Nothing-but-net. String music. Downtown. Rip City. Holy jumpin’ up and down Martha.
Those are the words you’d have heard often in the late ’70s and early ’80s if you found yourself anywhere near a gym. Matter of fact, you weren’t likely to hear those words anywhere other than in a gym or out of the mouth of a basketballer. You may have heard of a few but not all. “String Music” was coined by Joe Dean, the late longtime radio voice of LSU. The other two were more geographically attached to playing basketball in the Northwest - my college basketball home. “Rip City” has long been associated with Portland Oregon and the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA. As for “Holy jumpin’ up and down Martha,” the phrase was created by Darrell Aune, longtime announcer for Oregon State University athletics. Regardless of origin, words like these will forever compel some of the best memories of my life.
Basketball is a great sport. Despite the absurdities that sometime define the NBA and the behaviors of a few wayward college coaches, basketball is both fun to play and watch. Unlike the NBA, where a long season is followed by what seems like an equally long playoff run, college basketball ends its season with one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve experienced, March Madness. There’s nothing like it for those of us who love the game. Of course, state playoffs for teams like Waxahachie and Life High Schools can be as exciting, especially when our hometown teams do well. Both teams have a strong, growing fans base and both gyms are plenty electric at game time.
Waxahachie is quickly becoming as much a basketball city as it is any other sport. Arguably, it may already be more known around the state for its basketball than anything else involving athletics. As you read this, both WHS and Life High School played in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Since we deliver our Sunday paper on Saturday with deadlines Friday evening, I write this without knowing the result of the games. Despite not being able to attend either game, I’m certain both were full of energy and attended by a frenzied, loud fanbase.
Heading in to the second round of the playoffs, Waxahachie’s record stood at 26-6 and Life’s at 28-9. Waxahachie finished second in its district with an 11-3 record, while Life won its district title with a 9-1 record. In the first round of the playoffs, the Indians won by 25 and the Mustangs by 32. Such gaudy stats would suggest both teams are well-suited to continue winning as the state playoffs progress. Both teams are loaded with talent fueled by extraordinary passion and quality leaders. Greg Gober at Waxahachie and Eddie Berumen at Life are not only top notch high school basketball coaches, they are top notch men, as well. No one then should be surprised at their on and off-court successes. The city, schools, players and fans of both teams are blessed by the difference these men continue making in the lives of those around them.
While playing the game in high school and college, the men who most made a difference in my life and its trajectory were my dad and my coaches. Prior to those years, Dad was my coach. There were teachers and professors who made an indelible impact, as well, but my interest was always basketball and, if given a choice to study or play, I played. Gym was home and its magnetism controlled much of my life in those important years. I remember every coach and still today find ways to remind them of how much they mean to me … especially my college coach, Jim Flint.
Coach Gober and Coach Berumen are no doubt enjoying the fruits of winning. More than that though, my guess is that both men cherish the relationships they’ve been blessed to have as a result of the game of basketball. Given the small percentage of players who make it to the highest level of the game, most are faced with the same challenges we all face in life. They stare down a job market in hopes of finding the kind of work they enjoy, they become husbands and dads and soon find what they learned from their coaches to be essential tools for managing life’s journey. Players will never forget the excitement, joy and memories of playing. Neither will they forget the greatness instilled in them at a time in life when the development of skills necessary to be equally successful off the court are being fine-tuned. It is in that development process where coaches become mentors and leaders and givers and friends of young men who happen to have enormous passion for a game called basketball.
These are exciting times for the boys’ basketball teams at Waxahachie and Life high schools. Both teams offer a city like ours just another means by which we can be proud and, in ways that I find special, allow Waxahachie to be known as a basketball city.
Above all, we should be grateful for two outstanding coaches who are shaping young men for uncommon, remarkable success in life.
Go Indians. Go Mustangs.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.