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The Beauty Of Pool - A Close Up Of The 8 Best Players In The Carolinas

Father of an angel, house painter, and billiards enthusiast.

North Carolina Is Legendary

in the world of pool. There are so many brilliantly talented players living in the region that it is difficult to pick a top eight. However, I believe that I can put together an accurate compilation that does some justice to the deserving. These are my personal picks and you are welcome to offer your suggestions if you have one in the comments section. I hope you enjoy.

The Region


#8 - Tony "Tyson" Morrison

When I moved to this area, one of the first people I was warned to steer clear of was Tony "Tyson" Morrison. He was short in stature, but built like a beast. He was also a trash talker, and he was good at it. It didn't take me long to see that the warning I was given was a good one. Not only did he talk a good game, he could back it up. He had one of the smoothest strokes I've ever seen, and even past his prime with dwindling confidence, his accuracy was second to only a very few men in this world of ours. He played with a beautiful combination of power and precision, which added a certain spice to the game that you don't often see. Our personalities were distinctly different, but any fan of the game of pool could do little but admire a man with so much skill and heart. His list of accomplishments include hundreds of tournament wins and coming in the money in the US Open at least once. Sadly, "Tyson's" life was cut short in a tragic motorcycle accident last year. I thought to replace him on this list for a brief moment, but thought better of it. As long as there is a hub pages, there will always be at least one memorial to his life and accomplishments. Rest in peace, old friend.

The latest from Predator

#7 - BJ Ussery

This young man was beating some of the best in the world during the early part of this century. A native of High Point, NC area, he was ranked in the top 100 in the world at one time. He is fierce at the table, gritting his teeth until you are sure they are going to break. No matter how he holds his jaw, he swings his pool stick in dead stroke. BJ told me he once played a pro in a tournament in Florida in which he got a shot in the second rack and broke and ran the set out. Can you imagine breaking and running ten racks in a row? Mr. Ussery not only did it, he did it in competition against a champion. He has won a few professional tournaments, and has had a few quality finishes in the US Open. He still competes on the local tours, but now spends the majority of his time playing poker.

#6 - Keith Bennett

Here is another name that you won't know if you are not an insider in the world of pool. Keith is the nemesis of BJ Ussery, and another unknown to the general public. He is legendary in an area full of legends and lives in Fayetteville, NC. Keith has won many semi-pro events on the "Great Southern Billiards Tour". I do not have any knowledge of his winning a professional event. However, he did beat one of the Filipinos at this years US Open for a few thousand dollars. Mr. Bennett would probably be classified as a hustler, but that does not take anything away from his skills on the table. When he is in gear, he can run out with the best in the world.


#5 - Larry Nevel

Here is another player that is well known around the country. His break is considered by many to be as good as any player in the world, and better than most. "The Truth", as he is known in billiards circles, resides in Greenville, SC, but hales from Wisconsin. As far as accolades go, Mr Nevel is the 13 time Wisconsin state champion along with a host of other titles and victories. Most notably, he was the World All Around Champion in 2003. Recently, he competed at this years US Open shortly after being in a major car accident. He performed pretty well considering his condition. Although he did not make it to the finals, you have to respect a guy with that much gumption. On a different note, I have had the pleasure of playing a bit of pool with this man. Contrary to some folks opinion, he was an absolute gentleman at the table.

# 4 - "Little" Tony Watson

Tony Watson is a name you probably will not have heard unless you are a billiards enthusiast. He is not a sponsored player, nor do you find very much information when you look for him on the internet. However, this unknown legend is a giant slayer in the game of pool. You'll find him playing in the green rooms at the major tournaments around the country, drilling the pros to the wall and taking their money. This year I watched him play Jason Klatt a race to 11 for $4000 at Cue Masters in Chesapeake, Va, during the US Open Championships. The "Little" animal out of Hickory, NC demolished the Canadian Champion with a savage break and lethal accuracy. Klatt did not make many mistakes, but "Little Tony's" finesse and power combination was just too much for him to handle. If you enjoy watching the best in the world, take the opportunity to watch him play. You'll be glad that you did.


#3 - Josh Roberts

Josh Roberts is one of the best one pocket players in the south eastern United States right now. He has developed a skill level so high that he is gambling for high stakes with some of the best one pocket players in the world. He's just about as good at 9-ball. I've seen this guy shoot more than once and it's impressive to watch. His stroke is straight as an arrow and he rarely misses a ball. His skill with cue ball position is just as good, which makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone. Last I heard he was playing for big money against Scott Frost, one of the best one pocket player in the country. If that doesn't tell you how good the kid is, nothing will.

Most recently, he has had a series of cashes in a number of pro and semi pro tournaments. He was playing the infamous Richie Richeson at some point for substantial cash, as well as a host of other major players. His repertoire is growing, and you may well see this man's name at the top of the charts one day.

Maybe a Joss is more to your liking


#2 - Shannon Daulton

This fellow here is well known competitor in the sport. Shannon's major victories include winning the Legends of One Pocket Billiards three times, World All Around Champion, and a slew of other events. Mr Daulton is also a member of the One Pocket Hall of Fame, a prestigious group if ever there was one in the game of pool. I've watched him compete on a number of occasions. His precision rivals the best in the world, besting a number of them.

Born in Columbia, SC, he now resides in Simpsonville, SC. Although S.D. still competes in major events, Mr. Daulton has created a semi-pro tour named "The Great Southern Billiards Tour" that has tour stops across the SE United States. "The Cannon" is not only a very talented pool player, he is also an absolute gentleman. The game of pool needs more characters with as much class as he brings to the table.

The Pearl

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#1 - Earl Strickland

The 8 time World Champion, Earl Strickland, has called the region home most of his life. Born in Roseboro, NC in 1961, he lived in the same area for the better part of the next 50 years. Most recently, Mr Strickland has taken his game to the big apple to be the house player at Steinway Billiards in New York, New York. Even though I haven't seen him since he left, the guys who have say he has received a warm welcome from the folks there. Based on their accounts, he stays in action and can get it done as well as anyone in the world.

Earl Strickland will always be considered one of the finest minds to ever grace the cloth.This man was once considered the most feared player alive. He has performed in just about every possible venue on Earth, and has beaten just about every one who plays his game at one time or another. Even through his high tempered rants and tournament fiascoes, Earl will be forever enshrined in the minds of billiards fans the world over for the amazing things he can do on the felt. His passion and precision are a thrill to watch. Thank you for giving us so many amazing memories, champ.

Do you want more?

Earl Strickland VS Efren Reyes1997 US Open

© 2012 Robert Clinton


Dave cook on June 09, 2019:

Yea Abernathy is more on the Ametuar end to. No comparison to Stevie Moore Tony watson or josh Roberts and no where near Larry nevel or josh roberts and dont even think about Shannon Dalton

Inquisitive2 on January 26, 2018:

Very interesting read of some great pool players. Being a Canadian I wasn't aware there was that many great players from the Carolinas. I have always admired the play of Mr Strickland.

gypsiechris on August 05, 2015:


Ray Greenway on March 31, 2015:

Stevie was born and raised in SC moving away a couple times while playing but Spartanburg SC HAS And ALWAYS WILL BE HOME TO Stevie. When away it was for short periods of time and SC was always home to him.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on March 31, 2015:

He's in the comments section. Scroll up a few post. Someone else asked that same question and my response was the same as it is now. This is an old article. I don't think he was living in South Carolina when it was written, and if he was, he was a major oversight. Stevie Moore is a beast, and is deserving of a spot on the list.

Ray Greenway on March 31, 2015:

How about Stevie Moore. He is capable of beating any one of the players you listed. A list of players from Varolina without Stevie is incomplete !!

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on March 30, 2015:

Thank you for your insight, Lorree. There are more players around these parts that have great accomplishments than are on this list. I can think of several, but, there is a reason I didn't include them. One, they are not currently winning any big events. And two, they probably would prefer to remain anonymous. You are welcomed to suggest an addition. If I agree with your assessment, I just might add the person you speak of.

LoreeHammons on March 30, 2015:

I have observed 8-ball, 9-ball, 6-ball and many b.s. time consuming exercises on many pool tables of all kinds over the past 30 years. I wanted to comment on someone you didn't really give credit deserved, but when you are a true lover of a fine accurate stroke and to speak of this or that player, you must practice true talk etiquette. So I will hold my tongue on those I have seen master the field - but just wanted to point out that there are those that slip though the spot light. True also that Little T (Watson) is a one of a kind showman. I have watched him since maybe he was nine years old. He always is grinning when the shots keep on making him closer to the money. And for your #1, it is a sad thing that he is not a nicer person because many up coming players looked up to him and were treated pretty crappie trying to give him a compliment. I don't guess they all play to be liked. Enjoyed the article, keep enjoying the pool.

Kenny Wilson on March 28, 2015:

Coliseum on Haywood Rd. In Greenville is staking Shannon Daulton against ALL players....

Richie Richerson is first.....

Kenny Wilson on March 28, 2015:

Pretty accurate....

scpoolplayer on March 28, 2015:

We do have quite a few great players. Cliff Latimer in his prime was one of the best around. We also have Scott Rabon, Jerry Bento, Fountainhead Red, etc. These guys used to chop everyone up.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on March 20, 2015:

Thanks for the input, Tball. You are right about Abernathy winning the state 9 ball tournament, but he's still not the best in the region. That 9 ball tour is geared more toward amateur players. And, even their " NC State 9 Ball Tourney" isn't a good grouping of the best in the region. The best players are proven professionals like Stevie Moore, who would be running out in his nightmares if Abernathy goes and a grabs onto that beast.

TBall on March 20, 2015:

I just read where Abernathy won the NC State 9 Ball in Raleigh so he should be on the list. Where do these other folks play? Greensboro, Charlotte, Fayetteville? I would like to go see them in action. Any suggestions?

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on March 11, 2015:

Good question. I heard Stevie Moore is living in South Carolina, so I'd pick him to be number one. From there, Claude Merrier, Larry Nevel, Josh Roberts and Shannon Daulton all run neck and neck. Then, there are a ton of unrated pros and short stops playing a ball or two under those guys. Norris Brady, Jeff Abernathy, Josh Newman, and Kevin Boggs are probably the best of that group. Little Tony will always be one of the kings, but I haven't heard about him being in much action recently.

TBall on March 11, 2015:

Currently, as of March 2015, who are the top eight or ten? Earl has moved to NY, rarely do you hear anything about BJ, Little Tony or Keith or for that matter Larry Nevel.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on March 09, 2015:

Thank you for your input, Timmy. Sammy Monday is a beast.

Timmy1970 on March 09, 2015:

Sam Moday? If you want to get to Sunday you have to get through Monday.

Bert on January 11, 2015:

I'm so glad that the innretet allows free info like this!

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on December 04, 2014:

It's great to see that people are still reading this. Thank you all for your input. Yes, Mike Fuller is a badass, as well as Stevie Moore and Josh Roberts. All 3 of them likely deserve to be included, but I only had a limited number of spaces.

Reene on December 04, 2014:

My pick would have to be Stevie Moore.I grew up playing with him and Brian White. You are correct when saying there are so many to choose from.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on October 30, 2014:

Your points are valid, I am certain. I have never heard of Sparky, he must have been before my time. As far as Coaltrain goes, he does have quite the legacy. I didn't include him because he hasn't been tournaments recently. I guess you could call this the 2012-2014 top 10, not all time. Thank you for your input.

NCisHome9ball on September 21, 2014:

Sparky Ferrell would def need to be on this list. He doesn't play anymore but when he did I'm sure no one would argue that he was a top 3 player not considered a pro from the Carolina's. Also you can't forget about Micheal Coaltrain. His career as a pool player was short lived due to physical problems but he was representing Team USA playing in the Mosconi Cup at a very young age.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on September 11, 2014:

Thank all 3 of you for your contribution. You are all correct, and since Tony Morrison is no longer with us, either Josh Roberts or Mike Fuller would make great replacements. Big apple ghost, Watson is damn near unstoppable once he catches a gear. He's fun to watch.

theschonguy on September 06, 2014:

Josh Roberts should be on this list.

bigappleghost on June 25, 2014:

T watson best money player i have seen nothing rattles his cage

BASSMASTER on October 20, 2013:

Just wantedto know ....where's Mike Fuller for this list ...he's just as hard as anyone on a given day and tournament proven.

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on October 20, 2013:

I heard about that yesterday and am saddened by the loss of a friend. May he rest in peace. The pool community lost one of it's best ambassadors when Tony Morrison was taken from us. God bless his soul.

Poolqueen91 on October 20, 2013:

Tony Morrison "Tyson", passed away on 10/19/2013 in a tragic car accident. Please pray for his family and friends. A great player that will be truly missed :((

jack mills on March 24, 2013:

I got the pleasure of taking ton "little t" Tony Watson hustling and man he is so awesome.I seen him win thousands and thousands of dollars and spotting the 5 out and break and crushing them! He told me once he beat Strickland out of $90,000 in Vegas when he was only sixteen years old!if you wanna see pool played at its finest then catch Mr Watson when the money is right cause they should have named him "lights out"

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on August 18, 2012:

I respect Buddy Halls' accolades. He is a brilliant player, who does not hail from the Carolina's. This article is only about the best billiard players in North and South Carolina. Thank you for reading, and thanks for the comment.

Big Dennis on August 16, 2012:

Buddy Hall is by far the greatest 9 ball champion money player of them all FACTOID ...

He beat them all for the cash including Efren Reyes ...

"The Riflemen" is king of the jungle in the hearts of all these players just ask em ...

Robert Clinton (author) from Greensboro, NC on July 25, 2012:

I have played either against or beside every one of these players at some point over the last 10 years. I don't disagree that Larry Nevel is a great player, but he has not been in top form the last few times I seen him. Watson and Putnam are at the top of their game, and playing extremely well. Earl doesn't have to beat any of them right now, but his legacy garners it's own respect. Thanks for the comment.

tim on July 21, 2012:

larry nevel would wipe the floor of all of those guys except for Strickland

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