If the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders want to brag about being the best high school basketball team in Washington, D.C., then they’ve certainly earned the right to do so.

This past season, Roosevelt (25-6) went 10-2 in league play for the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) conference before edging Eastern High School in the DCIAA playoffs to earn the league championship. Although they later fell 52-50 in the city title game against Catholic league powerhouse DeMatha of Hyattsville, Md. in early March, a few key players from this season’s team laced up their court shoes one more time for the Powerade Power Pros Three-on-Three Invitational high school basketball tournament on March 27 at Ballou (D.C.) Senior High School.

Facing off against familiar competition in Anacostia, Ballou, Dunbar, Eastern, Friendship Collegiate and H.D. Woodson High Schools, all DCIAA members, Roosevelt’s four-man senior tandem of guard Ezell Starks and Brandon Jackson, forward Devin Gallman and center Devaughn Jones powered through an all-day affair to collect the title trophy and a slew of prizes. The three starters and reserve player are now in the running for an all expense-paid trip to this season’s NBA Finals.

For good measure, Roosevelt entered two teams into the tournament and fittingly enough, both sets of Rough Riders collided in the day’s final game. Squaring off against fellow teammates senior guards Steven Brown and Marvin Butler and junior forward Deonte Miller, it was an all-Roosevelt championship game that pitted the team’s starters against its reserves.

Starks, Gallman and Jones made up the “Big Three” for Roosevelt this past season, while its other tourney representatives played important minutes off the bench. But rather than focus on roles or their latest title, the championship quartet chose to focus their attention on the competitive showing that Roosevelt displayed on the day as a team.

“We’re the best,” Jackson said about his school’s tournament representation. “We just know how to win,” Gallman added.

Gallman, the star of the group, is a 6-foot, 4-inch small forward who’s being heavily recruited by several area schools. But asked about college plans for next season, Gallman and the rest of his teammates collectively answered “undecided” about the topic, almost as if the band had formed a secret pact to keep their decisions close to the vest.

While competitive, this Roosevelt group is a tightly formed squad of friends. Even during the final game, both teams exchanged smiles and playful shoves against one another, reminding the crowd at Ballou how strong their bond really is.

“Friendship was the biggest thing,” Gallman said of how his team wrapped up the season on a high note. “That really kept us together.”

The Washington D.C. Powerade Three-on-Three basketball tournament is one of four Powerade tournaments. The first tournament occurred in Atlanta on March 26. The other two tournaments will be played in Charlotte, N.C. and Chicago on April 9 and April 10. The winner of each tournament will have its points totaled up from each game played in the tournament to decide which of the tournament winners will win the trip to the NBA Finals.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO