Booker T. Washington has the city of Houston on a string right now. The Eagles are the biggest story in Hoopston from the barbershops to the blogs.
The legendary BTW has never been to State in the modern UIL era and now they are in the Class 4A Final Four, facing Boerne High School Friday at 3 pm.
The community has enveloped this team with love – loud crowds cheering from the middle of their chest.
“Teams from HISD feed off the crowd,” RCS founder Jim Hicks said. “If Booker T. fans are a presence, they will affect the game. They are going to need that support when things don’t go their way during the game.”
The Eagles are just the most recent HISD school to take the inner city by storm. Of course, Jack Yates has been a super-power, but don’t forget about the likes of Sam Houston (Kendric Davis), Milby, Jones (no longer open), Chavez, Waltrip, Wheatley and Madison. Don’t forget big-school Bellaire. Furr had a breakout season as well in 2023, reaching the Regional Semis.
“It’s nothing we aren’t used to,” HISD athletic director Andre Walker said. “We have done this many times before in HISD, but it’s just been different teams. Now it’s Booker T. Washington’s turn. The district really feeds off what basketball is doing right now, and I hope to be making this drive to State in a few months with soccer.”
“The basketball is round, right?” Hicks said. “Well, what goes around, comes around. This is HISD basketball.”
So, how did Booker T. Washington find itself on the cusp of a State Title?
“Kids feel special here,” Walker said, whose son, Andre, is a starting guard on the team. “I’ve seen coach Vincent Grayson develop over the years under Fred Smith at Waltrip and Clarence Stubblefield here at Booker T. He has learned from his mentors the things that matter outside of the Xs and Os. He has built a family atmosphere and basketball community here.”
As the game of high school basketball has become so much about player movement, it’s also benefitted the Eagles. Walker (6 assists per game) started his career at Summer Creek High School and Odis Carter (18 points per game) and Kenneth Lewis (20 points per game) were at CE King High School before enrolling at Washington two years back.
“There is a dynamic of transfers in high school basketball all over the country, and that is just the way it is,” Hicks said. “Damyean Dotson won State with Yates after transferring from Madison. There are so many cases. HISD is an open district, which helps. In this business, you have to find the right fit for your game.”
One of the biggest turnarounds this season was Clear Falls, whose star Orlando Horton Jr. (23 points per game) transferred to Houston Christian and then back to the Knights for his senior year. They made the Regional Finals.
It’s just the nature of the business, and for BTW, business has been good. It’s not necessarily where you start, but where you finish.
“Booker T. can win the whole thing,” Hicks said. “This is not a deep team, but they play well together. If Chris McDermott can get the rebounds, Kenneth Walker (Prairie View A&M-signee) stays out of foul trouble and the lights aren’t too bright for them… they can win it. The difference-maker? Andre Walker. He looks like a brand-new man and is playing really well.
Keep in mind, The Eagles have been in big games.
BTW is the only team to have beaten super-power Beaumont United this season. They beat Dawson in the VYPE Holiday Invitational Title Game. Knocking off Yates in the playoffs was a test. Beating Silsbee was a huge challenge. Now, they are where no other BTW team has been before… the State Final Four.
“The 100-watt light bulbs are the same for everyone at State,” Hicks said. “Will they be too bright? We will see.”