Before practice began on Monday afternoon, Madison boys basketball coach Damien Mobley took the ball from last weekend’s regional tournament and went to add it to the near-box with trophies in his crowded office.
Long rows of shelves behind Mobley’s desk have provided ample storage space over the years for the extensive collection of trophies, game balls, nets and jerseys that Mobley has collected as mementos during a career in football. coach. They represent district, regional and state championships that have been won by a program that is tied for the 12th most state tournament appearances in UIL history.
There’s only one problem as Madison prepares to play in this week’s state tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio. There is no more room, as Mobley had to squeeze the regional game ball into the last few inches of available space that could be found.
“I guess it’s a good thing to run out of space,” he said.
Madison is one of the most decorated programs in the state, having won four state championships and 12 trips to the state tournament. Players are reminded of this every day at practice, as state championship banners hang on a wall in Madison’s gymnasium and trophies are easy to see in Mobley’s office, which s opens on the basketball court.
“The tradition goes way back,” said Mobley, whose team is heading to the state for the third time in four years and the seventh time in 10 years. “They see this happening in front of them, and it gives them hope and aspirations for it to continue. Kids always talk about lore and past teams, and they always want to compare each team. They always ask me which team I think is the best. This always keeps the fire burning under each player. They want their own banner. They want to leave their own legacy.
It takes a championship pedigree to become a regular at state tournaments, and history shows the same Dallas-area teams make it to San Antonio year after year. Madison, Duncanville, Kimball, Mansfield Timberview and Oak Cliff Faith Family — five of the six local teams that will be in state this week — have combined for 16 state tournament appearances over the past four years.
All other local schools have combined for six state tournament appearances during this period.
“Kids who were younger saw the process and how things happened, and now they’ve grown up, and now it’s their turn. They’re following in the footsteps of the guys who came before them,” the coach said of Timberview, Duane Gregory, who has led his team four times in the past six years, winning titles in 2017 and 2019.
As a rookie, Jared Washington was a reserve on Timberview’s title team in 2019, but he learned from stars like CJ Smith (Texas A&M-Kingsville leading scorer) and Trazarien White (playing at UNC Wilmington) and is now the leading scorer for a program that’s 124-18 over the past four years. Five-star rookie Ron Holland averaged just 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds as a rookie on Duncanville’s talent-rich 2020 State Tournament team, but he upped his game playing alongside Jordan Brand All-American Micah Peavy (now at TCU), and Holland has become the No. 1 player in the state in the Class of 2023.
Madison, Duncanville, Kimball, Timberview, and Faith Family have all won a state championship in the past decade, and they’ve combined for 12 state titles in the past 15 years. When the Dallas area won state championships in UIL’s top four rankings in 2019, it was Duncanville (6A), Timberview (5A), Faith Family (4A) and Madison (3A) who accomplished the ‘feat.
These four teams returned to the state in 2020, when the tournament was canceled after semi-finals 1A and 3A due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years later, they are all back.
“I think it’s a testament to the Dallas area, especially the South End, and the caliber of talent that’s in that area,” Faith Family coach Brandon Thomas said. “But I also think it has something to do right now with the tradition of these programs. Duncanville had a tradition of winning for decades, as did Kimball, as well as Madison. No one can ignore the work Coach Gregory has done at Timberview.
“You talk about the same schools, but you also talk about the same head coach. The ability to retain coaches and keep good coaches in your program once they’ve started means a lot.
Timberview are the only Mansfield ISD men’s team to have won a state, and Gregory added that it takes “an innate sense of confidence and conviction. They know that if they play a certain way, defend a certain way and share the ball a certain way, they are capable of playing with anyone and beating anyone.
The Dallas-area powerhouses are well-equipped to make the playoffs deep as they are able to hone their skills against elite local competition on a regular basis. Nineteen local teams are ranked in the state’s top 20 in 6A and 5A, with 10 in the top 10. Of the state’s top 25 recruits in the Class of 2022, 15 are Dallas-area athletes .
Duncanville is trying to win its third straight 6A state title. The last school to win three consecutive state championships in UIL’s highest ranking was Houston Wheatley from 1968 to 1970, and that was when 4A was the highest ranking.
Kimball, last year’s runner-up in 5A, will make his 13th appearance at the state — tied for 10th in UIL history and one short shy of the Dallas-area record held by South Oak Cliff. Faith Family, a small charter school that was in 3A until 2017, is now the highest-ranked 4A team in the state and heading to the state for the fourth straight year.
“We’re kind of in a historic time for Dallas in terms of schools qualifying year after year, but we don’t take that for granted,” Thomas said. “We have a committed group of kids who don’t want to make the team so they don’t qualify for state. There really is an expectation here to win and be the last man standing.
“Our children know it, our families know it, our community knows it. It’s kind of ingrained in our program and in our DNA.
It helps to have superstar players, such as five-star McDonald’s All-Americans Anthony Black of Duncanville and Texas signee Arterio Morris of Kimball, Holland of Duncanville and four-star Mississippi signee TJ Caldwell of Faith Family. But it takes more than that, as Faith Family can attest after five-star Arkansas signee Jordan Walsh (now at Link Academy in Missouri) and three-star senior Trae Clayton (now at Kimball) left as as transfers in the last two years after their departure. were key contributors as freshmen on the 2019 state title team.
Their absence gave 6-7 junior forward Jadyn “JT” Toppin a chance to start, and he averaged 15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3 blocks for Faith Family. Black missed much of the season due to legal issues over his eligibility, despite returning for the regional tournament, but it gave players such as Ashton Hardaway, Aric Demings and Davion Sykes a chance. to shine for five-time state champion Duncanville, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN.
“It just shows you the caliber of talent that we have in the program and the next-man mentality that we have,” Thomas said. “Children come and go, children get hurt. We have extremely advanced programs here in this area. You never know who is waiting behind the scenes for that opportunity.
The Alamodome, which regularly drew between 10,000 and 14,000 fans for higher-ranking state championship games before the pandemic hit, is the biggest stage in high school basketball. But Dallas-area teams aren’t overwhelmed by this because they have so many athletes playing high-level AAU ball.
“Playing in the big arenas and playing on the big stage, these kids are used to that,” Thomas said. “If you’re playing the adidas Gauntlet or the Nike EYBL, or even some of the local events here, the competition is intense. It’s widely covered across the country now, so those kids aren’t caught off guard by the competition. attention that accompanies the state tournament.
Even teams from other sports can impact the local basketball landscape. South Oak Cliff’s run for the Class 5A Division II state title in football this fall has captivated the City of Dallas and the Madison basketball team.
“It showed how good Dallas is,” said Madison senior guard Pierre Hunter, who leads the state’s top-ranked 3A team with 16.9 points per game. “I feel like we’re the Mecca of everything right now. Everything is better here.”
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