Denton Guyer’s Grayson Carter, an athletic 6-foot-10 forward, took the ball at the top of the key, spotted up from a few feet behind the 3-point line and buried his team’s first basket of the game.
It was all Guyer from that point on, as the No. 1 6A team in Texas dominated the visiting Plano West Wolves 87-45 on Friday night. The victory marked the Wildcats’ 25th win in 26 games, with their lone loss coming back in December against Waxahachie, the top Class 5A team in the state.
Coach Grant Long’s squad has almost everything an elite high school basketball team needs. All three members of the starting frontcourt are 6-foot-8 or taller, and they all have the skill and athleticism to match. Energetic two-way guards fill out the backcourt. All five can dunk.
And after a shocking first-round loss to Euless Trinity in the Class 6A state playoffs last season, this group has all the motivation it needs.
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Guyer isn’t just the top-ranked teams in Texas, it’s one of the top-ranked teams in the country, and the Wildcats are joined by four other Metroplex teams getting national recognition this season.
The Wildcats hold the top spot on MaxPreps.com’s computer rankings (based on wins, losses and strength of schedule), and are 14th on the site’s human poll. In USA Today’s Super 25 rankings, Guyer is ranked No. 3 in the computer poll and No. 22 in the experts poll.
No. 7 Waxahachie, No. 13 Allen, No. 26 South Garland and No. 28 Mansfield Timberview join Guyer in the MaxPrep’s computer rankings.
“We’re very proud of the tradition we’ve built here, because a lot of guys have come through to get it where it is,” Long said. “These guys have put in a lot of work coming into basketball camps (starting) in third, fourth and fifth grade and it’s really been built up from there. We like the recognition for our high school and for our boys.”
The Wildcats haven’t dominated the competition, but they’ve still notched victories over nearly all of the top teams across Texas, including Waxahachie (77-71), Allen (82-75), Austin Westlake (70-43), South Garland (98-91), and Mansfield Timberview (87-76).
“The great competition we’ve played against has brought out the best in us,” said Guyer junior guard De’Vion Harmon. “We don’t don’t want to win games against mediocre competition, because anybody can win those games. In order to be the best you have to beat the best. It’s an old slogan, but it’s still true.”
Duane Gregory, coach of defending 5A champion Timberview, said his team refuses to be complacent or look too far down the road.
“They really do focus on one game at a time, and whenever I say something about not looking too far ahead, they usually cut me off and say ‘Coach, we know,’” Gregory said.
A few programs such as Lancaster and Westlake went out of state early for national tournaments or games. But winning a state championship has traditionally been the pinnacle of success for teams in Texas.
There are larger prizes out there, though. In recent years, powerhouse programs such as Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. and Montverde (Fla.) Academy have competed in postseason tournaments.
But unless the UIL allows for an exception to its rules, it’s unlikely that a team from Texas, even one as skilled as Guyer, could accept an invite to an out-of-state postseason tournament.
“That would be great and I’m sure we’d do great,” Harmon said. “But until then, we need to focus on the goal right now, and that’s to be playing on March 8th and 9th in San Antonio.”
Long also said that while the UIL rules are “above his pay-grade,” he knows that his team would jump at the opportunity to compete on a national stage if an invitation did present itself in late March.
“I made the schedule this year the toughest I possibly could and this is a group of guys that isn’t afraid to compete against anybody,” Long said. “They want to compete against the best and anything less, they aren’t happy with.”