Spingarn’s Closing Ends a Hallowed Basketball Venue


Joel Elias Spingarn High School’s male basketball team, known famously as the spawning ground for pro basketball legends Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing and Sherman Douglas, played its final home game on Feb. 14.

Spingarn, which has been located on Benning Road in Northeast Washington for 62 years, will be shuttered at the end of the current school year, joining 14 other D.C. public schools that also are scheduled to close. The closings will save the District an estimated $20 million in 2013, with an additional $8.5 million in savings annually in subsequent years.

The closing of the venue where playground legends started on their paths to the NBA gave special meaning to the final home game, a 72-60 victory over Luke C. Moore Academy in Northeast.

Spingarn Athletic Director Bruce Williams said the final home-game victory was a bittersweet moment.

“It was great to see us win our last game,” he said, “but sad knowing it’s the last time our boys will ever play here.”

Williams said administrators are still figuring out exactly which schools will become home to Spingarn’s students. But wherever they end up, the student-athletes of Spingarn may still have opportunities to compete.

Spingarn’s male basketball squad has 11 players; just two of them are graduating seniors. That means nine of the players will have to transfer.

According to reports, former Spingarn students will be sent to three different D.C. public schools: Eastern High School, Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School or H.D. Woodson High.

This could mean that few members of Spingarn’s basketball team (10-11 overall, 7-5 in the D.C. Interhigh Athletic Association conference) are not likely to ever play together again.

Eastern High School Athletic Director Andre Titus told the AFRO the school has been preparing to welcome any of the student-athletes that have interest in joining his athletic program.

“We’ve had plans of welcoming any of the former Spingarn student-athletes that may be joining Eastern and incorporating them into our program,” Titus said. “I know that they have some very talented athletes, especially on their basketball team, and we’d love to have them here.”

Titus said he has left it to his coaches to plan on their own how they will go about reaching out to any of the student athletes and determining how they will be able to join different athletic teams of Eastern. But he also has advised them to focus on finishing the spring semester before they focus too much on the future.

“I’ve instructed our coaches to maintain focus on completing the spring semester before they focus on any kind of recruiting for next year,” Titus told the AFRO. “What I don’t want is for our coaches or recruiters to take any improper approaches, or rushing as if we were attempting to steal all of the talented athletes from any of the other schools that some of the former Spingarn athletes may be joining.”

Gregory McCants, personnel administrator for Cardozo High School, said his school is taking a similar approach in welcoming the students they will be receiving as a result of Spingarn’s closing.

“We want to make sure we’re doing things the right way, but we’re excited about opening our doors for any new students that come our way,” said McCants, who didn’t hesitate to mention how Cardozo will be moving into a newly renovated building next academic year, which will feature a new basketball gymnasium as well as a new football field, and a new pool for a swimming team and a course for a golf team.

“We’re going to welcome the students as they come, but we’re also active in speaking with the schools as they close, passing along information to them so that they know what to expect from our schools and its athletic program,” McCants said. “We want to make the transition for them as smooth as possible.”

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Spingarn's Closing Ends a Hallowed Basketball Venue

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