Over the course of three years they went 98-8, winning state titles in 2002 and 2004 and coming oh-so-close in 2003.
But for all their success on the court, former University High basketball coach Ari Fisher recalls his Cubs’ trip to a big tournament in Florida, the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, which attracted the best prep teams from around the country.
“They give a sportsmanship award. And we won the sportsmanship award,” Fisher says proudly.
Most of the awards the 2004 Cubs won were on the court. They won the Louisiana Class 2A state title with a group of players who continue to make Fisher proud.
The star was Glen “Big Baby” Davis, the anchor of the team, who won just about every conceivable prep award that season on the state and national level. He led LSU to the 2006 Final Four before leaving college a year early. Last season, he was a key rookie member of the Boston Celtics NBA championship team.
Garrett Temple, a senior at LSU this season, was a lock-down defender on that Tigers team that went to the Final Four, and has become a do-everything guard/forward who’s also well on his way to earning a master’s degree.
But that Cubs team went eight deep, and the three other starters have been impressive on the court as well:
Small forward Anthony Kimble continued at Stanford, where last fall he finished his injury-plagued career not in basketball, but as captain and a running back for the Cardinals football team. He, too, graduated early and is working on his master’s degree.
“He just got invited to the (NFL) combine, and I could definitely see him playing on Sundays,” Fisher says.
Anwar Johnson is the senior captain of the basketball team at Air Force, where he’s been a key scorer and has been converted to a point guard.
Shawn Bridgewater played junior-college basketball before transferring to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. “He died twice (because of heart problems). He passed out—he flat-lined twice—and they brought him back,” Fisher says. “He had to give up basketball.” Bridgewater served as a student coach before transferring to Southern, where’s he’s working on finishing his degree.
The bench included Chad Allen, Blake Holloway and Hall Davis V.
Allen graduated from the University of New Orleans and now attends grad school. Holloway went to USL and is now at Southern University. And Davis went to LSU as a football player, where the 6-foot-6, 292-pound defensive end was second on the team in sacks and is positioning himself for a big senior year and potential pro career.
“Any of the guys who didn’t start (at U-High) could have gone anywhere in the state and been a star,” Fisher says.
Fisher coached the Cubs for 11 years before retiring in 2008. He continues as an instructor of kinesiology at LSU.
He had two assistant coaches, Jon Phelps and James Ross Jr. Fisher credited Phelps, a former big man at Oklahoma State, with Davis’s development. Phelps is now out of coaching, while Ross, after graduating from LSU, remained on U-High’s staff.
Six years since that dream team, Fisher still blames himself for U-High not winning three state titles in a row. “We should have won three in a row, but I messed it up,” Fisher says of the 2003 semifinals.
He says the Cubs were model citizens then and, what’s more, almost all were young for their grade. “I should have had them back for another year. They’d all been accelerated. The only one I wouldn’t have had back was Shawn Bridgewater. Imagine if they’d been back for one more year,” Fisher says.
“They never had a problem with attitude,” Fisher says. “We never had a problem with who took what shots. It was as close to a dream season as you could get. We won every playoff game by over 20 points; we set records for the state final (beating Jeanerette 85-52).”
U-High finished 35-2 in 2004, losing only to a team from Los Angeles and then to Carver of New Orleans on a night when Temple was injured.
Fisher, who retired from coaching after the 2008 season, said it wasn’t lost on him what a special collection of young men he coached who’ve gone on to succeed.
“You know, Walt Disney has a term for people like that: Life enhancers,” Fisher says. “And they all were life enhancers. I became a much better human being for being around them.”
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