Willowridge to honor 1994 basketball state champs
By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Willowridge High School will honor the 1994 boys’ basketball state championship team at its Wall of Honor banquet on Sept. 17 at the Power Center.
The Wall of Honor was organized in 2006 to honor persons whose contributions enriched the high school’s academic and athletic programs. In addition to the basketball team, the new inductees, the “Fab Five,” are: Karen Colbert (1982), Regina Gardner (1984), Laquitta Sarah DeMerchant (1992), Shalita Bundage (1992) and David Brian Long (1994).
The 1994 basketball team was the first Willowridge basketball team to win a state championship, beating Plano East 50-44 in the championship game, and ending the season with a 38-1 record.
“We had one blemish on our record, and not to make excuses, there were extenuating circumstances around that loss,” Coach Gary Nichols said. “We were playing in a holiday tournament in Fort Worth and because of UIL rules we could not travel until the morning of our game. We left here at 5 a.m. and arrived shortly before our game began. We played like we were still asleep.”
Coach Nichols grew up in Flint, Mich. While a senior at Northwestern High School, his team beat Lansing Everett High School which featured a sophomore named Magic Johnson. Nichols attended Albion College where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track. In basketball, Nichols was first team All-MIAA in 1980 and is currently ranked number 7 on the all-time season scoring average records with 18.2 points per game.
Since graduating, Nichols has been a high school basketball coach in Texas and while at Willowridge was named Texas Coach of the Year in 1994.
In 1994, Nichols essentially had two starting lineups.
“Our practices were very competitive,” Nichols said. “The second team called themselves the Hit Squad, because when they went into the game they would knock out the other team. During a game when I thought it was time for the Hit Squad, I would just turn to assistant coach Mike Randall and nod, and he would yell ‘HIT’. The second team would jump up off the bench and enter the game.”
“That team had some great players. Ansu Sesay was our left-handed post player and leading scorer with about 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. We averaged around 88 points per game so everyone was involved in the scoring. He was elected MVP of the state tournament. Sesay went on to Ole Miss where he was SEC player of the year his senior year,” Nichols said.
“Leland Redmond was our point guard for three years. Paco was a pure point guard and made great decisions and no turnovers. He went on to play at Drexel University and Texas Southern,” Nichols said. “Jason Williams, J Dub, was our talker. He talked constantly, in practice, in games and on the bus. The only time he was quiet was during one game when he bit his tongue and it was too painful to talk. He played for Tubby Smith at Tulsa.”
“Louis Brown, Big Lou, was our enforcer. He was 6-4 and mean. He didn’t talk much but when he did, everyone listened,” Nichols said.
“Schun Wells was a very athletic jumper. King Whitstone was our backup point guard who would have started on any other team. He went on to play at Prairie View. Carlos Grace was our best defensive guard and a good three-point shooter. Andre Chertien was a 6-6 forward that played well under the basket. Kenyada Parker had a big block for us in the state championship game along with making some important free throws,” Nichols said. “I didn’t mean to leave anyone out, but I probably did.”
Nichols is currently the head basketball coach at Marshall High School. More information on the Willowridge Wall of Honor is available at www.whswallofhonor.com.