As the lanky high school junior played on the dirt courts outside Woodrow Wilson High School, he had no idea he would become an important part of the school’s history.
Today, more than 50 years later, as Woodrow commemorates its first state championship in 1938, neighborhood resident A.B. Tate looks back on that day on the dirt court with a smile.
“I was such an awkward kid in high school,” he says. “I had no idea I would eventually be contributing to a championship team.”
But that’s exactly what he did.
The year was 1937 and the young Woodrow Wilson High School basketball team was divided into two squads – one that traveled to games and one that didn’t.
“If you weren’t good enough to play on the traveling squad, you had to practice outside on the dirt court, while the others played inside,” he says.
As a member of the stay-at-home squad, Tate was relegated to sharpening his basketball skills on the dirt court with his teammates.
That all changed the day Pop Kitchen walked out to the dirt court and asked Tate to come inside and play with the others.
“I will never forget that day,” he says. “It was a big turning point in my basketball career.”
Woodrow Wilson went on to win the city championship that year.
Tate’s senior year held other changes. That year, the game itself went through a few renovations.
When the game of basketball was still new, the rules required each team to meet in the center of the court for a tip off after each field goal. According to Tate, that left the games long and the scores short.
“In those days all the games were close because we would only score about 12-14 points a game,” he says.
In 1938, the rules changed to allow the teams to merely take the ball out of bounds and resume play, which is how it is still played.
Tate graduated in January of 1938, and his teammates went on to win the state championship only two short months later.
That team made the history books at Woodrow Wilson High School. And it has made the memories of A.B. Tate.
“Though I went on to letter three years at North Texas,” he says. “I will always remember that team and what they taught me about basketball.”
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