By Roland Shaw
For the Fort Bend Star
On March 9, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) recognized the 25th anniversary of the Fort Bend Independent School District’s Willowridge Eagles winning the boys 5A state basketball championship in 1994.
The recognition ceremony was held at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The UIL honors the state champion in each division upon the 25th anniversary of their winning during half-time of the divisional championship game. UIL boys basketball only had five divisions in 1994 (1A-5A). They have added a new division (6A) to accommodate and reflect the growing size of high schools in Texas.
The team was recognized and Coach Gary Nichols was singled out for his many contributions to boys’ basketball not only in FBISD, but at the local and state levels. Nichols began his head-coaching career at Willowridge in 1988. Nichols left Willowridge in 1995 after winning the state championship to open Fort Bend Austin. He stayed there three years before moving on to coach North Shore in 1998. When he was hired to coach Fort Bend Marshall High school in 2002, he was a 21-year coaching veteran with 14 years of experience at the top.
Leland “Paco” Redmond, captain of the Willowridge championship team, spoke about the impact Nichols had on his life and the lives of his team mates.
“Coach Nic was a leader of thousands of young men for several decades,” Redmond said. “He demanded loyalty and hard work from the guys in his program. He instilled those values in us at Willowridge and those values still live within us today. And now, as parents of young men and women, we try and instill those same values of loyalty and hard work in our children.” Redmond went on to say that, “for me, Coach Nic’s lasting legacy is that hard work, dedication and commitment will create a foundation of success for anyone. We are all better men today for having played for a coach like Gary Nichols.”
The championship was the first of three titles won by Willowridge. The others were in 2000 and 2001.