The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story

Book Description

“One person can make the difference and every person should try!”

Welcome. This is the official page for my writing project “The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story”. It has taken a while to compose my two-part story, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as they say.

Some peers may be surprised that I’ve taken the time and effort to craft this story. To be clear, it’s not something I’ve done out of vanity or self-indulgence. I personally did not go on to play big time college or professional basketball. As a writer however, I think it’s an important life story with several teachable lessons for everyone.

Regardless of how far you personally went in athletics, I think this story will touch you. Furthermore whether or not you’re into sports or have ever felt either the thrill or heartbreak of competition, the themes in this story will translate into life’s multiple arenas. At its core, The Engineers is a story about the human spirit, as the great Stephen King has said about some of his own works over the years. A lover of narrative stories myself, you’ll find that The Engineers reads like the 1980s television show The Wonder Years, or the classic movies Goodfellas and The Shawshank Redemption.

Hello all. Thank you for taking a look at this page. This was an important story for me to tell, and I can personally say that it helped guide me throughout life. It absolutely guided into my science career and beyond. To find out more about the book and pieces I’ve already created related to this project, continue reading. This page will continue to evolve as the final stages of the books are completed. Feel free to reach out to me at info@bigwordsauthors.com with any questions or comments. Finally, please share this page and check back for updates.

The Story

“It wasn’t about dumping the ball down to one person. It was like that but it wasn’t designed for that. He never said, ‘Get the ball. I want you to SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT!’ He’d say, ‘Move the ball and if you’re in that area, that’s your shot!’ It wasn’t a star system.”

The late 1980s was an exciting time in the basketball world. Earlier in the decade, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird rescued the National Basketball Association (NBA) from the brink of extinction and ushered in its “Golden Age”. The top players in NCAA Men’s Division I college basketball stayed at their respective schools three to four years. Kids everywhere dreamt of playing the great game of basketball. For many, their dreams were ignited when Michael Jordan hit “the shot” against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

In cities, small towns, municipalities, and villages all around the world, young boys everywhere dreamt of being like Mike, and the New York State High School Athletic Association’s “Section VI” was no different. Section VI which consisted of the city of Buffalo and its surrounding towns and counties teemed with boys dreaming about professionally playing the great game of basketball. Perhaps the most talented league in all Western New York was the City of Buffalo’s Yale Cup. Of all the leagues in Section VI, the 14-team inner city high school basketball conference was predominantly African American, underfunded, and had arguably seen its better days.

In the late 1980s, a special coach and a group of players gathered at the lone technical school in the Yale Cup, Hutchinson Central Technical High School, or Hutch-Tech for short. There they embarked on an unlikely ascent on the basketball court winning the Yale Cup and the Class B Sectional Championships during the 1990-91 season. They energized the school and caused other kids to dream of repeating and even surpassing their successes. Whether the subsequent classes could do it remained to be seen.

“The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story” is a two-part creative nonfiction life and basketball tale. It chronicles the basketball journey of author Dr. Anwar Dunbar, Coach Ken Jones, and the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Teams spanning from 1988 to 1995. It also captures the journeys of other players and teams from Section VI.

The story is based upon real life events and highlights the innocence of dreaming about playing the great game of basketball. It further visits experiencing life’s adversities when attempting to reproduce the successes of those who preceded you. In addition to holding keys to succeeding on the basketball court, this unique narrative journey also holds the keys to succeeding in life’s other arenas. Finally, It touches upon the consequences of coming of age as a boy with limited male mentoring and supervision, an important topic in today’s times.

“Use basketball to grades! Don’t use your grades to get basketball!”

Part One: Innocent Basketball Dreams

“It is a long season, and all of our emotions will be tested over the three to four month journey that lay ahead!”

Part one of “The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story”, “Innocent Basketball Dreams” is a narrative story of a naïve teen who falls in love with the great game of basketball after seeing Michael Jordan hit the shot in the 1989 NBA playoffs. The teen sets out to play basketball and matriculates into Hutch-Tech High School. There in his freshman year, the boys’ varsity basketball team wins both the city and sectional titles before seemingly abruptly falling in the state regionals, just one game shy of the state final four in Glens Falls, NY.

Inspired by the 1990-91 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Varsity Basketball Team, a journey starts. Along with a host of other players at the school, the teen sets out to reproduce that magical season. Along this journey lessons are learned, not only about the game of basketball, but also about the game of life and navigating the world for years to come.

Part Two: Getting Into The Game Of Life

“You don’t just quit. You finish what you started!”

Part two of “The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story”, “Getting Into The Game Of Life” is the second part of a narrative story of a naïve teen who falls in love with the great game of basketball. After earning a roster spot on the 1991-92 Engineers as a sophomore, a second journey unfolds over the next two years where innocent basketball dreams take unexpected turns, and where life’s harsh realities are revealed. It is a story whose outcome is unlike anything imagined in part one.

Part two is a story about persevering through life’s hardships. This second part of the journey embodies a strong spiritual component revealing that our lives don’t always turn out how we plan them. It visits how the seeds for life’s eventual outcomes are often sewn early, and the importance of mentoring. The importance of leadership is also visited, and finally, the importance of chemistry among teammates and people in life’s many arenas. Lastly, it is a redemption story showing how victories can be found in life’s early disappointments, building blocks which can be turned into greater victories later.

*Note: These stories are based on real life events. The names have been changed for those individuals who were not interviewed, who were not in the newspapers, and who did not agree to be mentioned.

In Memory Of Coach Jones

“Your ATTITUDE Determines your ALTITUDE!”

“Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds SUCCESS!”

“You have to be GOOD to be lucky, and lucky to be GOOD!”

“Basketball is our game and yours can be the same!”

“Be like a duck, calm on the surface but peddling like hell underneath!”

“Basketball is a game of fun. The better you become, the more fun it is!”

Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, Head Coach, The Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team, 1988-1993

“When he took over the team, it was different. The things he had us doing, it was like in the movie Hoosiers!”

I must acknowledge that this project would not have been possible without the contributions of the late Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones and his family. First. As I describe in my story, based upon my basketball talent level as a sophomore at Hutch-Tech High School, I truthfully don’t know that I would’ve played at any of the other Yale Cup schools, at least that season. I will always be thankful for my roster spot on the 1991-92 team as there were other kids in the school who were better than me in terms of talent. Thus, this story could’ve turned out completely differently. There could have been no story at all.

Second. Coach Jones was an integral piece of my research once we reconnected early in this century’s second decade. There were pieces I needed from others to tell this story the way that I wanted to tell it. It wasn’t just Coach’s stories and his vast knowledge of the great game of basketball though. It was also the extensive records that he kept of both the Section V (the Rochester area) and Section VI (the Buffalo area) high school basketball seasons in the form of his scrapbooks.

If you take the time to read my story, you’ll see that ours wasn’t an entirely smooth ride (see some of the background pieces below). It was like that for several other kids as well. It was however a very educational and life changing journey for me personally. Thank you again for everything Coach.

Published Pieces Related To “The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story”

While I plan to generate promotional pieces for my two-part story here on Big Words Authors, I’ve already created pieces on my first blogging platform, The Big Words Blot Site. My interviews with notable Section VI basketball players and coaches from the early 1990s and essays related to the story are below and are hyperlinked. Simply click the links and you’ll be taken to them.

Content From YouTube Related To The Engineers

You Attitude Determines Your Altitude: Where The Saying Comes From

Essays Related To The Engineers

Lasting lessons basketball taught me (the original series)

Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Different things to different people

Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp

Interviews Related To The Engineers

Jason Rowe, The Buffalo Traditional Bulls, Class Of 1996

“Our goal was the win the State Championship. It was my personal goal and the team’s goal as well. When you have that goal, you get that ‘tunnel vision’.” 

Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup, and State Tournaments

Buffalo Traditional’s Jason Rowe discusses his college and professional basketball careers and coaching

Tim Winn, The LaSalle Explorers, Class Of 1996

“When you have so many great teams that have been there before you, you’re not competing against the best in Western New York, you’re competing against history. We didn’t care about beating St. Joe’s or Buffalo Traditional. Could we be better than the team we were on last year?”

Niagara Falls basketball legend Tim Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle dynasty part one

Niagara Falls basketball legend Tim Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle dynasty part two

Damien Foster, The Buffalo Traditional Bulls, Class Of 1996

“From that point it just got better and better. Your confidence starts to build, and half of basketball is confidence! Once you get your confidence, you can go anywhere!”

A basketball interview with Damien Foster, the other half of Buffalo Traditional’s dynamic duo

Damien Foster discusses playing basketball beyond Buffalo Traditional and the Yale Cup

Carlos Bradberry, The LaSalle Explorers, Class Of 1993

“Our whole family, including my cousins, was a basketball family and I just grew up watching basketball.”

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part two

Coach Pat Monti, The LaSalle Explorers, The 1980s And 1990s

“I was a very strong-minded teacher, and the classroom just carried over to the court for me – it was my after-school classroom. If you talk to any of our super star players or any of our reserves, they’ll tell you that our program ran on structure, discipline and no nonsense!”

Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one

Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part two

Stories from my interview with Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti from the LaSalle basketball dynasty