One by one on a Saturday afternoon in early March, Anderson’s basketball players walked down a high school hallway, leaving behind the season.
As they left a locker room at Waco Midway after a 66-52 loss to Richardson Berkner in a Class 5A regional final, with a team dinner at a nearby restaurant in their immediate future, the Trojans were greeted by family and friends. At the end of the hallway, Anderson senior John Gramlich was asked to reflect on what had just happened.
“At the moment, we’re all a little disappointed,” Gramlich said. “In a couple hours, in a couple days, we’ll look back on this season and see that it was a very good season.”
Anderson, indeed, had a very good season.
The Trojans finished 30-7, and they shared the District 15-5A championship with Lake Travis.
Beyond the regular season, Anderson and Georgetown were the only Austin-area boys basketball teams to win more than three playoff games. Anderson also became the area’s first Class 5A team to reach a regional final since McNeil in 2005.
As a result of his team’s success, Gramlich, a 6-foot-1-inch guard, has been named the American-Statesman’s All-Central Texas player of the year. He is joined on the All-Central Texas first team by teammate Rasmus Bach, a 6-3 senior forward. Earlier, Gramlich was honored as the most valuable player of District 15-5A while Bach and two other senior teammates, 6-8 center Alex Frame and guard Adam Poole, also earned all-district honors.
To fully appreciate the heights that the Trojans reached this season, though, it’s essential to understand to what depths Anderson’s program had sunk.
The Trojans reached the Class 4A state-title game in 1994 and 1995, losing first to Plainview and then Port Arthur Lincoln by a combined three points. Anderson followed up its state runner-up finishes by earning playoff berths in five of the next nine seasons.
The Trojans were bumped up to Class 5A, though, before the 2004-05 school year. Anderson struggled in the University Interscholastic League’s highest classification, and the Trojans failed to win more than nine games in any of their first six Class 5A seasons.
“The state of the program was not good at all,” said Anderson’s coach, Leal Anderson, “but I knew that we had some good kids and if they worked hard, we could turn some things around.”
As a freshman, Gramlich played for a Trojans team that won six games, but he picked up new sidekicks in Bach and Frame the next season.
He also welcomed a new coach.
Anderson had been an assistant with the Trojans for the previous six seasons before he interviewed for the head coach’s job on May 7, 2010. That was the same day that he defended his master’s thesis at the University of Texas.
Anderson earned his master’s degree in sports management, and he also landed his first head coaching job.
“He’s just turned it around and he’s been great if you ask me,” Gramlich said.
With eventual Air Force signee Hayden Graham on the roster, Anderson finished 19-13 in 2010-11, when a 53-49 victory over Del Valle on the last night of the regular season secured the Trojans’ first trip to the Class 5A postseason.
The next season, Anderson finished 25-9. The Trojans’ last victory — a 72-61 win over Pflugerville — was their first in a 5A playoff game.
One season later, the Trojans rewrote team history again.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling to be a part of some history and know that some people are probably going to remember this,” Bach said. “I think we have definitely made the program a lot bigger, and it’s an awesome feeling.”
The Trojans will lose eight seniors, and sophomore Kevin Fisher will be the only returning starter next season. But Anderson’s cupboard isn’t bare: the school’s varsity, junior varsity and two freshman teams all posted winning records this winter.
And at least one of the departing seniors will be keeping an eye on the Trojans.
“I’ll keep track,” Bach said. “I don’t want the program to fall back to where it was; I want to see it still be successful.”