For DFW's top basketball teams, competition is what drives success (2023)

Flat Men's BasketballCoach Dean Christian said this weekwinter storm warningcame at a bad time.

Not only because freezing rain and 30-degree temperatures can cause logistical nightmares for coaches and administrators.

For Christian there is another level. Plano, the state's 8th Class 6A team, must now reset its game against rival Plano East, the state's 12th team. The game was scheduled for Tuesday night but the storm forced the game to be postponed and the substitute was set for Saturday at 1pm. It will be Plano's second straight game playing in Lewisville on Friday night.

Plano East offers Plano some serious postseason competition. And in the Dallas-Fort Worth High School basketball scene, success doesn't come without competition. For this reason, teams like Plano schedule games against some of the best teams in the Dallas area, whether through away games, tournaments or districts, to prepare for the playoffs and build a stronger culture within the program.

And in Dallas-Fort Worth, coaches and players will tell you that everyone wants to smoke and no one is running from the competition.

There is method to this way of thinking.

IfMorning news from DallasArea coaches asked last seasonhow and why D-FW became a high school basketball hotbed, the majority emphasized that the best teams play against each other as a crucial factor. This is confirmed by the number of national teams that reported against opponents from the D-FW area.

"My father always told me that steel forges steel," says Christian. "That's really what's happening. You can't help but improve by playing against a great coach, great players and great competition."

For DFW's top basketball teams, competition is what drives success (1)

Eleven of Texas' top 25 6A teams,according to the Texas Basketball Coaches Association state rankings, come from the D-FW area. Five of the top 10 are in 6A Region I. D-FW teams represent nine of the top 18 teams in 5A and are #1 in 4A, 3A and TAPPS 6A/SPC 4A.

Their mutual success is about to be shared.

No. 1 Lake Highlands played six games against state-ranked opponents within D-FW as well as nationally-ranked Duncanville, which was not included in the TABC poll.due to his self-imposed postseason ban.

No. 3 Arlington Martin played No. 4 Allen and No. 8 Plano in December. Allen played at Lake Highlands, Martin, Plano, No. 18 Keller and Mansfield Summit, the sixth 5A team in the state. Plano played eight state teams as part of his off-district schedule, beating Plano East at the two's first meeting in January. Kimball, who was ranked #1 on the TABC 5A poll, opened his regular season against Carter, ranked number one on the TABC 4A poll, and played three other state-ranked Dallas-area teams before starting.

You understood.

"Last year we won 33-0 [in the regular season] and then played Lake Highlands [in the Area round]," said Christian. "It's not that we didn't play well, but it would have been nice to play against Lake Highlands or someone like them. It's always good to have that experience early on."

Plano didn't get a chance to play against Lake Highlands this regular season, although he did with games against Arlington Martin, Allen, No. 19 DeSoto, No. 21 Trophy Club Byron Nelson, Plano Prestonwood Christian (No. 1 in the TABC Large List of Private School Rankings), and Faith Family (No. 2 in the TABC 4A Rankings).

Plano tried everything on this board. Byron Nelson offers Finley Bizjack,a guard tied to Butler who leads the Dallas area in goals and is capable of single-handedly dominating a game. Plano Prestonwoodhas one of the best forwards in the country (four-star junior Jalen Shelley) and a five-star center named Francis Chukwudebelu. Faith Family is a different size than most in Texas, with senior forward Jadyn Toppin, an UNLV signee, and four-star center Doryan Onwuchekwa.

Contact with top teams is important. As well as the diversity of this portfolio.

"We like to play different styles, teams with different styles," said Faith Family coach Brandon Thomas, whose defending 4A state champion played four ranked teams in Dallas State before the New Year. "We like to think that when we get to the playoffs, we're not going to see anything we haven't seen before."

plan,who went undefeated in the regular season last year for the first time in program history, has a high-profile signing in four-star forward Justin McBride, an Oklahoma State signee who is averaging over 20 points and double-digit rebounds. He played AAU basketball for the Dallas-based Drive Nation, which competes against other stacked teams and star recruits at the national circuit of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

Others in Plano don't play summer ball at such a high level. But in the postseason, Plano has to face more and more players competing on the Nike EYBL, Adidas or Under Armor circuits. Players used to competing against strong teams and talented prospects.

But in Dallas, Christian said, Plano's neighboring opponents could help provide some kind of high-end AAU circuit simulation.

"If your kids aren't playing EYBL or at the highest level, how do you make up for it?" said Christian. "If they don't play that kind of programming, it's not part of their DNA. But you have to play against these kids – some of these teams have two or three quality EYBL kids on their team.

"You need to play that [difficult] schedule early in case you have kids who don't get a chance to play close to their college schedule."

For DFW's top basketball teams, competition is what drives success (2)

The beauty of everything? You don't have to leave the comfort of the D-FW for this. Of course, Faith Family plays a pseudo-national schedule, with 11 of their first 26 games playing out-of-state teams. Thomas won't turn down a chance to play against a nationally-ranked opponent like Link Academy (Mon.), which Faith Family did in December.

But he also acknowledges that his team's development does not depend on foreign competition. The Faith Family's away games against Plano, Lancaster and Mansfield Summit, three teams with state championship hopes, provide ample postseason preparation for the Oak Cliff-based charter school.

"Playing with a local team doesn't hurt your schedule," said Thomas. "You can play against enough teams here in Dallas-Fort Worth and also throughout the state of Texas and be battle hardened to make the playoffs."

Ask Mansfield Summit coach Emund Prichett about it. Summit played Faith Family in November and suffered his first and worst loss of the year, a 77-55 loss.

Come on,ranked third in The News' 5A/Other poll, then won 20 of their next 22 games after that loss.

"I think we just showed up and were like, 'We're good, let's just show up and be good,'" Prichett said. "We put [our players] to the test earlier in the year and I think that helped them improve as the district game progressed."

That was the plan all along.

"When I was [training] at Killeen, I wanted to come here and play D-FW teams," Prichett said. “You have to play the best to beat the best. They have to try to figure out what they are doing to get their kids to that level. D-FW has a history as a national champion, you have to come here and see how the champions play, how the champions act."

Prichett is clearly not the only coach who shares this notion. He certainly helped make D-FW a basketball powerhouse.

"It's normal here now to play at a high level," said Christian. "Playing at this level every week has made the teams better."

a chirp:@McFarland_Shawn

Richardson's Tim Jordan learned from the stars. Now it's his turn to be the face of the show.

For more high school sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News, click here.

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