Garland ISD is getting used to good basketball. Naaman Forest's first trip to Austin follows two straight appearances at state from Lakeview Centennial. Naaman Forest head coach Jeff Clarkson said it's a good foundation for what is quickly becoming a powerhouse district.
"It gave us the vision of really having that goal, and knowing that [making the state tournament] is possible," Clarkson said. "The school district has given us the tools to be successful."
Clarkson said this is the first season he started with a real goal of winning the state tournament. Now that Naaman Forest is finally there, he is living the dream he has had for years.
"You go down [to Austin] every year and you watch teams, and you just think about how you would love to be in that situation," Clarkson said.
His players can't be dreaming on Friday for the semifinal matchup. In their first state tournament game, they take on POWERADE FAB 50 No. 5 and defending state champion Flower Mound Marcus.
The Marauders are led by ESPNU 100 Marcus Smart, the No. 2 shooting guard recruit in the nation.
"Marcus Smart is about as physical a player as they come, so it's tough for any kid to match up with him physically," Clarkson said. "You can't get too caught up in [Smart] and what they have done in the past. You have to just win one game."
It won't just be about stopping Smart, either. Marcus proved it is one of the best defensive teams in the state by holding South Grand Prairie to just 38 points in the region final.
"They really try to limit inside the 3-point line," Clarkson said. "It's really important we get [6-foot-11 center Prince Ibeh] the ball and get some guys to make outside shots."
DeMarcus Holland and Kent High lead the Rangers in scoring with 11.5 points per game each.