The Charlotte Nets was founded by a handful of local businessmen in the early 1980’s. Ed Sockwell put the early plan together and then recruited Dwight Wessler and Olin Broadway to assist with the creation of Charlotte’s 1st ever AAU program (Men or Women). The original idea was focused on finding a more organized and competitive basketball atmosphere for not only their own kids, but other area kids who wanted to participate on a more competitive stage than just the normal brand of youth center Basketball. Mr. Sockwell, Mr. Broadway and Mr. Wessler all donated significant time, money and energy to the early efforts of the program and providing a foundation to build from.
In the beginning, the team played under the Charlotte Sonics name and traveled to other cities and states throughout the southeast to play in local all-star competition, widely and commonly referred to now as AAU. In addition to funding from the founders, early sponsorship also came from major companies such as NCNB, McDonald’s and other local businesses located throughout the Charlotte region.
As the small group gained national attention by playing an awesome brand of basketball, the pool of players expanded to include kids from all over the Charlotte area. In the early years, although the team traveled regularly seeking out new competition, the Sonics enjoyed some of its toughest competition right in its own backyard with numerous classic battles between local area squads such as Mr. BV Belk’s Winterfield Warriors and Clarence Johnson’s (“CJ’s”) team from the Belmont Recreation Center. The Sonics quickly joined forces with CJ and from that point forward the organization took off with Mr. Sockwell providing the organizational leadership and CJ providing the basketball focus. In addition, Mr. Sockwell and CJ both began to search out new and talented young Coaches to assist with the growing number of kids that wanted to be a part of the program, therefore requiring new teams. The organization quickly went from 1 started team in 1983 to approximately 10 by the year 1990. It was during this period, the importance of teaching life’s lessons and requiring good performance in school became more important than the basketball. In 1987, the Sonics name was changed to the to the Charlotte Nets (“Nurturing Education Through Sports”) to reflect this focus.
The Nets have continued to build on the solid reputation and standards set forth by Mr. Sockwell and the other early leaders, and have proven to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) in Charlotte, NC and possibly the Southeast. In addition, the winning ways have continued with a new breed of kids and Coaches (some of which were prior participants of the program), as the Nets teams are constantly ranked high nationally as one of the best programs in the country. Although the founders have moved on, CJ (AAU Hall of Famer) remains behind the scenes providing guidance and advice when needed, the program’s mantle has been handed off to Kerry Sargent (AAU Hall of Famer) to continue leading the charge and developing kids.
As the kids and parents continue to search out a solid and valued program in the Charlotte area, the Charlotte Nets (Sonics) are always at the top of their search criteria. We are certain that the founders are pleased to see how far the program has come.