Friday, May 28, 2010



Written by: Astro Mike Ganis aka Mike In DA
Date Posted: 5/28/2010

This coming Saturday morning (May 29), Yates High School will be holding its graduation ceremony at Texas Southern University’s H&PE Arena. It will be my last chance to see the graduating seniors of the Yates Lions basketball team who posted a 96-4 record over the last three seasons, including two consecutive state championships and a mythical national championship. (Maybe I'll be around for the 20 -year team reunion, but that's unlikely.)

Except for Ralph Cooper and Craig Shelton, until Yates’ infamous 170-35 blowout of Lee High School on January 5 of this year, no mention of what was going on at the Third Ward school located on Sampson between Cleburne and Alabama over the last two seasons had ever made the local radio airwaves.

The story here is that Yates is a truly great team. Besides going 68-1 over the last two seasons with two state championships and this past season’s number one national ranking, this year’s team eclipsed the all-time high school scoring average, by averaging over 116 points per game and winning games by an average 50 point margin.

They were knocked by local sports talkers as being bullies in that they ran up scores by winning games by anywhere between 50 and 135 points vs. the weakest of opposition in their 4-A division. Remember that they have no choice but to play these games. As with most serious athletic teams, these kids each had three goals: (1) winning; (2) getting ready for the post-season; and (3) earning/winning a college scholarship. Of their sixteen players, twelve are seniors (including the five starters and seven who came off the bench), three are juniors, and one is a sophomore.

We continually heard comments that blowing teams out or breaking records is poor sportsmanship. In other words, sports talkers were telling these kids not to blow teams out. I don’t remember sports talkers telling Katy HS football teams or Bellaire HS baseball teams not to blow opponents out. How about the UCONN women’s basketball team and so on and so forth.

By getting blown out, kids learn that sometimes their best isn't as good as the next guy’s. You can either shake his hand and move on, or practice and get better. I would rather you play your best and beat me, than just sit around messing with me, so that I can stay closer, when everyone in the stands knows what is going on. There is no pride in that. At that point, what is the reason to even play the game, if one team really isn't giving their 100 percent.

Yates killed teams doing exactly what they do best. No one stopped what they did all year long. They were so good at what they did because they believed in Coach Greg Wise’s system and devoted all their practice time to it. There were those who gave the silly argument that they should work on other things when they’re up big. Like what?

Who tells Phil Jackson not to run his offense with his bench when the Lakers are up by 20? When Katy puts their scrubs in, who tells them not to run the plays that they practiced?

It is in the best interest of a team to practice what leads to their success. Three seasons ago in the Region III Finals, Yates let up with a 9-point lead in the last minute and lost to Wheatley HS in double overtime and they blew a chance to win the state championship. Yates came into the game ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 nationally in USA Today’s Super 25. Armed with an impressive résumé that included wins over national powers Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), many around the area thought that the Lions would cruise out of Region III to Austin en route to a state championship. Most of the nearly 5,000 fans in attendance that day probably thought the same with a minute left in the game, as Yates led, 64-55. But Wheatley closed out regulation on a 9-0 run and outlasted the Lions in the second overtime to start its trip down U.S. Highway 290.

Then last year in a regular season game vs. Elsik HS, Yates let up and it cost them in a 78-76 loss. It cost them an undefeated season, which when added to this year’s undefeated season would have given them a 69-game winning streak rather than the current 58 straight wins. After the Elsik loss, Coach Wise said that his team would never let up again.
The lesson here is give your all every second, because in situations where you ease up it can cost you. The Lions learned this firsthand as mentioned above. Do you know how hard it is to get kids disciplined enough to keep playing hard when a game is over? We've watched plenty of games where players get out to a lead, relax, and then end up losing. We always give props to players that go all out until the buzzer sounds because that's the way the game should be played.

Yet our local sports talkers ragged on these these kids for it? Why did they ask Yates players to do things they typically didn’t ask of others? There were 12 seniors on this year’s team and each kid was trying to earn a college scholarship. You don't get a college scholarship by just practicing hard. You shouldn’t tell the bench players to not play their hardest just because the other team is terrible, especially when college scouts are at the game .

And what about the Yates lower classmen like Clyde Santee (pictured) and Trey Dickerson, who need to get ready to take over when the seniors are gone. How would you like it if your kid was looking for a college scholarship and some sports talker said your kid should ease up and freeze the ball when he finally got in the game, just because the other team is much less talented than yours?

Bench players practice hard just like the starters do. When they get a chance to play, they have earned the right to give it their all and execute like they did in practice. Can you imagine a kid thinking to himself, “Why am I going to spend all summer doing wind sprints in 90 degree weather when I will get in the game and just stall and freeze the ball?”

I’m no athlete, but my parents never told me to not finish at the top of my class, so that lesser students won't feel so bad. Kids get athletic scholarships just like I got an academic one.

What really upsets me about this whole story is that Yates had arguably been the best team in the country for a three-year period, and they rarely got any local radio coverage until it was something negative. If Katy or Bellaire High Schools were the best team in the country for a three-year period, the local sports talkers would be all over those kids by praising them, but since it was a bunch of kids from the Third Ward, as SportsRadio610’s Josh Innes once told me, “Nobody cares.”

And whether or not the 2010-11 Yates team will continue the winning streak, remains to be seen, but if they do, the sports talkers will be in their corner this time.

And it would have been nice if one or more of the sports talk stations would have shown up at the Yates victory parade in the Third Ward area on Saturday, April 10. Unless they were disguised as invisible vans, there was no sighting of any of them.

Astro Mike Ganis aka Mike In DA

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