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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11) — Texas may be known as a football state, but it’s now become hoops heaven too. The train left Union Station over three decades ago, about the time the Mavericks set up shop at Reunion Arena.

A little while later, it started picking up steam when the UIL finally allowed Texas high school athletes to play in summer leagues. That’s when the AAU boon in Texas was born.

And, it has now evolved into a high-speed locomotive that’s transformed Texas into the hottest basketball recruiting hotbed anywhere. There are several cases in point just this past week.

Basketball World Takes Notice

Announced Friday, the 14 finalists for this year’s Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class include five nominees from Texas.

  • Shaquille O’Neal – I’m proud to say I discovered Shaq (ha!) at Cole High School on the Fort Sam Houston Army base in San Antonio in 1987.
  • Sheryl Swoopes – Brownfield native led Texas Tech’s Lady Raiders to the national championship in 1994.
  • Hutcherson Flying Queens of Wayland Baptist University (Plainview) – 10-time AAU national champion women’s basketball team

Also the two best high school basketball coaches anywhere:

  • Robert Hughes – retired at Fort Worth Dunbar as the all-time winningest coach in the nation (1333 wins)
  • Leta Andrews – retired at Granbury as the winningest basketball coach anywhere (1416 wins)

Hughes and Andrews are finalists for the second straight year. It would be only fitting if these two Texas coaching legends are immortalized in the Hall of Fame at the same time this year, especially since this year’s class will be announced in April at the Final Four in Houston.

Basketball Nation Takes Notice

The Texas high school girls basketball playoffs get started on Monday and the No. 2 ranked team in the nation is perennial power Duncanville. The Pantherettes are playing in Region 1, which just so happens to also feature three of the top eight players in the nation.

  • Lauren Cox – A 6-foot-4 forward who signed with Baylor will lead Flower Mound into a bi-district matchup with Denton Guyer on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Lake Dallas. If the Lady Jaguars win, they will likely meet Duncanville next Friday in an area-round game.
  • Joyner Holmes – The No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation has signed with Texas. But before she plays for those Lady Longhorns, she’ll lead the Cedar Hill Lady Longhorns against Colleyville Heritage in a first-round game on Monday at 6 p.m. in Mansfield.
  • Natalie Chou – A 6-foot-1 guard who will be teammates with Lauren Cox at Baylor is the No. 8 recruit in the nation and will lead the Plano West Lady Wolves into a first-round clash with Justin Northwest on Monday at 7 p.m. in Coppell. Chou and Plano West are on a collision course to play Holmes and Cedar Hill in the third round for a trip to the regional tournament in Fort Worth.

NBA World Takes Notice

This NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto tipped off last night with the Rising Stars Game. It featured two players who were playing high school hoops in North Texas only a few years ago. And the game should have included a third DFW product.

  • Marcus Smart – The 2014 1st round pick (#7) of the Boston Celtics is only four years removed from leading Flower Mound Marcus to three straight Class 5A state finals and back-to-back state titles in 2011-12.
  • Emmanuel Mudiay – The 2015 1st round pick (#6) of the Denver Nuggets scored 30 points in last night’s game, exhibiting some of the electric offense that will surely propel this 19-year-old former Arlington Grace Prep and Dallas Prime Prep star into an NBA All-Star very soon.
  • Myles Turner – The 2015 1st round pick (#11) of the Indiana Pacers somehow was not selected for the Rising Stars Game. This 6-foot-11 former Euless Trinity standout and Texas one-and-doner, like Mudiay, is only 19 years old. He set the Twitterverse into a frenzy last week with an incredible block of a Lebron James dunk attempt, and is quickly emerging as a force for the Pacers. Turner is averaging 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots per game the last 13 games.

The HEB Takes Notice

However, the fact Turner was not invited to All-Star Weekend allowed him to return home. He made great use of his time as he paid a visit to Central Junior High School in the HEB (Hurst-Euless-Bedford) ISD, where he was a 9th grade student just five years ago.

Turner was honored by Euless Mayor Linda Martin, who proclaimed Thursday as Myles Turner Day. While speaking at a school pep rally, Turner gave credit to his parents, David and Mary Turner, who he says instilled a work ethic in him and “wouldn’t let him play if he ever brought home a C on his report card.”

Turner also revealed the winner of Central Junior High’s first Myles Turner Player of the Year Award, given to the school’s top student athlete, taking into account academics as well as athletics. Seventh grader Jaxson Kapellusch received free tickets to the Mavericks’ March 12 game against Indiana, when Turner will play his first NBA game in his hometown.

The Myles Turners, Natalie Chous and Jaxson Kapelluschs of the current Texas basketball world can thank Robert Hughes, Leta Andrews and all those who, for decades, paved the way.

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