Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State showed much interest in Catledge when he was at Houston High. A bird dog tipped off Drayton Miller, then a South Alabama assistant coach, who ventured to a state tournament game in Booneville to scout Catledge. "I flew into Memphis and rented a car," says Miller, "and I'm flipping around the radio trying to find some music. All of a sudden I hear, ' Houston drives up the court, Philly steals and scores!' I thought it was an NBA game, so I flipped it off. I get to Booneville and the game is in the middle of the first half. It's Houston, Mississippi against Philadelphia, Mississippi.
"There are two really physical kids in the game. On Houston, Terry Catledge, and on Philadelphia, Marcus Dupree. Marcus might have been a helluva football player but he wasn't much of a basketball player. Terry got 45 off of him. He shot from all over the court."
Catledge signed with South Alabama in April 1981—but not because he wanted to. "He'd never been away from home, not for a night," says his mother, Bobbie Jean, who runs a day-care center in Houston. Catledge went to Mobile that summer, where he got a job building fences. What he really built was a serious case of homesickness. By August, he was back in Houston and soon enrolled at Itawamba Junior College in nearby Fulton, Miss., thinking he could still change his mind and return to South Alabama before school started in late September. "He called me one night about midnight and said, I made a terrible mistake,' " says Cliff Ellis, who coached the Jaguars for nine seasons before moving to Clemson last year. Catledge indeed did return to South Alabama in September, but the NCAA considered him a transfer and he lost a year of eligibility.
After playing mostly in the low post for Ellis for three years, Catledge has been given more latitude by new Jaguar coach Mike Hanks, who installed the passing, screening offense he learned as a graduate assistant to Knight on the 1976 NCAA-champion Indiana team. "I want to be versatile," Catledge says. " Coach Ellis didn't really want me to take the outside shot and I didn't want him to be upset. I feel more comfortable now."
The same goes for Catledge's life off the court, though he still has about him the air of the country kid in the big city. But occasionally, Catledge lets on that he's no bumpkin. Just ask him about his nickname.
"When the girls ask me why I'm called Cadillac," Catledge says, "I tell them it's because I'm long, black and lovely." Maybe he's no Truck after all.