Joey Manigault is a community favorite in Georgetown County. He has been with the County’s Parks and Recreation department since November of 1989, and people of all ages – from “Old Timers,” to kids taking part in their first youth leagues – love to see him on the court, the field, or anywhere else.
But Manigault’s reputation in the S.C. sports world extends far past the county’s borders, and it’s about to get bigger as he joins a rather elite club.
The S.C. Basketball Officials Association recently announced that Manigault will be inducted into its Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Columbia on May 7. It’s the Association’s highest honor, “reserved for those individuals who have significantly influenced high school basketball,” set themselves above the ordinary and who represent their fellow officials and the S.C. High School League in an exemplary manner, said Richie Jeffcoat, Hall of Fame Chairman.
Just to be considered, an official must have a minimum of 20 years officiating, have officiated at least two state basketball finals games and an All-Star game, and serve in a leadership role in their area of the state.
Additionally, Manigault will receive the Bryan Fink Basketball Official of the Year Award for the district encompassing Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties.
A man who enjoys serving his community, but prefers staying out of the spotlight, Manigault isn’t looking forward to all the attention or the three-minute induction speech he will be expected to deliver.
“I don’t even know what I’m going to say,” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d just have a little ceremony right here on the field at Beck (Recreation Center).”
All he really wants from the day, he added, is his wife, Ruthenia, by his side and his children and grandchildren around him. He said he also plans to gift the ring that comes with the honor to his wife.
“I can’t see wearing it,” he said with a shake of his head.
But don’t mistake his lack of enthusiasm about all the pomp and circumstance for a lack of excitement about the award itself. He is visibly moved and excited to have been selected for such a rarified honor.
“I went to a meeting and the guys around the table, they started questioning me,” he recalled. The next thing, he knew, he had been nominated by the district director and shortly after received notice that he would be inducted.
“It’s just something I never would have expected,” he said, discretely wiping at misty eyes. “Georgetown has a pretty good history with Hall of Famers.”
He named Leon Myers and Stacey Franklin as examples.
“It feels pretty good to join their ranks,” he said.
Sports have been a huge part of Manigault’s life since childhood. In his day job, he is a Community Specialist for Georgetown County Parks and Recreation, working with youth in a variety of leagues and programs, including basketball, football and track and field. In his off hours, he officiates basketball and football. He officiated the Beach Ball Classic for many years and — along with Richie Jeffcoat and Rico Williams — was part of the first all-black officials crew to officiate a game at the Beach Ball Classic. With Manigault’s induction, all three men will now be in the Hall of Fame.
“It really doesn’t seem like I’ve been officiating for more than 20 years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it and the kids. It’s helped me so much. I’ve been able to keep up with the game and see it change. They’re doing things we didn’t do when I was playing.”
It also helps him better relate to coaches and teach sportsmanship, he said.
“What happens is you see them come up through the system. You see them start here in the gym. I would go to a B-Team game to officiate. You see them there. Then you go to JV, to high school. I’ve been blessed to be on the floor with a couple who went on to play in college. It’s a privilege to watch them advance.”
For some, a Hall of Fame entry would be the culmination of a career dedicated to sports and young athletes. But Manigault, 65, said he still has plenty more chapters to write and he isn’t planning to slow down any time soon, despite some recent health challenges.
“To me, it’s just the beginning,” he said. “I tried retirement. I tried it for 15 days and it just didn’t work. I’m still going to be out here working with these kids for a long time yet.”