Players and coaches on the Newman Smith boys basketball team stepped to the top of the ladder to cut down the net following Tuesday’s 69-63 double-overtime victory over Frisco Wakeland to celebrate the Trojans clinching the District 9-5A title.
Winning district titles has become quite frequent for Smith as of late. This year marked the third conference championship won by the Trojans over the last four seasons. Smith has been dominant in league play during that span of play, having gone 62-7 in district since the 2019-20 season.
Smith won the district title this season despite having five players with previous varsity experience. But the team’s newcomers worked hard to mesh in with the team’s returners, and by the time that conference play started, they were beginning to make a huge impact for the Trojans.
One player that helped to pave the way for Smith’s third district championship since 2020 was freshman Te’Zhan Francois. Francois, listed at 6-foot-3, provided another big body and offensive threat for the Trojans.
Dallas Hoop Scene’s Twitter page said Francois is a multi-sport athlete with advanced vision and play-making ability, as well as being a great scorer from all levels. Francois had a coming-out party in a 57-49 win for Newman Smith against The Colony on Jan. 27, a game that he poured in 18 points.
Francois is also a key defender for a Trojan team that gave up 51 points per game and allowed 50 or less points in 19 of the 29 games that Smith played. He blocked a 3-point attempt in the fourth quarter of a 36-33 victory for the Trojans over Frisco Wakeland on Jan. 20 to clinch a crucial district win for Smith.
Smith opens the Class 5A playoffs at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a Class 5A bi-district playoff against Frisco Memorial, to be played at Plano West.
In this week’s Star Local Media student-athlete profile, Francois chats about his nickname, how he prepared for his freshman season, what it means to help lead Smith to the 9-5A title and reveals the names of his favorite basketball players.
SLM: How did you get the nickname “Tank?”
TF: Growing up, Te’Zhan is a little bit of a long name and they called me “Tank” because I would be running around a lot. Tank came from my name Tank-a-Tron. It’s something that they came up with.
SLM: What did you do to prepare yourself for your first season playing high school basketball?
TF: I knew that it would be a little different coming into high school. I came in during the summer to get better, to click better with the varsity guys. I felt it was for preparation for the season because I wanted to a contributing factor.
SLM: How long did it take for you to adjust to Newman Smith’s varsity team?
TF: It took a little while coming into a new environment. I felt like they welcomed me with open arms. It took me about a month to get acquainted with everyone. It was a good experience getting in there. I felt they had something good already going with the chemistry. I felt like it was a good thing.
SLM: Take me through your game-clinching block on a 3-point attempt by Frisco Wakeland.
TF: He was moving. I saw that he was coming off a screen, trying to get himself open. He was moving towards the ball and I had to follow him. He came off a screen and I was right there. I was ready for him to shoot the ball and I met him at the peak. No one was there and I saw my teammate and passed the ball to him and he made a shot.
SLM: Your team has given up 50 points or less in 19 games. What makes Newman Smith’s defense really good?
TF: I feel like it’s our intensity. I feel like we apply that ball pressure and we help. Of course, we have a 6-foot-8 forward (Nic Codie) to protect the rim. You just feed it to him and he’ll stop the other team and we’ll do the rest.
SLM: What did winning the District 9-5A championship mean to this team?
TF: It was something good. We’re a young team and we’re a coming back. We’re trying to make some noise. Of course, it’s good for coach (Percy) Johnson. We wanted to get this district championship for coach Johnson. He brings us all together. He’s a big piece in this. Starting off, we were in a little bit of losing slump. He had to bring us all together and we just came in and went to work.
SLM: Who are your favorite basketball players?
TF: I like LeBron (James) and Russell Westbrook. I like those players who are good, all-around players. I own about three LeBron jerseys and two Westbrook jerseys. I have both of Lebron’s Cleveland jerseys and a Lakers jersey, and I have the Oklahoma City and Lakers’ Westbrook jerseys.
SLM: What is one of your first memories of playing basketball?
TF: One of the first ones that came to my mind is in a game and I got elbowed and had a black eye. It was just weird, because the next day, we had to take pictures. I was about eight years old. It took three days to heal up. Another one that comes to mind is when I hit a game-winning free throw.
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