Lately, Carter, 39, had begun hearing from teachers that some of his players seemed more focused on hoops than homework. "They were beginning to slip, mainly because we were 13-0," he says. So he called off the team's games until he was satisfied they had corrected the slippage.
Understandably, some players were miffed—especially since no one on the team had dipped below the 2.0 grade-point average required in California to play, and the coach's decision appeared to penalize even good students like his son Damien, 16, a point guard with a 3.7 average. But Carter, who addresses students as "sir" (and expects the same in return), demands both extra effort and team solidarity. "We rise as a team, and we fall as a team," he says.
Finally, after two canceled games, Carter evaluated his team's suddenly improved academic effort and announced on Jan. 11 that practice would resume—just in time for the Oilers' Jan. 12 game against St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland. As usual, the coach appeared at the next practice dressed in a crisp blazer and tie and urged his team to "hustle, hustle, hustle." And this time they understood that he meant both on the court and off. "The lockout was unorthodox, but it seems to have worked," says Richmond High principal Haidee Foust-Whitmore. "Now if we can just keep the momentum going."
This season's other basketball lockout began on Jan. 4, when members of Richmond (Calif.) High School's undefeated basketball team arrived in high spirits for practice, only to find the gym door padlocked. "Report to the library," read the terse note taped to the door by coach Ken Carter.