Texas basketball teams, players find success on national level
Inclusion of Texas high school basketball among the nation's elite is a relatively new development. This is a state where basketball once was mostly a way to spend time between football and spring football.
Two of the past five teams recognized as national champions were from Texas: Lincoln (Dallas) in 2004 and Duncanville in 2007. The first time a Texas high school product was chosen No. 1 in the NBA draft was 1991, when the Charlotte Hornets selected Larry Johnson of Skyline (Dallas). Johnson was followed a year later by Shaquille O'Neal of Cole (San Antonio) -- he played there his last two years -- and in 2000 by Kenyon Martin of Bryan Adams (Dallas).
The decision in the mid-1980s to finally allow high school players to participate in summer leagues certainly moved Texas ball up in class. And well before that, the integration of public schools in the late '60s and early '70s put the game on its feet.
Robert Hughes Sr. saw it and lived it. He coached for 47 seasons in Fort Worth, first in the league for black schools at I.M. Terrell and then for 31 years with his Flying Wildcats of Dunbar. He retired in 2005 with 1,333 victories, more than any other high school basketball coach in the country.
"Texas high school basketball was beat over the head with a short stick for years, but it never died," said Hughes, 80 years old and still a lithe 6-foot-6. "All the publicity was football. Well, that's changed now without a doubt. These teams can play with anybody."
Dunbar won a Class 5A title in 1993 and a 4A crown in 2003, and Hughes' Terrell teams won three titles in the largest division of the old Prairie View Interscholastic League. Terrell was closed in 1973, and Hughes moved to Dunbar.
He took 12 Dunbar teams to the state tournament in Austin, and four teams lost in the final. In 1987, before interstate high school games became commonplace, Dunbar defeated Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), ending that school's 55-game winning streak.
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"Except for two teams," Hughes said, "the tallest guy on the Dunbar bench was me!"
His teams were built on speed and discipline. Most of the schools in the PVIL played up-tempo, although Hughes recalled a more blunt description used back then.
"Colored ball," he said. "But the kids from the all-white schools used to get a bus and come watch us play. In the PVIL, we used to say, 'If you can't score 85, don't come.'"
One of Hughes' most recent Dunbar products, former Georgia Tech captain Jeremis Smith, reflected on the coach's hard line.
"You did exactly what he said, or you'd have a seat on the bench," said Smith, the MVP of the 2003 state tournament for 4A. "It didn't matter how many points you averaged, if you were a superstar, if somebody from a college was there to recruit you. You'd be sitting on the end of the bench."
Hughes' creative summation of his most important rule: "If you can't make a layup, can't shoot a free throw, you can't beat your grandmother if she has on spiked heels and an Easter bonnet -- if you can do one thing, do what the hell I tell you to."
Early in his career, Hughes' firm words and stern looks were supported by a wooden paddle known as the board of education.
"Boardology is a master teacher," he said with a grin. "When we removed that, we removed a lot from our education system."
Smith, who now plays in France, also recalled the comradery of the team being an important factor.
"We were friends before anything," he said. "There are guys from years before me that I'm still close to. Still a Dunbar family."
Family still plays a role in Hughes' activities. He was succeeded by his son, Robert Jr., and often scouts for the Wildcats.
"I do everything now that I did when I was hired except I don't get paid," he said. "But I also don't have to go to those faculty meetings and separate kids for fighting in the hallway.
"I was probably too intense when I coached. If I had it to do over again I probably wouldn't change a thing."
Jeff Miller is a freelance writer in Texas and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREAT STATE DEBATE
The Great State Debate poses a simple question: Which state has the best high school basketball? We narrowed the field to six. SportsNation selected the final two from a group of six. In the eight team bracket, Michigan was crowned champion. MORE
California// California, Illinois boast impressive résumés
// Flores: Debate within a state
// Golden State advances to Round 2
// California edges past New Jersey
// Round 1: California vs. New Jersey
// Watch: California legends
Georgia// Georgia legends
// Winklejohn: SW Macon still remembered
Illinois// Michigan, Illinois vie for title
// Peoria, not Chicago, boasts best high school hoops
// California, Illinois boast impressive résumés
// Illinois advances in Round 1
// Bush: Pingatore sets high bar in Illinois
// Round 1: Kentucky vs. Illinois
// Watch: Illinois legends
Indiana// Indiana legends / Highlights
// Giuffra: Half man, half amazing // Indiana faces tough test in New York
// Indiana, Kentucky voted in
Kentucky// Bluegrass State eyes upset in Round 1 // Bluegrass legends // Indiana, Kentucky voted in
Michigan// Michigan crowned Greatest State
// Watch: Jemele Hill states her case for Michigan
// Michigan natives star in-state
// Michigan, Illinois vie for title
// Michigan takes a bite out of New York
// New York, Michigan clash in semifinals
// Flint's blue-collar mentality produces top-flight talent
// Michigan muscles out Pennsylvania
// Michigan meets Pennsylvania in first round
// Watch: Michigan highlights
New Jersey// Round 1: California vs. New Jersey
// Watch: New Jersey legends
New York// Why NYC is best place for high school hoops
// New York advances in Round 1
// Kitts: Dan Buckley Gym a treasure
// X's and O's with Jack Curran
// Indiana faces tough test in New York
// Watch: New York legends
North Carolina// North Carolina legends / Highlights
// From Worthy to today, North Carolina produces hoops prodigies
Pennsylvania// Philly gives Pennsylvania hoops its clout
// Michigan meets Pennsylvania in first round
Texas// Texas legends / Highlights
// Texas stakes its claim as basketball state
Virginia// Virginia legends / AI's two-sport beginnings
// Rapoport: Virginia is for ballers
BOYS' BASKETBALL RANKINGS
|Rank||School (City, State)||Rec|
|1||Oak Hill Academy|
Mouth of Wilson, VA
Jersey City, NJ
Flower Mound, TX
|See the full boys' basketball rankings »|