Defending the throne


Ymani Wince, Editor-in-Chief

Jordon Granger is comfortable. The 6-foot-8 senior is seated, waiting for the other players to arrive for a post-state championship interview. It’s ironic he’s wearing an Auburn shirt just days after winning a state championship. He chats with fellow senior Byron Ray, or “B-Ray,” as he’s most commonly called.

Tremayne Garrett sits quietly, tapping his leg.“How long is this going to take?” he asks anxiously. “I’m trying to get back to class, we’re watching The Social Network.” Still, they sit, waiting.

“Where’s Latron?” Jordon asks.

Soon, Latron Thomas, Galen Brown, Jacari Finley and Keith Jones arrive to room 1125.

“They’ve got the whole team,” someone says.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” jokes Keith Jones. “I had to hear it through the grapevine!”Almost all the senior players are here, excluding Zach Taylor and Damon Clemons, who’s taking a test.

Judging by their demeanor, the seven varsity basketball players aren’t behaving like a team that won a second state championship not even a week before this interview. Instead, they’re simply being themselves. It’s the bond they share that makes it so effortless for them all to get along so well. It’s a bond that’s been seen time and time again, leading to a record of 57-5 in the past two years.

“We’re close,” Latron says. The guys all nod in agreement. Earlier in the season, Byron stated in an interview with Star News that at first, the team didn’t know how to play with each other. However, through practicing, they figured it out.

Many critics believed the Stars would not return to Mizzou Arena for another state championship title. This pushed the team harder than ever to prove the naysayers wrong. It wasn’t that people believed there wasn’t enough talent for another state win, it was that they believed the Stars had lost something in graduated standout B.J. Young.

“Remember I told ya’ll not to cry last year, because we were going to win another championship?” Tremayne says to the others. They all agree, which instantly sparks conversation about last year’s win.

“We wanted to do this on our own, without B.J.,” Jordon said. He explains how important it was to the team that they win state again, on their own terms. He says they wanted to prove that winning was not all about individual players; the guys cheer on whoever is playing well and stepping up during each game.

“We play anybody who’s hot that game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s me, B-Ray, Galen, Tremayne or LaTron. If you’re hot, you’re hot!” They laugh.

“This year, it just felt more special,” Byron says about winning state.

“It just felt better,” Tremayne added. “We did it ourselves.”

They’re all relaxed, but not arrogant about their accomplishments. By all means, this group of athletes are far from average. At 6’8”, Jordon will attend Auburn University in Alabama in the fall. Keith’s going to the University of Tennessee-Martin for football, while Galen will attend Hutchinson Community College in Kansas for football. Everyone else says they are still undecided.

Amazingly, the team doesn’t seem too worried about the fact that they will never all be on the same team again. They’ll take the memories they’ve shared and grow individually.

“Nothing is going to change,” Byron says.

“It’ll be different,” Jordon interrupts, looking at him. Byron pauses.

“It’ll be different. But in college, even if we play against each other, [we’re] still going to be the same; trying our best, going hard,” he responds.

The guys realize that with less than two months until graduation, they have all grown together, despite amazing triumphs and upsetting lows.

“The journey was rough,” Tremayne says, as they all listen. “[the future] won’t be the same, it will be different. But, I can always say, these are my guys.”

The interview ends with the players laughing and reminiscing past games and post game fun. Then they all file out, almost like they’re in formation. It’s the same routine they’ve done for all their games; they’re running onto the court, one last time.

Minutes later, Damon Clemons walks in. Like on the court, he appears from almost nowhere. He’s the secret weapon. Although he’s quiet, Damon has plenty of pride. His state medal is around his neck, and 2011 ring on his left hand.

He says he’s “grateful” for the time he’s spent playing basketball for North. The memories are rewarding.

“[North players] always have talent,” he said. “Coach Reed develops that talent…he’s a player’s coach.”

More than winning games and being recognized, Damon feels a strong sense of school pride.

“I feel as though I’ve been a part of something,” he smiles.

Undoubtedly, the past two years of North basketball have been special. With only five total games lost, 57 wins, and two consecutive state championships won, there’s no question of “where my North Stars at.”

They’re right here.