During its nearly 40 years of existence, the Greenville High School gymnasium has courted many interesting players, coaches and spectators.
Here’s a few players and fans who were or later became well-known.
Greg Ostertag, who would grow to 7-2 and play in the NBA, appeared there with the Duncanville Panthers in a 1988 basketball scrimmage. He ducked his head before entering the gym.
Ostertag led Duncanville to a state championship his senior season, before helping the Kansas Jayhawks reach the Final Four in 1993. Ostertag still holds the Kansas school record with 258 blocked shots in his career.
Ostertag was then chosen in the first round of the 1995 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, including 10 with the Jazz, scoring 3,512 points in the regular season and blocking 1,293 shots and also pulling down 4,145 rebounds.
Last season, Ostertag was spotted at a couple of Greenville Middle School basketball games as an official, calling fouls. I imagine that was quite a sight when the 7-2 Ostertag called a foul on a player who’s not even 5 foot tall.
Jimmy King, who would later become one of the “Fabulous Five” at the University of Michigan, led Plano East to the Greenville tournament title in the Lions Den in 1991. King, who displayed strong all-around skills, was a lock as the most valuable player of the tournament.
King joined Texan Ray Jackson, plus future NBA stars Juwan Howard, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose on Michigan’s team that reached the NBA championship game in both 1992 and 1993. The 6-5 King was a four-year starter at Michigan and was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA draft in 1995.
Former Celeste standout Shalonda Enis appeared in the Lions Den in a preseason scrimmage with the Lady Devils in 1992. Enis helped the Lady Devils to back to back state basketball championships in 1992 and 1993 before earning national junior college player of the year honors at Trinity Valley in Athens. She helped the Lady Cardinals to a national JUCO title in 1994 and then earned all-American honors at the University of Alabama.
Enis played professional basketball in both the American Basketball League and then the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She was the rookie of the year in the ABL and the MVP of the ABL all-star game.
Joe Avezzano, who served as special teams coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1990-2002, watched his son Tony Avezzano play for the Coppell Cowboys in basketball against the Greenville Lions in the Lions Den. Tony went on to play college basketball at Angelo State and Midwestern State.
Ryan Mallett, who would go on to play quarterback for the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, played basketball in the Lions Den with the Texas High Tigers. The 6-6 Mallett was one of the taller Tigers. Mallett first played college football at Michigan but transferred to Arkansas, where he threw for 3,627 in one season to set a Razorback record.
Mallett passed for 1,835 yards and nine TDs in the NFL.
The most recent sighting of interest in the Lions Den was on Tuesday night when former Dallas Cowboy great Deion Sanders was in attendance to watch his daughter Shelomi Sanders play basketball for the Rockwall-Heath Hawks in their 51-14 win over the Greenville Lady Lions. The younger Sanders showed some quickness as she scored eight points and produced a couple of steals.
Her father was one of the best defensive backs to ever play the game, picking off 53 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns on defense. “Prime Time,” who played for the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins and Ravens, also played professional baseball. Sanders is the only player to appear in a Super Bowl and a World Series. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
You just never know who might appear in the Greenville gym. That’s what makes it so interesting to watch a game there.
David Claybourn is sports editor of the Herald-Banner.