As the Douglass Bulldogs ran onto the Smithton Middle School court to warm up before their game against visiting North County Tech, something was different.
Instead of their usual blue, hooded warm-up outfit, they were all wearing blue T-shirts with the words “Douglass Basketball” across the front in big, yellow letters.
As the team crossed the court and the backs of the shirts became visible, though, the real message the T-shirts held became clear.
The backs read, “Family...plays, grows, stays together.”
Douglass junior Keondre Carthron explained the message following the team’s 78-62 win over North County Tech (7-13).
“We look at the team as a family,” Carthron said. “We talk about it every day. We play together, win together and lose together. But no matter what happens, we’ll stay together.”
The connection between basketball and family has a special meaning for Carthron, who credits his mother, Crystal Gilbert, for getting him involved in the sport.
“All my success with basketball comes from my mom,” Carthron said, who finished with eight points. “Even today, she still helps me out. After games, she’ll tell me what I did wrong and what I need to work on.”
Gilbert’s advice is more than motherly.
She played basketball for Hickman and still plays regularly with Carthron at Bethel Park near their home.
The family-like atmosphere Douglass (18-6) has created isn’t always all about hugs and hand pounds, however.
If someone isn’t doing what he needs to do on the court, he will hear about it.
When Douglass freshman Stephen Sibley wasn’t in the proper place to run the press, Carthron wasn’t afraid to let him know.
“Come on, Stephen. You have to remember to get back,” Carthron said, loud enough for everyone in the quiet crowd to hear.
That type of public reminder from one teammate to another isn’t looked on as anything personal, though.
“When we talk, we talk as a team,” Carthron said. “It’s never about just one person. If it wasn’t like that, everyone would always be yelling at each other, and that wouldn’t work.”
Douglass coach Lynn Allen realizes that Carthron is one of the leaders of this “family.”
“He’s a good, tough kid out there that’s always talking to his teammates,” Allen said. “He always puts the team first. He doesn’t care how many points he scores as long as the team wins.”
Douglass senior Anthony Massengale turned in a memorable Senior Night performance, finishing with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds in the team’s final regular season game.
Douglass will face the Community Trojans in the opening round of the Class 2, District 5 tournament at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The tournament is at by Sturgeon High School.