CHICO – In most high school basketball tournaments, players are awarded all tournament selections, but in Chico High’s Panther Showdown, teams are awarded a Heart & Hustle prize after each game.
Panthers head coach Abraham Simmons gives each team coach a T-shirt to give to a player who exemplifies being the best teammate.
A quote on the back of each shirt says: “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our behavior.”
On the second day of the tournament, Greg Clink, the men’s basketball coach of Chico State, is invited to talk to the teams after breakfast, and then the teams get a tour of Chico State. Fourteen of the 18 players from Clink’s team took part in the event and players from different teams were seated in the middle except one of Clink’s coaches.
For the past three years, Clink has delivered a similar message to the team about being a great partner and the role each player plays on their team.
In Clink’s message to players, he talked about finding a positive way to “put up” instead of put down, put the team ahead of himself, and enjoy the high school basketball experience. He added that the experience will be enjoyed more if one puts the program ahead of itself.
Clink later said, “I think these people hear a lot about what it takes to be a great player, but I don’t know that people talk enough about what it takes to be a great teammate.” “In any team you have to play different roles and to be a great team and have a great program everyone needs to play a role, buy into the role and try to play that role to the best of your ability. Have to do it.”
Clink talks about one of his senior captains, Malik Duffy, and Duffy’s role as the Wildcats over the past six years. Duffy is now a starter and gets the “green light” from Clink whenever he has an open shot. He then had his starting point defender Isaiah Brooks standing and talking about two of his team’s players who play small roles for the team on the court but are important off the court.
Following advice from Duffy and Brooks, Clink asked the captains of each high school team present to talk about their two teammates.
Chico High captain Alex Padilla, one of the Panthers’ three seniors, asked teammates Dylan Drew and Landon Koobz to stand. Padilla said that both do not play much like the others but always have a great attitude and inspire their teammates to do their best.
“I think it’s always good to have these team captains stand up and recognize some of the kids on their team who have done a great job in their roles and are great teammates,” Clink said. “Because I’m not sure those kids get enough recognition, it’s an opportunity for a few guys on each team who don’t play a lot to stand out in front of the crowd and be recognized.”
After the Clink talk, Simmons’ father Sam Simmons often talks to the teams as well. Sam Simmons began coaching junior varsity basketball at Pleasant Valley High School in the 1970s, and served as head varsity coach at Chico High from 1991–2009.
Sam Simmons tells the kids that he often sits with Clink as he watches tournaments at Chico’s, Gridley, and the surrounding area. Simmons asked the crowd Friday morning if they knew what Clink often focused on most. Pleasant Grove head coach Christ McPhail raised his hand and said, “What players are doing on the bench and what kind of teammates are they.”
“Bingo!” Simmons said.
Simmons suggested that coaches videotape their benches to show their teams exactly what they were doing to other coaches and teammates who were watching.
Simmons ended his speech to the players with a simple word of advice.
“Good luck to you all and work up your courage.”