By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Football has always been king in Texas. Kids grow up dreaming about being heroes on the high school gridiron. They grow up dreaming about putting on the helmet for their family’s school and walking across the stage at the NFL draft. That’s all well and good, but football isn’t Texas’s best sport anymore. It’s a new day in Texas, and basketball is taking over.
We’ll start with a question: how many Texas schools have ever made the college football playoff? None. Texas, A&M, Baylor, TCU, Tech, no Lone Star schools have ever made the top four in football. Basketball, however, is a different story. Six Texas schools have made the Final Four, three of which have at least two appearances. College ball in Texas is only getting better, too. Currently, four Texas teams are part of the AP top 25, each of which has spent time in the top 10 of those rankings. In contrast, only two Texas schools finished the season in the top 25 for football.
You’re probably wondering why any of this matters, and I don’t blame you. Football has long been the top dog in our state, but it’s time basketball gets its due. Even at the professional level, Texas is better at basketball than it is football. The Texans are in total disrepair, and the Cowboys continue to disappoint. On the hardwood, the Spurs, as always, remain in the playoff hunt, and the Mavs are led by the league’s most promising young star. Granted, the Rockets are not good, but Christian Wood is fun, and the draft picks that will no doubt come their way will add to a rebuilding team.
Basketball is becoming more popular with high school athletes too, largely due to the success of other Texas-bred athletes. In the 2021 class, Texas has five recruits inside the top 75 nationally, and three in the top 24. No other state has as many recruits in the top 24, pretty solid for a football state. Out-of-state athletes have an effect on Texas basketball too, as the success had by Texas colleges has drawn star players to the Lone Star State. Six of America’s top 100 players will be on the court in Texas next season, three of them at Baylor.
Basketball is on the rise in Texas, and the sport has seen the fruits on that ascension. The dominance of Texas in college basketball, the stardom of pros like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler and Trae Young and the development of high school players in the state can all trace their roots to the Texas basketball boom.
It’s time for Texans everywhere to look beyond the field and start giving basketball its time in the sun. “Friday Night Lights” was great, but so is “Glory Road.” Texas was once the far end of the great American frontier, and it’s time for the state to take that place again, this time on the hardwood.