It wasn't too long ago that Fort Worth Trimble Tech had a hard time convincing even the players' parents to show up for basketball games.
Bulldogs hoops was a hard sell for a school known more for academics and enjoyed only sporadic seasons of success between long stretches of irrelevancy.
"A lot of the alumni were almost ashamed to say that they graduated from Tech," boys basketball coach Wendell Ivory said. "But now when I look in the stands I see people with the old Trimble Tech jackets, the kelly green Tech jackets with the dirty double T. When I first showed up here we barely had parents at the games, now we have a nice little following. It's really been night and day."
Trimble Tech, ranked No. 6 in the Texas coaches' Class 4A state poll, moved to 9-0 in District 6-4A after defeating No. 15 Fort Worth Arlington Heights, 64-61 Friday night in their showdown for first place.
The boys aren't the only ones putting the bite back in the Bulldogs' tradition as the girls team is also undefeated in 6-4A at 11-0 after a 37-27 win over the Lady Yellow Jackets prior to the boys game.
"The more and more that we're winning I'm hearing from people who aren't even from Fort Worth that Tech used to be nonexistent on the girls basketball side," girls coach Melanie Lane said.
Neither program has won a district title in more than a decade but could sweep basketball in Fort Worth this year with a strong finish.
Ivory, who won his 100th game at Tech on Nov. 25 against God's Academy in the Coca-Cola Shootout, has his eyes on a bigger prize. He said a district championship would be just one step on the way to realizing his staff's vision when they started at Tech six years ago.
"We wanted to bring a solid basketball program to go with the academics that the school was already offering," Ivory said. "We knew if we did that, we would get a better student-athlete -- kids with parents that believe in academics but also wanted their kids to learn something basketball-wise. When we first started we agreed that we wanted this program to be a high school version of Duke or Georgetown, with good academics as well as solid basketball."
Trimble Tech is a unique high school in the Fort Worth school district because it has no feeder middle schools. To be admitted, students must apply, which includes a written essay.
According to Fort Worth ISD's website, admission is "based on a computer generated random selection process with preference given to students who live in the school's attendance zone and to those who have siblings enrolled at Tech for the upcoming school year."
Tech's academic prowess is a double-edged sword as Ivory and Lane know that they will have a driven student-athlete to mold and are at a school that can offer more than a generic academic curriculum. Their reality is also dealing with block scheduling, which has limited athletic periods this school year.
"I only see my whole team every other day in athletic period, where other schools see their entire team every day in athletic period. We don't because of our majors," Lane said.
"It makes it 10 times harder to get that cohesiveness because of our majors here. Academics come first here, so it puts a lot more responsibility on the kids to work on their game outside of school."
The school's curriculum is based largely on 22 "career preparation pathways" that supply students with the skills, knowledge and connections to hit the ground running upon graduation -- whether it be on a college campus or in the work force. All of this, in addition to athletics, takes up a lot of time.
"I came here because of the basketball program," senior guard Charles Hill said.
"But at the same time they have the majors and academics, so it's a win-win situation. I like block scheduling because with the classes being an hour and a half you get more attention from the teacher and less homework."
Ivory and Lane have transformed forgotten programs into legitimate 6-4A contenders because they realized Trimble Tech's academic prowess should be a positive factor rather than a crutch or excuse for losing.
They have also given Bulldogs fans some long needed bragging rights on the hardwood.
"There wasn't much [of a program] here before we got here," senior guard Tierra Warren said. "It makes me feel good about myself for making Trimble Tech known for basketball."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760