February 3, 2023

An unfair question from a coach with four decades of excellence on his resume prompted an enthusiastic “Ooh wee!” and 20 seconds of laughter.

Ronnie Courtney, almost certainly the only Texas coach with 700 high school wins, three state championships and an NCAA tournament appearance, wondered about his all-time personal race number.

I can’t wait to hear Carl Crawford’s reaction when he finds out he didn’t make it.

SEE ALSO: Ronnie Courtney’s unique path to 700 career wins

Crawford, the star of Courtney’s first teams at Davis High School, gets my vote for the top all-around athlete in the city of Houston.

Crawford was so good that he was recruited by top Division I basketball programs before signing a letter of intent to play quarterback at perennial national title contender Nebraska.

He was a second-round pick for the Tampa Bay Rays simply because MLB teams thought he would be difficult to sign given his other options. It turns out he signed the fourth-biggest contract of all time for a player who wasn’t taken in the first round.

He eventually became a four-time All-Star and earned around $170 million in baseball, so the decision to quit school was a good one.

Carl Crawford, a future Major League Baseball All-Star, was a three-sport star athlete at Davis.

Carl Crawford, a future Major League Baseball All-Star, was a three-sport star athlete at Davis.

Kerwin Plevka/Houston Chronicle

But we first knew Crawford as Courtney’s star guard, who was the district MVP after averaging 26 points a game and leading the Panthers to the playoffs. As you can imagine, he was also a district MVP in baseball and first-team QB in football.

Oh yes, he was also the first athlete to contact me via “electronic mail,” sending a note from the school library asking me to consider him for All-Greater Houston honors.

It was like Michael Jordan asking to be voted onto an all-star team.

“Carl Crawford is the best all-around athlete I’ve ever trained in my life,” Courtney said. “He was so talented in so many areas. It’s hard to let him off this team.”

Here is Ronnie Courtney’s all-time starting five:

TJ Ford, guard

After leading Willowridge to back-to-back state titles, the stylish point guard headed to Texas, where he became the first freshman to lead the NCAA in assists, and led the Longhorns to their first actual Final Four and the school’s first appearance in the national semifinals since 2003 1947. The consensus All-American and winner of the Naismith and Wooden Awards was drafted No. 8 overall in the NBA draft.

Daniel Ewing, guard

After helping Willowridge to state championships and a 62-game winning streak, the shooting guard was among the top 25 national recruits. He became a three-year starter at Duke, where he was an All-ACC pick, an ACC Tournament MVP, and a three-time All-Tournament pick. Ewing was a second-round pick in the NBA draft.

Jalen Lowe, guard

The oh-so-smooth left-hander, who signed for Pittsburgh, is a top-100 international averaging 25.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for the 25-3 Marshall Buffaloes.

Ivan McFarlin, forward

McFarlin, the inner force in Willowridge’s national roster, was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State and helped the Cowboys reach the 2004 Final Four. After a long international playing career, McFarlin became a high school coach in Stillwater, Okla.

Cameron Ridley, center

Was in charge of Courtney’s state championship roster at Fort Bend Bush in 2009-10 and became a successful national recruit. Signed with Texas, where he was a four-year starter for the Longhorns and helped UT make three NCAA tournament appearances. He was a Big 12 all-defensive team pick. Played extensively internationally as a pro.

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