A man walks into the gym at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School. The Varsity Tigers are in the middle of basketball practice, but they look up as the man begins to speak.
“Prove ’em wrong,” he says before walking out.
“It was a ‘drop the mic’ moment,” player Donte R. said. “It’s stayed with me. It’s one of the most influential things I’ve heard.”
Those three words can sum up the history of Crispus Attucks basketball succinctly. The Tigers have been proving everyone wrong for decades.
In 1955 Crispus Attucks became the first African American basketball team in the country to win a non-segregated state tournament, defeating Gary Roosevelt 97-74 in the final. They completed the same feat the following year, in 1956, but also became the first team in Indiana history to go undefeated and win the state title.
John Gipson was on both of those state championship teams, as a forward in 1955 and the team’s center in 1956.
“It’s hard to put into words how it felt to be on that team,” Gipson said, referring to the 1955 team. “It’s a blessing to just be a part of it.”
Flash-forward 60 years and Crispus Attucks senior Isaiah W. agrees.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure to bring back what they created,” he said.
Often Gipson and others from the 1955 team come out to speak to the Crispus Attucks players and offer advice. The words the players hear the most often? Be humble.
According to Gipson, this was something Crispus Attucks great, Oscar Robertson, would say often to his teammates. Well, that and to play with a chip on their shoulder.
This year the Tigers are doing just that. After losing in the first round of regionals last year, the Tigers are ready to make a run for it in the state tournament.
“I have confidence in this team. I’m proud of them,” Coach Phil Washington said. “I think it’s going to be a special run for us.”
Donte agreed, “All we have to do is play defense and offense as a collective unit. And if we communicate well with each other, we’ll be able to go far.”
On March 6, 2015, the Tigers will open their tournament run with a sectional game against George Washington Community High School or Irvington Prep, the same exact draw as last year. The Tigers are hopeful this will lead to their second straight Sectional Championship, a rematch in the regionals and potentially a shot to play in the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
All we have to say is “Hail to the Green, Hail to the Gold.” It’s time to prove ’em wrong, Tigers.