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January 28, 2008

A Tribute to Texas Basketball

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same…
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!"

-Rudyard Kipling


Texas is as culturally and racially diverse as the number of storms and hurricanes that enter the gulf waters in any given year. Germans, Italians, Irish, Hispanics, African Americans, Vietnamese and Jews are well represented and have enhanced the state in many ways. However, this article is not about any one of these groups, but is about all of them who played high school, college or professional basketball in Texas.

This story is about basketball and how it developed in Texas. So, come with me and learn about little known but important facts, people, places, and records that you will not find anywhere else in one place. This is a tribute by a basketball junkie and a Certified NBA Players Agent. Only by understanding what is published here can you fully glean the interest and development of basketball in Texas.

Basketball players do not come out of the woodwork, but acquire skill over time, developing into skilled high school and college players. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is the governing body regulating high school sports in Texas. It is the largest interscholastic association in the country representing over 740,000 high school and junior high school students with revenue of over $6 million annually. The Director is Dr. William Farney.

Since the past illuminates the present and provides a window to the future we start in 1943 with Slater Martin (Houston Jeff Davis, UT & NBA St. Louis Hawks), 1947 Gib Ford (Amarillo-1956 Olympic Team & former President of Converse Inc. "Chuck Taylor All-Star"), 1953 Jay Arnette (Austin McCallum, UT & 1960 Olympic Team), 1954 Jimmy Bond (Pampa), 1955 Gerald Myers (Borger-Texas Tech & Athletic Director), 1956 Max Walker (Avoca & SMU) and 1960 Rick Kaminsky (Bellaire & Yale Univ.) These were the premier players in the decades of the 1940's and 1950's and all are in the Texas High School Hall of Fame.

Special mention must be given to Gerald Myers whose connection with Texas A & M spans more than 50 years. Myers has served as student, basketball player, basketball coach and currently Athletic Director - all in superlative fashion.

The Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) originally called the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools was the governing body for African American student athletes from 1920-1967. In my opinion, three of its most prolific basketball graduates not given full recognition for their accomplishments because of the times are McCoy McLemore (Houston Yates- Drake Univ.), David Lattin (Houston Worthing - UTEP) and James Cash (Fort Worth Terrell- TCU).

Both McLemore and Lattin played in the NBA. Not so well known, in this context is Cash. who in 1966 was the first African American to play varsity basketball in the Southwest Conference at Texas Christian University. He earned a PhD in Management Information Systems from Purdue University's Krannert Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences. Dr. Cash joined Harvard in 1976 and became Chairman of the Harvard Business School MBA Program from 1992-1995. He has been on the Board of Directors of Microsoft since June 2001.


When it comes to coaching, the late Collin Briggs and Jackie Carr of Houston Phyllis Wheatley are at the top of the list. They won state championships in the PVIL and three consecutive state championships in the UIL from 1968-1970 with a record of 102 wins and 2 losses. Today at the very top of the Student Sports National Record Book is Robert Hughes of Fort Worth Dunbar. He is number one in the country with 1,333 wins in 47 years of coaching.

At this juncture, I would be remiss in not mentioning Leta Andrews of Granbury H.S. (1,228), Bill Krueger of League City and Clear Lake (1,096), Don Coleman of Houston Memorial (890) and Clyde Carlisle of Clarksville (1,022). Also, there is Sammie Koudelka of Moulton (969), John Guice of Midway (934), Charles Womack of Hawley (896), Ray DeBord of L. D. Bell-Hurst (891), Ken Cleveland of Dimmitt (886) and O. W. Follis of Lamesa (857).

All of the above coaches are in the top 100 in the country for all-time wins.

Ron Truitt, Coach at Houston Cy-Fair, won a State Championship in 1971. So what you ask?

He was a member of the 1954 Milan, Indiana state single-class championship team memorialized in the movie "Hoosiers" starring Gene Hackman. Truitt, who played for Guy Lewis at the Univ. of Houston is so well respected that he has a junior high school named after him.

Another little known fact on the college level is Woody Sauldsberry and Ben Swain at Texas Southern University in the late 1950's. Both played in the NBA. Sauldsberry was Rookie of the Year in 1958 and Swain was the backup center for Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics before John Thompson of Georgetown University fame.

Now you should realize that although football is king in Texas, if not a second religion with its "Friday Night Lights", basketball is a close second. However, one big perplexing question to this writer is why Guy Lewis of the University of Houston has not been elected to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts?


Freshmen of influence in the 2006-2007 season were 6' 10" Kevin Durant (Montrose Christian, Rockville, Md.) at Texas; 6' 8" Damion James (Nacogdoches) at Texas; 5' 11" D. J. Augustin ( New Orleans, LA.-Missouri City Hightower) at Texas and 6' 9" Darrell Arthur (Dallas South Oak Cliff) at Kansas.

Durant was the Associated Press Player of the Year and the first freshman to win the award. He also received the Adolph Rupp Award for the same honor. Durant averaged 25 ppg. and 11.1 caroms while leading the Longhorns to a 25-10 record.

Just in case readers are not fully aware of what is going on in Texas right now consider this:

1. Parade Magazine named four Texas schoolboys to its 2007 High School All-American Team.
2. Durant of the Univ. of Texas is the AP Player of the Year and Naismith Award Winner.
3. Acie Law IV of Texas A & M was the recipient of the Bob Cousy Award.
4. Gail Goestenkors, the 2007 Associated Press Women's Basketball Coach of the Year at Duke, replaces retired Hall of Famer Judy Conradt at Texas
5. Guy Lewis former coach at the Univ. of Houston was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 18, 2007
6. Coach Bob Knight, Texas Tech. Univ. received the 2007 Naismith Men's Outstanding Contribution to Basketball recipients Award
7. Randy Gilmer of Houston Nimitz is an outstanding coach (26-9 in 2007 & 3rd round in the playoffs) and has produced at least five players to the Division I ranks
8. Andrews of Granbury H.S. received the ignaugural Morgan Wooten Award as America's winningest female girl's coach
9. Governor Rick Perry in June 2007 has signed into law a bill that allows random steroid testing of high school athletes in all sports.
10. On Sept. 8, 2007 the 1966 NCAA Champion Texas Western was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. David Lattin held a book signing on the Hall of Fame concourse for his book, "Slam Dunk to Glory".

Freshmen of influence for the 2007-2008 season at Texas are 6' 10" Clint Chapman (Canby, Or.), 6' 6" Gary Johnson (Houston-Aldine), 5' 10" James Kirkendoll (Round Rock, Tx.), 6' 1" Dogus Balbay (Wolfeboro, N. H.), 6' 8" Alexis Wangmene (Blairstown, N.J.).

At Texas A & M the new players are 7' 0" DeAndre Jordan (Christian Life Center Acad.-Humble, Tx.), 6' 6" Nathan Walkup (Deer Park, TX.), 5' 10" B. J. Holmes (Hastings-Houston), and 6' 9" Denzell Bowles (VA. Beach, VA.).

Texas Tech has 6' 4" Darryl Ashford (New Hampton, N.H..), 6' 10" Ricardo De Bem (Scottsbluff, NE.), 5' 11" John Roberson (Plano, Tx.), 6' 7" D'walyn Roberts (Duncanville, Tx.), 6' 5" and Mike Singletary (Humble, Tx.).

The University of Houston has 6' 2" Brockeith Pane (Dallas, Tx.), 6' 2" Dashaun Williams (NYC), 6' 7" Horace McGloster (Mendenhall, MS.), 6' 7" Yan Moukoury (Baton Rouge, LA.) and 6' 2" Zamal Nixon (NYC). Also available is 6' 11" Marcus Cousins who sat out last year.

Lastly, what this wonderful game of basketball teaches by participation beyond points and rebounds are the enduring values of sportsmanship, fair play, leadership and character building. If you do not believe me ask Rudy Tomjanovich or Dr. Rick Kaminsky orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas.

Grantland Rice, the Dean of Sports Journalists said it best: "When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he will not write if you won or lost--- but how you played the game".

This is true to form and substance in the Lone Star State.

Now that 2008 is here, we should get down on our knees again and give thanks for this day and then, up with jubilation because the basketball season is here again.

JAMES A. JOHNSON is a basketball cognoscente and a Certified NBA Players Agent.

Mr. JOHNSON can be reached at: [email protected]

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