Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
New Antonian assistant basketball coach Tony Terrell, a standout guard at East Central in the late 1980s, still owns the San Antonio single-game and single-season scoring records.
Monday, Aug 1 at 6:06 PM
Every now and then, former East Central High School basketball standout Tony Terrell looks at a highlight tape of his senior season.
Terrell is 41 now and a little heavier than he was in 1987-88, when he averaged 34.5 points. But 23 years later, the film confirms what many of us who saw Terrell play concluded long before he played his final high school game at the state tournament in Austin.
A 5-foot-9 guard with a feathery shooting touch and uncanny court instincts, Terrell is arguably the best high school basketball player in San Antonio history.
And that’s saying a lot, considering the roll call of great players includes Shaquille O’Neal, who led Cole to the Class 3A state title in 1989.
Hired as an assistant this summer by new Antonian coach Charlie Boggess, Terrell chuckled Thursday as he recounted his reminder to the players he works with these days.
“I tell them, ‘Don’t let this little belly fool you. I can still outshoot any one of you in here,’” Terrell said. “I tell them I could play.”
Yes, he could.
Terrell, head boys basketball at Saint Mary’s Hall the past two seasons, also trains and instructs players individually or in camps through the Terrell Sports Group.
“I think it’s great that he’s coaching,” said Stan Bonewitz, who coached Terrell at East Central and retired in 2005. "It gives him an opportunity to give back and share what he knows with these young kids.”
I normally wouldn’t write much, if anything, about the hiring of a high school assistant coach. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and Terrell is definitely one of them.
Terrell had a stellar college career after graduating from East Central in 1988, playing two seasons at San Jacinto Junior College before transferring to Oklahoma City University. He was a starter on OCU teams that won NAIA national titles in 1991 and 1992.
‘A perfect fit for me’
Terrell played professionally in Hong Kong and Mexico before earning a degree in physical education at OCU in 1996. After selling cars and working in the insurance business, he began his coaching career as an assistant at Seguin Lifegate in 2000.
“Coaching is something I always wanted to do,” Terrell said.
Terrell will work primarily with Antonian’s freshmen, but also will serve as one of Boggess’ three varsity assistants. The other two are former Randolph and Churchill head coach Randy Schuster and ex-St. Mary’s player Ky Odell.
Boggess went 785-309 in 33 seasons at Alamo Heights before resigning in May and taking the job at Antonian a few weeks later. Boggess is No. 1 among active San Antonio high school basketball coaches in career victories and No. 3 in city history.
“This is a perfect fit for me,” Terrell said. “To be able to work under Coach Boggess and learn from him will be a great opportunity for me to grow as a coach. I’ve always said I played for the best coach in the world when I was at East Central, and now I’ll be coaching with the best coach.”
Boggess and Terrell go back a long way.
“I’ve known him since he was a kid,” Boggess said. “He used to hang out in our gym back in his East Central days. I’m one of the ones in San Antonio who thinks he’s the best high school player in San Antonio history. I know Shaq played here, but I’m talking about the best high school player.
“Tony is the best I’ve seen and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. He has a knowledge and passion for basketball. As a player, he was a winner. He knows what it takes. He’s a fundamentally sound coach and that’s why I brought him over. I think he can be a valuable part of what we’re trying to build at Antonian.”
Terrell was virtually unstoppable as a senior, scorching Highlands for 62 points to set the San Antonio single-game record and also establishing city career and single-season scoring marks.
He still owns the single-game and single-season records.
East Central system tailor-made for Terrell
He flourished playing in East Central’s up-tempo scheme, which featured a wide-open offense that fed off the Hornets’ smothering, full-court defensive pressure.
Terrell had games of 59, 58, 56 and 51 points as a senior. He hit the 58 in a 129-121 victory against Victoria in a memorable playoff game. It’s still mind-boggling to think that two high school teams scored that many points in a 32-minute game.
“Our system gave Tony the ability to maximize what he could do,” Bonewitz said. “He was going to be a good player in a half-court structure, but opening up the floor gave him the chance to use all of his talents from start to finish.”
An underrated defensive player, Terrell helped lead the Hornets to the Class 5A state semifinals in his senior season. East Central went 34-0 before falling to Sam Houston in a double-overtime heartbreaker.
“He was a natural and was crafty,” Bonewitz said. “He had an extra feel on how to play basketball on both sides of the floor. Defensively, he was a lot better than people realize. He had great instincts and anticipation.
“Offensively, he could pull up and hit a jumper or hang up in the air and create a shot. He had a real solid presence. He saw the floor well and he distributed the ball well. He was definitely worth the price of admission.”
Terrell sometimes watches a video of East Central’s 129-121 victory against Victoria with his 12-year-old daughter, Hailey, and 6-year-old son, Tyler James.
“My kids get a kick out of how fast we moved,” Terrell said. “It was amazing. It was so much fun.”
And it was fun to watch the Hornets, too.