Comanches led by the right guy in 1st UIL state trip

It’s only fitting that Aron Graves is coaching West Texas High to its first UIL state tournament appearance since the school consolidated in 1987.


Graves is a Comanche through and through, growing up in Stinnett, bleeding nothing but the scarlet and gold.

Graves, 37, is a 1999 graduate of WT High. His senior season, Graves was a key player for a Comanche basketball team that made the school’s first regional tournament in 1999 under former coach Jimmy Amaro.

“This is special,” said Graves, who played his college basketball at Frank Phillips College before graduating at West Texas A&M. “As a coach you always want to get to this point of the season. Being from here and knowing a lot of people and still having my coach here in Jimmy Amaro, who is now my athletic director, is just a dream come true.”

Amaro, who was the boys’ coach from 1991-2002, led WT High to the regional tournament in 1999, 2000, and 2002.

When he moved to the athletic director position, Amaro gambled on a young Graves to take over the boys basketball program in 2006.

“I’ve known Aron since he was in elementary school,” said Amaro, who has been at WT High since the doors opened. “I’m really proud of him. He’s very deserving of where he’s at and he works hard. He was young when I hired him, but he had the X’s and O’s down. He knows the game. It was just a matter of getting all the other stuff that comes with it.”

Graves has looked up to Amaro since he can remember. He still takes his advice and uses the same schemes taught to him by his former mentor all those years ago.

“Coach Amaro set the tone for me,” said Graves, who is 212-137 all-time at WT High. “He was just someone that was awesome to hang around. I noticed at a young age that I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do what he does for a living. The relationship he had with us as a player and a coach, and now I’m carrying over some of the same things as he did. We run the same style of play he did. He’s just a great role model and an even better friend.”

Coaching in your hometown isn’t always easy, especially as long as Graves has done it. But Graves loves his job and is thankful for the opportunity to give back to the place that made him who he is.

Graves is also grateful for the opportunity his family gets living in Stinnett.

“I’ve had some offers in the past,” Graves said. “But I have two little kids that get to see their grandparents every day. My wife is from here, too. Being able to have both of our parents here and see our kids when they want makes it awesome.”

About the matchup with Shelbyville: Graves and his Comanches will battle Shelbyville, getting the opening game at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning in a UIL Class 2A state semifinal at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.

Both teams will be new to the surroundings of the state tournament. While WT High (34-2 overall) is making its first appearance in school history, Shelbyville (32-4) is making its first trip to state for the first time in 34 years.

The Dragons were the Co-District 22-2A champions with Teneha during the regular season. The road through the playoffs includes wins against Evadale, 79-73, in the Region 3-2A semifinals, followed by a 69-61 victory against La Poynor.

Shelbyville can score starting with speedy point guard Jakevion Buckley. The sophomore is a game changer that averages 17.2 ppg, 6.6 steals a game, and 5.1 steals a contest.

Inside, the Dragons boast 6-foot-5 center Cole Ferguson. Ferguson, a signed to pitch at Division University of Houston, puts up 17.6 ppg with 12.1 rpg.

“They are good,” said Graves about Shelbyville. “Buckley can get to the lane and finish. Their big man is a load in the paint. They have other shooters on the outside, but I feel like our matchups are pretty good. I feel like if we play well we’ll have a chance. Our size is one thing that’s always given us a great advantage.”

It’s hard to matchup with a WT High team, especially at the Class 2A level. The Comanches go with 6-foot-8 Dalin Williams (17.1 ppg, 12.8 rpg) on the inside, and a 6-foot-5 matchup nightmare in Jalin Conyers. Conyers (22.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg) has the presence of a post with the speed of a guard. Gage Cassidy on the outside is also 6-foot-3.

Shelbyville coach David Schmitt has been keeping an eye on the Comanches and says he hasn’t gone up against anyone with this much length all season.

“They (WT High) are well coached,” said Schmitt, who is in his second season coaching the Dragons. “They are very big and I don’t see a weakness. They are a matchup nightmare. We’ll be undersized for sure. I just hope we shoot the ball well. We have to neutralize Ferguson down low and our guards will have to play well. We have similarities on each end, they are just a little bigger. It should be a good game and we’re excited for it.”

West Texas High Comanches

Overall Record:

Head coach: Aron Graves (12th Year)

Player Pos. Ht. Yr. RPG PPG

Jalin Conyers F 6-5 So. 10.3 22.3

Dalin Williams C 6-8 Sr. 12.8 17.1

Jeffery Jefferson PG 5-9 Jr. 6.6 8.3

Gage Cassity G 6-3 Jr. 2.3 6.4

Jonah Villanueva G 5-9 So. 1.4 6.1

Shelbyville Dragons

Overall Record:

Head Coach: David Schmitt (2nd Year)

Player Pos. Ht. Yr. RPG PPG

Cole Ferguson;C. 6-5 Jr. 12.1 17.5 (U of Houston, 93mph)

Jordan Boykins;F;6-3 So. 5.2 17.3

Jakevion Buckley;PG 5-10 So. 2.0 17.2 (5.1 steals, 6.6 asst)

Ryan Baily G 5-8 Sr. 3.2. 11.6

Kyle Tindol G 5-8 Sr. 2.0 6.2

UIL Class 2A state tournament

at Alamo Dome, San Antonio

Friday’s semifinals

West Texas High (34-2) vs. Shelbyville (32-4), 8:30 a.m.

Thorndale (33-3) vs. Muenster (18-5), 10 a.m.

State championship

1:30 p.m. Saturday

The game: West Texas High Comanches (34-2) vs. Shelbyville Dragons (32-4), 8:30 a.m. Friday, in a UIL Class 2A state semifinal, at the Alamo Dome, San Antonio.

Noteworthy: West Texas High makes its first appearance at the UIL state tournament since Stinnett schools consolidated in 1987.

Up Next: The Shelbyville-WT High winner faces either Thorndale or Muenster for the Class 2A state championship at 1:30 p.m Saturday.