By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Almost all the players on this year's team, including all five starters, are seniors, and the players have been at Yates for each of Wise's three years. And each of the graduating players, Wise says, will play basketball in college.
"Whether it's junior college, we'll get everybody in," he says.
Brandon Peters has already committed to Western Kentucky, Joseph Young plans on Providence College in Rhode Island and point guard Darius Gardner is headed to Stephen F. Austin. Senior guard Greg Watts, the salutatorian at Yates, is going to the University of Texas on a full academic scholarship.
"If I feel like you're not going to go and represent well, which means I can't go back to that coach and say, 'Take this kid,' then there will be someone that doesn't go. But this year, we'll get in everybody," Wise says. "It took two years to get the kids to be doing what they do now, so to tell them to turn it on and turn it off, that's almost impossible."
The week after Yates beat Lee 170-35, the school district's athletic director, Daryl Wade, met with the coaches from both schools to make sure the second game between the schools was uneventful.
So at the end of January, when the two schools played again, the players met in the middle of the court before the game to exchange T-shirts. It was clear that Wise pulled back his players near the end of the game, but Yates still won by 99 points. As the clock wound down, Yates held the ball as its fans yelled for someone to score. They wanted to win by 100.
"During district, we could've put up 200 easy. Like a lot of games," Wise says. "I work hard at what I do, and it was more of a strain on me to keep [the score] down than it was just to play like we play. Our system doesn't really allow you to relax, because we try to be relentless on both ends."
Yates continued to put up big scores and win by a lot of points, but apart from the furor after the first Lee game, the heavy criticism died down. And more people from around the Third Ward and Houston jumped on the Yates bandwagon.
"You look at the amount of people that are showing up to the games, and that would be surprising to anybody," Wise says. "You look at what's going on now, it's almost like another way of God doing his work. There are a whole lot of successful people that have graduated from Yates, but there are also some people that aren't doing so well, and they're coming to the games and seeing people they haven't seen in a long time. That's just another way this team is being used to bring the whole community together."
Then came Rick Reilly.
Reilly is a longtime sportswriter for national magazines, and by his own account, he has published more than one million words. He started writing for Sports Illustrated in 1985 and later moved to ESPN The Magazine. In March, about the time Yates was getting ready to leave for the state tournament, Reilly wrote his last column for ESPN and titled it, "Someone stop this man." He was referring to Wise.
"For starters, I'd like to see [Wise] dipped in seal butter and dropped in a polar bear's cage," Reilly wrote.
He added that he'd like to clock Wise and see him spend a day as a speed bump in the parking lot of Lee High School. Reilly even blamed a fight after a game between Yates and Booker T. Washington High School — shots were fired and two Yates students were arrested — on the lopsided score.
Reilly didn't talk to Wise for the column, but he did get in touch with Jacques Armant, the head coach at Lee. Armant was quoted: "These are tough kids from a tough part of town. Beatings like this can turn out to be real dangerous."
"32 minutes of hell." — Yates's self-proclaimed style of play
The day before the team left for Austin, Mumphery was finalizing travel plans, stressing to staff that the team hotel needed to be kept secret.
"I don't want any little girls showing up at that hotel," Mumphery said.
The Yates team was used to traveling like rock stars and playing in front of crowds that many college teams would kill for. During the team's regional semifinal game, for example, played at the Merrell Center in Katy, the arena reached capacity — about 5,600 — before the game started. The Yates fans who couldn't get in stood outside of the complex with their faces pressed against glass windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the game.
After Yates beat the North Texas high school The Colony 106-76, more than 16,700 fans showed up on Saturday to see the team play Lancaster for the state championship. It was the most people ever to watch a state championship basketball game. Governor Rick Perry watched from a courtside seat, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee sat behind the Yates bench for the entire game.