By Michael Sudhalter
The Elkins High boys basketball team has a 16-1 record and captured the Fort Bend ISD Tournament for the first time in program history.
But the talented Knights team still has a long way to prove it’s among the best in school history.
“We’ve had some pretty good teams — 31-5 and 30-5 — we’ve yet to see where this one ranks,” said Albert Thomas, now in his 10th season of coaching the Knights.
While it’s impossible to predict Elkins’ future, it’s difficult to imagine a team enjoying a better start to the season.
Elkins won the Clear Creek Tournament and finished second in The Woodlands Tournament (a four-point loss to the host school in the title game) and catapulted from No. 8 to No. 1 in the Texas 5A State Rankings after edging Houston-Sam Houston, 83-81, in the FBISD Championship Game on Dec. 12.
Maxpreps.com has the Knights ranked second in the state and third nationally.
But Thomas and the Knights know that winning ultra-competitive 5A-23 will be a huge challenge in itself.
Both Bush and Marshall have excellent teams, and the district has depth beyond that,.
“We feel like we have a good chance to compete for a district championship,” Thomas said. “A lot of good teams in the district — several of them have their eye on the same goal.”
Elkins opens 5A-23 play against Santa Fe on Jan. 2.
The Knights are motivated to reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Last season, Elkins lost a 51-50 game to Beaumont Ozen in the second round of the playoffs.
They were shocked by the loss, and it stung even more that Ozen went on to reach the state championship game — where it lost to Lancaster.
Elkins returned 10 players from that team — each of whom worked hard during the offseason to help ensure a deeper playoff run.
“The players tend to feed off each other,” Thomas said.
Senior forward Ansu Sesay III said the team is full of unselfish players who are determined to compete for the same goal.
“We’ve got a nice team where we all share the ball,” Sesay said. “We all want each other to shine, and we’re trying to get the win.”
Sesay’s father, Ansu Jr, won a state title at Willowridge in 1994, before playing in the NBA and overseas.
“I enjoy the name recognition,” Sesay III said. “But I want to make a name for myself. It makes me want to work harder.”
Seniors Kenneth Busby and Chad Bowie are team captains for the Knights, and senior Bryce Terrell is a third-year varsity player.
Seniors Eddie Everyone, Noel Pinnock, Collier Thomas, Jonathan Griffin and Chandler Jacobs have been key leaders for an Elkins team that rotates seven starters.
Senior Tyrik Armstrong is the team’s floor general, and he said the team won’t get overconfident from its No. 1 ranking.
“We know it’s a number that can be taken from us, so we just keep working,” Armstrong said.