The Daily Herald's 2011-12 boys basketball MVP struggled with grades and an attitude problem before becoming the foundation of Shoemaker's first boys basketball team to win a 5A playoff game.
It's like all of a sudden, Shoemaker senior Chris Runnels' role clicked to him and he then lit the path for the Grey Wolves.
"The last two years have been great here at Shoemaker High," Runnels said. "Last year, I didn't think I would be playing as much as I did because of the seniors we had and some of the other players on the team. This year, I played lot. It was something I was looking forward to, but I knew I had to step up to the plate and do what I had to do."
Runnels, the District 12-5A Defensive MVP, averaged 15.5 points, 11 rebounds (5 offensive), and 2.5 blocks per game to lead the Grey Wolves to their first playoff win since 2003 and first 5A playoff win in school history.
"It's a lot of work of doing that (being a leader), but it's good to be able to be the leader of the team and know the younger kids are looking up to you," Runnels said. "Honestly, it's a team thing. The younger players stepped up sometimes more than I did and that would push me."
After being academically ineligible to play his freshman year, Runnels could've seen varsity time as a sophomore if not for his attitude.
"I played the whole year (as a sophomore) without failing out, and that was one thing that felt real great, knowing I could play all year because my grades were up to par. So, I decided to do that the rest of my high school career," Runnels said. "And then, attitude-wise, I saw that it stopped me doing a lot of things basketball-wise sophomore year and that wasn't going to help me in the long run, so I had to fix that grow up a little bit and mature."
He was the District 12-5A and Daily Herald All-Area newcomer of the year as a junior after averaging 12 points and nine rebounds a game.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Rashard Odomes, Copperas Cove, Fr.
The Copperas Cove freshman averaged 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game to lead the Bulldawgs to a fifth-place finish in the 12-5A standings and had them right in the mix for a playoff berth late in the season.
The District 12-5A and Daily Herald All-Area newcomer of the year also outgrew his older brother Raheem Odomes, who in 2010 was the first Cove boys basketball player to play college ball in nine years.
"It felt the same, except I felt he was still on top of me," Rashard Odomes said of outgrowing Raheem.
Odomes credited his older brother for his success this season. But he also disregarded the age difference between himself and his competition.
"I really didn't worry about the pressure," Odomes said. "I didn't think of it as I'm younger than everyone. I just went out there and played."
COACH OF THE YEAR
Celneque Bobbitt, Harker Heights
Coming off of only the second district championship season in Harker Heights' history, which included a trip to the Region II-5A quarterfinals, the Knights entered the season without several longtime cogs, including Brandon Bullock, Daevon Brown and Royce O'Neale, who made an immediate impact in his first year with the University of Denver.
But despite only having one returning starter in point guard Thomas Cherry, Bobbitt managed to help the Knights (26-8, 12-2 12-5A) secure the district's No. 2 seed after knocking off eventual district champion A&M Consolidated 60-44 at home Jan. 10.
Brian Long, Killeen, So.
The District 8-4A all-district first-team selection averaged 14.9 points a game to lead the Runnin' Roos to their seventh straight postseason appearance
Daniel Mills, Belton, Jr.
The 6-foot-3 junior forward averaged an area-high 20.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and nearly a block a game to lead the Tigers this season.
Ojai Black, Ellison, Jr.
As the lone returning letterman from a regional quarterfinalist, Black, who averaged 17.2 points and five assists per game, helped Ellison (19-15, 8-6 12-5A) keep alive its consecutive playoff streak for the 18th straight year.
Thomas Cherry, Harker Heights, Sr.
An All-District 12-5A first-team selection, the four-year letterman averaged 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two steals a game and led the Knights to a district runner-up finish after helping Heights remain in contention for a second straight district title late into the season.
Koby Spears, Salado, Sr.
Behind Spears, who averaged nearly 11 points per game en route to an all-district 25-3A first-team selection, Salado (21-14) won its last three district games to lock up the No. 3 seed and advance to the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight years.
Alex Byington and Nick Talbot contributed to this report.