As high school basketball begins, some area teams have to wait for football to finish first

Once Tim Muhammad takes off his helmet after football season, he’ll put on his basketball sneakers and head straight for the rec center.

For the past three years, Garland’s senior defensive end and his football teammates, defensive end Kyrian Newton and defensive back Chauncey Carter, have jumped straight off the grid and onto the court for basketball season. Football is their main sport, so during the summer and fall that is what consumes their energy.

The end of the regular football season and the football playoffs extend into the basketball season. UIL training can officially begin on Wednesday and competitive matches start as early as November 11, five days after the end of the regular football season.

This means that dozens of multisport athletes who play soccer and hoop often miss the first month or so of basketball season. In addition to the holes it creates on the basketball roster, the overlapping of the two seasons forces athletes to work overtime to transition smoothly from one sport to another.

Garland guard Chauncey Carter (22) leads the way and shoots a North Garland player defense during the first half. Garland won 53-36. The two teams played their District 9-6A basketball game at Garland High School in Garland on Jan. 7, 2022. (Steve Hamm/Special Contributor)(Steve Hamm)

Texas is known for high school football, but the state also has a strong high school basketball scene. Last year, 61,682 athletes from 1,560 high schools in Texas participated in men’s basketball, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Association’s 2021-2022 survey on sports participation in high school. It was the most of any state. The D-FW area in particular has produced some of the best basketball rookies in the nation.

Some players say that playing basketball right after football is over creates obstacles and leaves little time to rest. As seniors, Garland’s multi-sport athletes will be key parts of the basketball team this year, although they won’t officially try out. For them, starting the hoops season late is harder physically than mentally. They know the games, but neither the start-and-stop nature of football nor their weightlifting regimen helps them on the hardwood.

Just ask Muhammad how he felt three minutes before the first quarter of his first basketball game last season.

“I couldn’t breathe. My chest hurt,” said 6-2 Muhammad, who started playing basketball in seventh grade after a growth spurt.

The power forward and center was not alone in his exhaustion.

“Trust me, you get tired fast,” said point guard and shooter Carter.

“Football and basketball form are two different things,” added center Newton.

The sport requires a high degree of aerobic capacity, especially for beginners who spend most of their time in the field. In a 48-minute game, basketball players can cover up to five miles, depending a study published by the National Library of Medicine. Basketball players who can stretch the court without getting tired tend to perform better and recover faster.

With so much racing, the trio said it was easy to run out of steam. Sometimes it takes them about a month to acclimate, so they expect their teammates to step up the first two games.

Garland’s basketball program, which went 22-1 in the regular season to win the district 9-6A and Advance to 6A Region II Championship last year, will be down three players at the start of its season.

From left back, high school dual-sport athletes Anna, Jacob Emmers, Grayson Stewart,...
From back left, Anna High School dual-sport athletes, Jacob Emmers, Grayson Stewart, Jonathan Brown and Sean Steens, from left front, Jadun Mason, Jabari Finnie and Erik Bowen at Anna High School in Anna , TX, on Monday, Oct. 1. 24, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar / personal photographer)

Anna’s basketball team, which finished 17-13 and third in District 7-4A’s Division I, will be down double that number. And maybe longer – Anna’s soccer team is undefeated, ranked #1 in the region, and aspires to a state championship.

If Erik Bowen, a sophomore who would have been raised from junior college this year, hadn’t been injured, it would have been seven. As a sophomore last year, Jadun Mason, Jonathan Brown, Jabari Finnie, Grayson Stewart and Sean Steens qualified for the Regional Round of the 4A I Division Playoffs.

With so many basketball players busy with football until December, Anna’s head basketball coach, Timothy Phifer, came up with a plan.

“We treated June as our November,” Phifer said.

June was important for them in developing team chemistry, so in December the players, who spend much of the year playing other sports together, mingle. District play begins in January.

Phifer uses the UIL-sanctioned 30-minute skill period to assess players, and coaches from all sports coordinate strength and conditioning training, so once the football is over, it’s “plug and play” .

He said they will start with 12 players in college, some of whom he believes can compete with some of the football guys for spots after posting impressive offseasons.

A new addition to Anna’s basketball team this season is junior wide receiver Jacob Emmers, who played guard for Drive Nation in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

Embers ranks second in the region for 4A receiving with 830 yards and 11 touchdowns on 37 receptions. The junior, who has been practicing both sports for about 4 or 5 years, does not necessarily prefer one sport to the other.

“My main sport is the sport I was playing back then, really,” Emmers said.

Anna's Jacob Emmers (11) runs past Kaufman's Julian Pros (13) in the first half...
Anna’s Jacob Emmers (11) runs past Kaufman’s Julian Pros (13) in the first half during a high school football game, Friday, October 14, 2022 in Anna, Texas.(MATT STRASEN / Special Contributor)

Defensive back Mason, a fellow footballer and club basketball player, also participates in the track along with other multi-sport athletes from Anna and Garland’s Carter. Being a triple threat is a huge commitment.

“There’s a difference between doing something just to do it and doing something to be successful,” Phifer said. “It takes a long time to be successful in more than one thing now.”

Maybe that’s why Mason doesn’t have a lot of free time in his schedule. It’s her first year playing football in high school, so it takes effort to contribute to Anna’s scoring defense ranked sixth among teams in the region.

It takes energy to clear 6-6 in the high jump in sophomore year. It takes time to travel for AAU basketball, a sport Mason has been playing since fifth grade. He plays point guard for Dallas Showtyme Elite and practices on weekends.

“I try to get treatment as much as possible and I like to rest a lot. I don’t go out and party and stuff,” Mason said. “It’s very limited spending time with friends because I have all that, so it’s really about who is going to walk with you, to spend time with you.”

He had to think for a second about what he likes to do for fun outside of sports (i.e. go out to eat), but Mason said the beauty of being a multi-sport athlete is being versatile and known.

It’s a big reason Garland players shoot hoops despite being self-proclaimed footballers. The Friday night lights are second to none and he loves all the pageantry that comes with it.

But for Muhammad, this basketball atmosphere is something else.

“You have the crowded gymnasium. I like being able to play in front of people,” he said. “And then we talk about it the next day at school.”

On Twitter: @t_myah

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