State tourney journal: it’s a family affair

Just returned from the state capital while attending my favorite sporting event, the UIL state high school basketball tournament.

It was my 38th consecutive final four and one of the most memorable.

Saw three outstanding state championship games and witnessed the highest scoring team in history, Houston Yates, rally in the final two minutes to secure its second straight crown in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a high school basketball game in the state of Texas.

But, more than the actual competition, what made it special was the people involved.

Now, I always run into a bevy of players and coaches I’ve either played against or written about and that’s always a blast, but this time it was different.

First off, my cousin Barkley LaGrone, who starred for Milano in the late 60s and played ball at Blinn and Lamar, made the trek to Austin for the first time since he was in high school.

He joined my state tournament partner Randy J. Morgan, who drove up from his new digs in Lake Charles to attend.

Randy J. and I have been going to the final four for years and he wouldn’t miss it no matter where he lives or how far he has to drive.

We met Randy’s son-in-law Eric Robinson and Randy’s 7-year old grandson Jayce there—his first state tournament.

We added a new member to the crew, but an old friend, former Tiger football star Leigh Shepard.

Leigh brought his son Shep along and despite the fact that he was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, he seemed to be a fine young man. It was Shep’s first state tournament as well.

We of course hooked up with my former partner in crime Danny Randall, his son Cameron, brother Scott and our favorite Jackson brother and former Wild Bunch member, Michael Jackson.

Michael’s nephew Mark Jackson of Taylor won the triple jump at the Nike Invitational in Boston on Saturday with a leap of 51-11.

Cameron, who is about to turn 21 (yikes!) and attends Sam Houston State, has been coming to the state tournament since he could lift his head up.

I miss the days when Cameron’s grandfather, Theo, would go with us.

During the break in sessions, we all feasted on $8 hamburgers at Sholtz’s because the elderly gentlemen who usually serve up the pork chop sandwiches that Randy J. and I crave, were nowhere to be found.

I bumped into an old friend I had not seen in a while, Olympic gold medalist high jumper Charles Austin. A nicer guy you will never meet in your life.

Charles now trains some of the top athletes in the world out of his “So High” training facility in San Marcos.

He still holds the world record in the high jump at 7-foot-10 1/2, which he set 15 years ago.

Took a break from the hardwood to go and visit someone who has meant a great deal to me in my life, George Breazeale, who had just had brain surgery and was recovering at Healthsouth.

Mr. Breazeale—the most influential high school sportswriter of all time and a Texas Sports Hall of Fame member— was doing fantastic and his recuperation was going smoothly. He was set to go home this week.

I hope my memory is as sharp as his when I’m 80 years old. Our visit was way too short.

While walking around the concourse of the Superdrum in awe of the $6 cokes and $4 hot dogs, I happened upon someone else who was a big part of my past—the former Texas Longhorn, New York Jet, Olympic star—Johnny Jones of Lampasas.

Johnny contracted a horrible disease four years ago—mylenoma cancer—but has made a miraculous recovery and is doing well.

Because of a loss of bone marrow, he’s shorter now and moves around rather gingerly with a cane, but he looks great.

Johnny and I share a birthday which is coming up here quickly.

He told me that he talks with former Rockdale standout Stanley Blinka quite often. They were teammates on the New York Jets.

He asked about my former teammates Ray Locklin and Odis Mack and told me to tell them hey for him.

We reminisced about how great the competition was back in the good old days.

During our conversation, when Johnny found out I had some family land in Milano with three tanks on it, his eyes lit up.

Seems Johnny has taken up fishing as his No.1 hobby these days and wets a hook quite often with his Lampasas friend and former Texas A&M lineman, Gary Milligan.

He gave me his phone number and made me promise him that I would call him the next time I went out there and we could go fishing together. That’s a done deal.

We hugged as we went our separate ways and I told him it was great that he was doing so well. He said he was grateful and knew he was fortunate to still be around.

For a lot of us old gym rats, the state tournament turns the Superdrum into one giant mancave where for three days out of the year, we can reminisce, tell lies about the glory days and spend time with family—our basketball family.

Historical

Speaking of family, congratulations goes out to Rockdale’s own Wade Jeffcoat who’s son C.J. was a large part of making sports history over the weekend.

C.J. was the leading scorer for the Cayuga basketball team on the season which won state in Class A and became just the fifth team (and the first in Class A) to win state in both football and basketball in the same year.

C.J., who scored 20 points a game and had 13 in the championship game against Bronte, is just a junior and will have a chance at a repeat next season.

The 5ive

Noticed the recently released UIL centennial basketball team, which was highly suspect (who is Phil Reynolds?) since it was made up mostly of recent players who had NBA careers, which has nothing to do with how good they were in high school. With that in mind, here’s five that could be considered the best (in no particular order):

1. Stanley Bonewitz, San Antonio East Central—In the 100-year history of the UIL, best performance at a state tournament—ever. In 1995, Bone had 42 points, 14 assists and eight steals in the state championship game against the No. 1 team in the country, Dallas Carter.

2. Ira Terrell, Dallas Roosevelt— I.T. had it all, inside and outside. Versus Goliath Houston Wheatley in the 1972 state semifinals, he scored 45 points and grabbed 30 rebounds en route to a state championship.

3. Karl Godine, Houston Kashmere—Was the best player on what could be arguably the best team ever assembled in the state of Texas. Kashmere won 83 straight from 1974-76.

4. Lynn Royal, Hughes Springs—Scored 2,457 points and collected 2,037 rebounds from 1971-73 for state champions. His rebounding number is still a record.

5. Terry Teagle, Broaddus— Played in the state tournament as a freshman and led the Bulldogs to back-to-back titles in 1976-77. Is still Baylor’s all-time leading scorer.


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