Excellence on the court was one of only three priorities for the Overland High School boys basketball team during the 2014-15 season.
Head coach Danny Fisher worked hard to make sure that hoops wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the 12 athletes who would ultimately bring the state championship trophy back to the Overland campus.
“The thing I focused on was what I call the three-headed monster: academic progress, being a responsible member of society and then the athletic aspect,” Fisher said. “For me, it was really important to push them in all three of those aspects, to hold them accountable for being good citizens and excellent students. It was important that they weren’t just good basketball players.”
The ‘Blazers squad met those demands with the same determination and will they showed on the court, and the results were historic. The team’s victory in the state basketball championship was the first for Overland in decades, and the entire ‘Blazer community gathered at the school to show their appreciation during a packed rally on April 10.
Fisher and the team joined assistant coaches and other staff for formal recognition from a gym filled with students, staff, administrators and dignitaries. Members of the team entered to deafening cheers from their fellow students. They were accompanied by parents, siblings and other loved ones as they joined some very prominent well-wishers.
Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull, Cherry Creek Board of Education members Jim O’Brien, Karen Fisher and Claudine McDonald and other district administrators sat in folding chairs set up at the back of the gym. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan also had a seat in the section, and he took a few moments to speak of the team’s achievement for the broader community.
“You have done your city proud,” Hogan said. “Savor this. Remember it all of your life,” he said, adding a special message for the team’s juniors. “Go do it again next year.”
For those on the team who will be moving on in the spring, the celebration came as a perfect capstone to an amazing season, one that saw a historic achievement and a shared sense of community, work ethic and accomplishment.
“This was great. I think the students and the faculty needed to see that they were just as much a part of this championship as us,” said Austin Conway, a senior who will head to the University of Wyoming in the fall to play basketball. “Everyone deserved recognition.”
Celebrating the accomplishment on the Overland grounds also hammered in the deeper lessons the championship season has meant for Conway and his teammates. Just as Danny Fisher sought to teach lessons that went beyond basketball, Conway picked up important insights about the true meaning of hard work.
“On our T-shirts, on our practice jerseys, it says, ‘RTP: Respect the Process,’” Conway said. “That’s what we live by. Every time we step into the court, every time we stepped to something that would prepare us for Overland basketball, we were respecting the process one step at a time. Whatever we set our minds to, we can achieve.”