywhere you went. He was like a pet dog.
“Coach came down there and he was like, ‘What in the world is going on here?’”

But for Rayne, going to Temple, in Center City Philadelphia, was a culture shock at first. He said he went back home the first three weekends of school because he was homesick.

Eventually, he found a home on the court, though. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t the biggest forward on the floor.

“Even though I was 6-5, they called me the ‘Little Big Man,’ on the court,” said Rayne. “I just never backed down. … When I got there my freshman year, Don Casey told me, ‘This is your spot. If you want it, you can have it. But, if not, somebody else is going to get it.’

“So I had to go in there and hold that down. I didn’t want anybody else to take it. From that point on, once I started in that first game, I never looked back. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to keep this spot. The only way somebody is going to beat me out is if I get hurt.’”

As a senior, Rayne made first-team All-Atlantic 10 when he averaged 12.6 points per game. The four-year starter scored 1,131 career points in 107 games and is still ninth in Temple history in shooting percentage.

Charlie Rayne

In 1985, Rayne was taken in the sixth round by the Phoenix Suns. He remembers not being able to sleep much the night before the draft.
“When I got drafted and they called me, I had to pinch myself a couple times, you know?’” said Rayne. “It was fun.

“When I left (Delaware), I didn’t think I was going to go this far. Being a country guy from a small school, I had a lot to prove. I just let people know I’m here to play. I got a lot of respect, that was the bottom line.”

Despite playing a great deal with the Suns in the preseason, Rayne was released.

He thought about playing overseas but ended up married and living in Atlanta. He’s worked for the Atlanta Gas Company for a number of years.

Rayne, who still makes it back to Delaware a couple times a year, was recently in Tennessee, assessing the damage from a tornado.

Rayne said it’s probably been a year since he picked up a basketball. He’s into racquetball these days.

Every once in a while, somebody will find out he’s a former NBA draft pick.

“I kept it a secret and then somehow it got out,” said Rayne. “They can’t believe it. Somebody looks me up and they’ll go, ‘How come you don’t play? How come you don’t brag about it?’

“I say, ‘It’s no big thing.’ I have never been that kind of person. I’m always a quiet person.”

There are times when Rayne misses being home in Sussex County. He says there’s just not enough time to catch up with everybody when he does make it back.

Once in a while, he’ll still get a call from someone that knows his name from Indian River’s glory days. Friends here can still get mileage out of saying they know Charlie Rayne.

“They’re like, ‘No way, you don’t know him,’” Rayne said with a chuckle. “Then one of the guys will call me and they can’t believe it’s me on the phone.

“It was a good time,” he said about his high school days. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”