Does basketball overtake football as the state religion of Texas? — A la carte by Kevin Sherrington

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A la carte by Kevin Sherrington

— In case you missed it, consider yourself updated: we have been converted. Football is no longer the state religion. Texas has officially become a basketball state. A year after Baylor won it all on the men’s side and Houston gave the Lone Star State half of the Final Four, seven Texas men’s teams have made the NCAA, with SMU and Texas A&M among the top four snubs. Only California came close with five teams in total. And, here in the Dallas area, we are at the center of hoops. Duncanville is coming off its third consecutive Class 6A title and was joined by Oak Cliff Faith Family in 4A and Madison in 3A. The last local NFL, MLB or NBA team to win it all? The Mavs in 2011. Get out your backboards and Chucks, mate. All we need now is a “Hoosiers” story to replace “Friday Night Lights”. There is no turning back. At least not before the Cowboys make an NFC Championship game or a team from Texas makes the college football playoffs.

“Gasoline prices are so high,” laments reader Al Wilson, “that even Tom Brady has had to go back to work. Think how the person who paid $518,628 at a Lelands auction for Brady’s last touchdown ball feels just hours before the GOAT announced his return.

– Lots of complaints from Cowboys fans desperate for the loss of Amari Cooper, and for only a fifth-round pick, no less. The Cowboys had no influence. Everyone knew they were about to release him. As for who replaces Cooper? Bad question. Last season he caught fewer passes (68) than Dalton Schultz (78) and CeeDee Lamb (79). His 8 touchdowns were tied with Schultz and were just two more than Lamb and Cedrick Wilson, who were 43 fewer targets. The Cowboys’ receivers don’t work like a star system, a point that annoyed Cooper. It’s strictly committee take.

“Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s itinerary last week was interesting, to say the least. He went from shortstop to third base in Minnesota and then New York. If I’m IKF, I wouldn’t unpack my bags just yet. I loved his courage, his leadership and his defense, but he doesn’t hit enough. Not for a Rangers side still short on offense even after the additions of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. I don’t know if Mitch Garver, the power receiver acquired from the Twins in return, can stay healthy, but he can hit.

–Clayton Kershaw called it a “tough phone call” when he informed fellow Highland Parker Chris Young that he was returning to the Dodgers and wouldn’t be signing with the Rangers after all. Probably not as harsh as Young’s call to Jon Daniels.

— Let me understand: NCAA discoveries that cost Wade Miles his basketball job at LSU included a car for a rookie’s cousin, a scholarship for a rookie’s friend and 300,000 $ in cash, for one lucky candidate. The stakes have risen, apparently. In Watch My Smoke: The Eric Dickerson Story, Hall of Fame RB alleges that in 1979, a Texas A&M recruiter showed his mother a suitcase full of $50,000. He also confirmed the old rumor that Aggie boosters bought him a gold Pontiac Trans Am, which was still a cool car in 1979. Dickerson committed to A&M but reneged and drove his new wheels to Dallas for play for Ron Meyer, who referred to the illegal loot as “Trans A&M”. Also in the book: Dickerson revealed he sold the Trans AM to a teammate after George Owen, an SMU booster, bought him a Corvette. Still wondering if NIL bounties will spoil the sanctity of college athletics?

– Marty Scott’s long wait for a kidney donor ended last week with his death at 68. The former Rangers director of player personnel, whose watch included the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, Rusty Greer and Ruben Sierra, was a good player in his own right at LD Bell and Dallas Baptist. Good enough to be drafted by the Rangers in the 25th round in 1977. Scott’s history of health problems would cost him both legs, but not his sense of humor, which was always front and center. When I wrote about his expectation in 2020, he couldn’t help but tell a five-minute story about a recent visit to a Sam’s Club. The punchline: “For the first time in my life, I wanted to post something on Facebook.” Over to you, Marty.

– The Mavs’ playoff predictions look brighter every day, and this week should highlight them even more. Road games Wednesday in Brooklyn and Philadelphia Friday. Finish this week, guys, and we just might get on the bandwagon.

“The biggest arm of all time?” My vote goes to Levi Alo, who threw a thousand pitches a day to his daughter, Jocelyn, who grew up to be the NCAA’s all-time home run queen in Oklahoma.

Story time: The return of the NCAA Tournament still brings up memories of when I worked for a living. Covering the University of Houston in basketball in the early to mid-80s meant a lot of travel, especially in the spring. He even went to Hawaii for a Christmas tournament in 1983, although the festivities were cut short when a few players left the team for lack of playing time. My boss at the former Houston Post called me back earlier home, which may have influenced my analysis of the resignation of Benny Anders and Braxton Clark. Benny, a sixth man of considerable skill who would become the centerpiece of a 30 for 30 documentary, had a justified complaint, I wrote. Not so Braxton, a top JUCO transfer who hadn’t exactly lived up to his billing. “He can’t jump, he can’t rebound and he can’t play defense,” I wrote. “Nobody knows if he can shoot because he can’t shoot his flatfoot jumper without eating it.” Hard, perhaps, but precise, and quite intelligent. A few weeks later, when the prodigal sons returned home, Braxton was ready for my first question. “I can’t jump, I can’t shoot and I can’t talk,” he said. Hit. Sports Illustrated released a cartoon of Braxton’s response, which was a career highlight for at least one of us.

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