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Washington's Chris McDermott
There are so many sides to every story.
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.”
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.”
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 the year before. 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.”
HOUSTON - Standing in the back of the endzone of AT&T Stadium in December of 2018, North Shore's Dematrius Davis hurled a Hail Mary pass into the endzone. Ajani Carter went up and came down with the football with Shadrach Banks draped over his shoulders.
North Shore had just won the Class 6A Division I State Championship on a Hail Mary.
Then, there was Matthew Boling's amazing run to the UIL State Track & Field Meet in May of 2019. Boling smashed records in the long jump, 100-meter dash and ran one of the most historic final legs of the 4x400-meter relay.
Last June, there was Lake Creek softball. To go undefeated in softball is an amazing feat. Ava Brown was untouchable. Lake Creek was unstoppable. Their lineup mimicked that of the Houston Astros. Just strong top to bottom. Watching them complete the undefeated season was unforgettable.
Watching the track dynasty that has been created at Fort Bend Marshall by Lloyd Banks and company. The Buffs boys and girls teams are rolling. So is Summer Creek as back-to-back state champs.
These are the memories that I will cherish and walk away with as my time at VYPE comes to a close after 5 1/2 years. What a pleasure it has been to cover High School sports in the city of Houston.
Houston became my home in 2014.
I have covered HS sports in some form since then and now I am seeing some of the players I covered (Shelby McGlaun of Atascocita) coming back as coaches or getting their jerseys retired by their high school (Kenyon Green).
The countless State Championships I have gone and covered have been amazing. The chance to watch these kids and coaches fulfill their dreams is something you can't match. The tears of joy. The hoisting of that trophy and the ceremonial ice water bath.
The players I have seen and covered.
Some that come to mind are Charli Collier (Barbers Hill), Carsen Edwards (Atascocita), Dematrius Davis, Shadrach Banks and Zach Evans (North Shore), Rori Harmon and Kyndall Hunter (Cypress Creek), Austin Benigni (TWCA), Sophia Simpson (Barbers Hill), Aly Batenhorst (Seven Lakes), Devon Achane (FB Marshall) and so many others.
The coaches and Athletic Directors I have gotten to work with have been amazing.
So, those are just some of the memories. But it is time to close this chapter and move on to the next one in my life.
I can't thank Matt Malatesta enough for giving me the opportunity to join VYPE nearly 6 years ago. What I have learned from him is more than just about writing. It is about life and having fun in what you are doing. Building relationships and being the best at what you do. We have worked side-by-side for the past 5 1/2 years, created over 100 magazines together and enjoyed many lunches and coffees. I know that I wouldn't be who I am today without him as he has let me flourish and grow into a leadership position.
Mattie Ice, thanks for everything.
Also, thanks to Derek Dusek, Shane Hildreth, Justin Bull and the entire VYPE Management team for all they've done. Then to the people I've gotten to work with at VYPE - Dennis Silva II, Bradley Collier, Danie Tiller, Justin Hartojo, Carrie Friess, Matthew Reese, Thomas Bingham, Jackson DiPasquale, Cameron Driskill, Shana Willeford, Joshua Waclawczyk and so many many more - you have been great.
All I can say is thank you!
Since I was in middle school, I had dreamed about becoming a sports writer. I got to do that for the past 12 years since I walked into the doors of the Daily Toreador at Texas Tech and met Adam Coleman, who now works for The Athletic, and he gave me my first shot.
I have poured my heart and soul into VYPE and I expect them to flourish and continue to grow as the years move on. I will enjoy watching it happen.
So, after thousands and thousands of words. My final two for VYPE are these.