Earlier in the spring, the Wharton Runnin’ Tigers basketball team had their season end in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs. While that loss was tough to take, the Runnin’ Tigers turned heads along the way and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches awarded them with two top honors in March.
Second-year Runnin’ Tigers coach Calvin King was named the Don Coleman 4A Region 4 Outstanding Coach of the Year.
First-year varsity player and junior point guard Fred Jones was named to the 4A Region 4 All-Region team. Jones is one of 20 players in Region 4, which consists of 55 schools.
King, who's in his second year as a head coach, didn't believe a friend when they told him he had won the award. After going to the website he was able to find his name and actually verify he had earned it.
"I was proud and it was a good team award. It shows that we're getting recognized as a program," King said. "People are starting to take notice of what we're doing. Wharton has had a long tradition of excellent hoops play and we're hoping to build on that. We're looking to do things we haven't done by making it to that state championship round. Coach (Matt) Brown took us to the region finals. Coach (Seth) Due went to the regional finals. It's definitely a basketball town and it's really important to the kids and the community. We're trying to take that next step and get to that place we haven't been before."
Wharton was a top 20 during the year until back-to-back district losses to Fulshear and Stafford. However, Wharton won three straight must-win games to give them a shot against Stafford, which made the state tournament, losing by one point. Wharton's run included beating Brookshire Royal in a play-in game. In their bi-district matchup, the Runnin’ Tigers beat Navasota, which was the first-place team in District 26. They also beat Taylor, which was a top 20 team in the state in the area round.
King doesn't have any input on the award, but he felt the way Wharton closed the year turned heads around the region.
During any normal year, King would have told Jones about his honor in person. With school being out, King zipped him over a congratulatory text message.
"One of the first things he said was he can't wait to get back onto the court and he's looking forward to next season," King said. "That's the type of kid he is."
While Jones wasn't on varsity last year, he quickly took to his new role on the Runnin’ Tigers and became a go-to player. King knew Jones was going to have a big year after seeing him play in open gyms and in pick-up games here and there before the season even got underway.
"You saw flashes of what he could be," King said. "He's an explosive talent. He can shoot. He can drive. It's hard to guard him one-on-one. He's one of our guys who control a lot on the court. He's like a second coach. He'll get guys lined up and gets guys in the right position. He doesn't just do one thing, he's a well-rounded player."
Wharton's future is bright. The Runnin’ Tigers will have an all-region player and Region 4's Outstanding Coach of the Year, returning next year. King will have four returners as they pave a new path in Region 3.