Arlington (Ind.) goes from 0-21 a year ago to 8-7 with same players, same coach

Arlington (Ind.) goes from 0-21 a year ago to 8-7 with same players, same coach


Arlington (Ind.) goes from 0-21 a year ago to 8-7 with same players, same coach


Arlington High was the worst basketball team in the city last year. Winless in 21 games. Laughed at by its own students. Literally, Arlington kids were going to the arena just to laugh at their classmates.

“Some games,” says sophomore guard Ryan Williams, “we had 10 people here.”


“Everybody was asking why we came back,” says junior guard Christian Smith.

Didn’t take long to answer. Season opener, Williams went the length of the floor for a layup that forced overtime, where Arlington beat Washington 65-58. Arlington has won seven more games, but that first victory since 2013? Eruption.

“They celebrated like they won the state title,” Washington coach Kenny Roseman says. “Great moment for those kids.”

And for the Arlington coach.

“The kids went to midcourt and were hugging,” says Arlington coach Dustin Oakley. “I went straight to my wife.”


Arlington then, Arlington now. From the city’s worst team to the city’s best story. How does this headline happen? It happens in the smaller print, in places you’re not watching, like a classroom on a Saturday morning. And at a grandmother’s house on a Saturday night.

And it happens at a 6-year-old’s basketball game.

It is happening at Arlington. One year after 0-21, the Golden Knights are 8-7. Same players. Same coach.

Who’s laughing?

After their 0-21 season Oakley offered optional offseason conditioning. Everyone showed up. Then he put them into a summer league for almost 20 games. He asked his players to run track or cross country to stay in shape, and all 12 did.

They are fit, but this 75-minute practice is as much psychological as physiological.

“They need more of what we did,” says Oakley, now 30. “If we really want to compete at sectional time, compete for the state tournament, we have to be that tough. Nobody’s put these habits in them.”

What habits, I ask?

“That they show up to practice every day.”

Show up, as in compete?

“Show up, period.”

Wait. What?

“These guys, if they played at all (before high school), it was middle school when practice is twice a week,” Oakley says. “Here they’re on varsity, and they think they can miss a practice and still play. Last year I had to kick players off, suspend them all the time. Now they’ve figured it out: No matter how talented you are, if you don’t do the right things, I’ll get rid of you.”

Read the full story at



More USA TODAY High School Sports