For the third year in a row, a promise has been made.
Centennial basketball coach Scott Raper won't say what it is. The players chose the details.
But if Centennial comes through the Class 3A state tournament bracket with its third consecutive championship, you can bet Raper will be performing some embarrassing act next week.
Maybe he'll shave his head a third time, or wear a cheerleader's outfit, like he did last year — each act performed in front of Centennial's entire student body, all the way down to the seventh graders, in an assembly that generates as much excitement as any you'll see at a high school.
Making it a school-wide event is important at the Oklahoma City Public Schools facility located at NE 101 and Kelley. Basketball has become the first ray of light to poke through to the outside world for the school that has only been open since 2007.
“We don't have a lot of tradition yet, and the basketball program is helping us to establish some tradition,” Centennial principal Charmaine Johnson said. “It gives us a positive energy of success, because that's what we're looking for on the court and on the field, but also in the classroom and the hallways.
“It brings a positive energy that says to the kids that we can do anything and we can be successful if we set forth our minds and are committed.”
Raper plays a vital role in that process. The son of Hall of Fame coach Dub Raper, Scott Raper coaches his team with the same principles the school is trying to instill in its students.
Hard work, dedication, expectations of greatness.
“He understands his kids and he can relate to the kids he has,” said Dub Raper, who took teams to state at four different schools, including Carl Albert and Millwood. “He has a lot more patience than I did as a coach. He knows how to work with his players when they do things, make mistakes.”
Relating to his players is one of the keys to Scott Raper's success, and he can do that because he isn't always the hard-nosed coach with the serious face that fans see on the sideline.
“He's a child at heart. He's always laughing and playing,” said assistant coach Michael Brewer, who has been with Raper since Centennial opened. “We're old-school as a staff, but we realize we have to engage young people. We can't be distant.
“Sometimes we have to be hard and get on them, but coach is ready to play all the time.”
Ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Bison are among the favorites for the gold ball again this weekend. And while he promised some undisclosed silliness if his team wins, he isn't letting them think beyond Thursday's 8:30 p.m. game against Verdigris at Yukon.
“We'll be at the first game, Thursday at 8:30, and that's the only promise I can make,” Raper said. “We'll show up and play, and that's as far as we're thinking right now.”
Whether or not the school wins another state championship, Raper is making an impact within the walls of Centennial High School.
“One of the things we preach here is that our students should have high expectations, and he carries that to his players,” Johnson said. “We all know that athletes are leaders in the school, just because they're athletes. So that trickles down, up and sideways to the other students. That message of having high expectations reaches beyond the basketball team.”