Hoop Dreams and GPAs

By Judy Muller

R I C H M O N D, Calif., Jan. 11 — The Richmond High School Oilers, with their 13 – 0 record, have their first ever shot at a championship. But last week, coach Ken Carter locked his players out, canceling practice and Friday’s game. Most players were stunned.

“ I was, like, ‘How could he?’ Because we’re doing so wonderful now,” recalls senior player Chris Gibson. “We’re undefeated, the best start in years that Richmond High has had.”

They may be undefeated, but not all the players are doing well academically. At least a dozen received bad reports from teachers about slipping grades.

“I think that a lot of kids when they get a lot of attention and they think that they’re stars, and people start treating them as superstars, that they forget about what they’re really here for, and that is to be a student,” cautions principal Haidee Foust-Whitmore.

Coach Ken Carter took the controversial step of ordering all the players to report to the library instead of the gym until their performance improved. He also brought in a panel of basketball professionals to back up his point.

“Basketball, young man, you’ll probably play three, four years, 10 years, if you’re lucky. But your education, young man, you’re going to use a lifetime,” Carter told the assembly.

Few coaches have such high standards. While the district only requires 2.0 grade point average to play sports, Carter requires a 2.3. By benching all 45 players, he hopes they’ll learn something about working as a team.

A Different Kind of Assist

“Some kids are doing extremely well in school. And so they said, ‘Well, you’re punishing me, and I didn’t do anything wrong,’”recalls Carter. He replied, “Well, we’ve won 13 basketball games. Did you score every point?”

His remarks obviously made an impact.

Now, the better students are now tutoring the weaker ones. They all have one motive — to get back to the game.

It’s the main thing that’s pushing me,” says senior player Wayne OIiver. “If I didn’t have basketball, there’s no telling what I’d be doing.”

Late today, Carter decided to let players resume their game schedule after teachers reported some improvement. Meanwhile, he hopes these young men will set a new standard for winning, one that will transcend the hoop dreams of high school.

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