Gymnasium updates give Woodrow basketball teams a home to be proud of

Michael Langley’s only aim while attending a Woodrow Wilson High School basketball game last fall was to cheer on a player from his church. But when he walked out of the school’s gymnasium that night, he had a new objective — convincing his employer to renovate the court.

“It was under-padded, and the equipment was dilapidated and borderline safe,” Langley says of the circa 1929 gym. “I was watching kids bounce off the brick wall.”

Langley, who lives in Hollywood Heights, is director of marketing promotions for the John F. Clark Company, which works with architects to design athletic facilities. It had previously renovated two gymnasiums pro bono, so Langley expressed his concerns about Woodrow’s gym to company owner Jennifer Clark-Junker, and asked if it could be next. Both his company and one of its manufacturers, Draper Inc. of Indiana, agreed to pay for the $25,000 project.

Once he received a green light from the school, Langley and his crew set to work lining the entire gym with new padding and replacing the frames, backboards and goals. The old scoreboard was broken, so they installed a new digital board with Matt’s Rancho Martinez picking up part of the cost. The boys’ practice gym, built in 1979, also received new frames, backboards and goals.

“It’s a brand new gym to me,” grins Pat Washington, the boys’ coach.

Girls’ coach Tony Bustos claims the new equipment has “uplifted our basketball program,” and his players say the improvements have motivated them to practice and play harder.

“This is our house, so when people came over before, we were embarrassed,” says junior Susan Harris. “Now we’re so proud of it.”

Basketball at Woodrow often operates in the shadow of other more popular and seemingly successful sports like football and volleyball, say Langley and the coaches. But both basketball teams made it into the playoffs this year, despite the fact they were a smaller school up against some of the best teams in the region. Langley believes the teams just “needed a boost.”

“We’re not a Carter or a Kimball or something like that, but I’m so glad that somebody took an interest in a program that’s trying to get to that elite level in Dallas,” Washington says. “This right here helps us go a long way toward that.”

Woodrow wasn’t the only program impacted by the renovations. The White Rock YMCA, Lakewood Elementary and J.L. Long Middle School also use Woodrow’s gym.

“It affects this entire community, and it’s something that then became very personal because I live here,” Langley says. “It’s one more thing we can try and keep going.”

He’s not finished yet. Langley is hoping to redo the floor and the seating before he closes out the project.

“This place has kind of become my heart now, so I’ve got programs set up for summer and fall. I’ve pledged to the kids that I’ll hang onto them,” Langley says. “We’re in it, and we’re going to finish it.”

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