CARROLLTON, Texas — The Texas UIL boys basketball playoffs tip-off on Monday. Until then, it's time to practice.
At Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, practice is often more exhausting and demanding than the games.
"A lot of energy," said junior guard Thibaut Tagnon, gesturing to his teammates going through conditioning drills behind him.
Intensity is the hallmark of Newman Smith basketball practice and it shows on game nights.
The Trojans wrapped up the regular season at 27-0. They are the only team in the Dallas area to record a perfect regular season and just one of a few teams to do so in the entire state.
"Being 27-0 in the regular season does not matter," said Tagnon, disputing its importance. "When it comes to playoffs, you can go 27-0 and lose in the first round. Then, who cares what you did that season?"
The Trojans have not made it past the second of the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season, when most of the current roster was in diapers.
They have never won a state championship.
"It would mean everything," said senior guard Jarren Cook."
It would mean everything to their head coach, too.
Percy Johnson has been at Newman Smith for 28 years and he's been the head coach for nearly half of those.
"This community has supported me 110%," Johnson said, fighting back tears.
Emotion is Johnson's calling card.
He barks from the start of practice to the final whistle, encouraging his boys to play faster and faster.
It's this work ethic, relentless defense and sheer confidence that has propelled the Trojans to one of the top Class 5A teams in Texas.
"I feel like no one can beat us," said senior guard Jarren Cook. "That's why we're 27-0. It's a mindset."
Surprisingly -- for a team that's 27-0 -- Cook is the only one signed to play Division 1 basketball. He'll play college ball at Sam Houston State.
Newman Smith embarks on the playoffs in pursuit of perfection and its first state title.
"It's a new season," said Tagnon. "Whatever it takes to become a state champion."
Practice makes perfect.
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