Yellow Springs basketball gets big assist from Dave Chappelle

Comedian’s donation used to purchase new uniforms, shoes and gear for high school, junior high programs.

YELLOW SPRINGS — How does a team restore a winning tradition in high school basketball?

Hard work, determination … and a little swag never hurt, either.

ExploreCenterville caps perfect season

That’s been the formula at Yellow Springs, where they celebrated Metro Buckeye Conference championships for both the boys and girls teams with net-cutting ceremonies in the school gym.

“It’s been really good,” said the leading scorer for the boys, DeAndre Cowen. “It feels good to get back into winning and just keep it going.”

Cowan averaged 21.5 points per game for the Bulldogs, who went 16-4 in the regular season and shared the MBC crown with Dayton Christian.

The girls, behind MBC leading scorer Angie Smith and leading rebounders Corinne Totty and Lacy Longshaw, went 14-5 and won only the second conference title in program history (2013). They shared league honors with Legacy Christian and are set to begin Division IV tournament play Thursday night against Newton in Troy. The boys received a first-round bye in the tournament and will face Miami Valley or Cedarville on Feb. 23 in Troy.

Boys coach Nick Trimbach, the MBC Co-Coach of the Year in his third season at the helm, said seeing how far the team has come after winning only seven games in his first two seasons is gratifying.

Keeping much the same group together for three years has paid off, but he said the breakthrough was aided by a generous donation from the town’s most famous resident, too.

“It was our turn to get new uniforms, and we reached out to a former player’s father and asked for a little help with a donation,” Trimbach said.

That former player is Ibrahim Chappelle, son of comedian Dave Chappelle.

While Trimbach was hoping for just a fraction of the money it might take to get his team new threads, the elder Chappelle had grander ideas.

“I really wanted to do something for them and have them be extravagantly laced out,” Chappelle explained.

So he ended up buying uniforms for all of the boys and girls teams in junior high and high school plus shoes for every player along with other gear.

“Travel suits, shooting shirts — you name it, he purchased it,” Trimbach said.

Chappelle attended the ceremony Tuesday night, and the team surprised him by inviting him to cut down a piece of the net for himself.

He said helping out was an honor, especially after seeing the hardships the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for communities all over the country.

“I love these games,” Chappelle said. “This team they’ve got this year is really special.

“Local sports, high school sports coming back I think was a big opportunity for the community. It’s fun when we get a chance to come to the games.

“When I was coming up, we had a hard time paying for the gear and equipment. Sneakers were the hardest. So to get an opportunity to do something like that, you might as well do it all the way. So I did it all the way.”

His sons have graduated, but he said his daughter is a seventh-grader who played basketball this year, and he has a niece who runs track for the Bulldogs.

“A lot of kids in my family are involved in local sports, so it is a natural fit,” he said. “It’s not even an unusual thing that they asked me. They’d never asked me before, but it wasn’t like a strange thing.”

Chappelle graduated from high school in Washington, D.C., but he attended middle school in Yellow Springs. He played basketball while he was at Yellow Springs but said the sport faded to the background for him when he began doing standup comedy in high school.

After making it big, Chappelle eventually decided to make Yellow Springs his home, and he is well-known for being part of the local community.

“Yeah, that’s true,” Cowen said. “We see him, it’s like, ‘Hey Dave.’ It’s just a fun-type thing. He’s just like a normal dude.

“Him being from here and supporting us — it means a lot, and we are very appreciative of him.”

No team wins without talent and hard work, but Deion Sanders famously said, “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good.”

Trimbach feels there is something to that.

“We just can’t convey how important it was that these boys go to other schools and not feel less than,” Trimbach said. “We have the same gear if not better as other schools now, and the more important these boys felt because of the way they felt and the shoes on their feet I believe contributed to the way they played and the sense of family that we’re trying to instill in them.”

With the success of the basketball teams coming on the heels of strong seasons by the boys soccer team and girls volleyball in the fall, Trimbach said he can see high school sports once again becoming a point of pride for the community in a town that produced longtime college basketball coach Charlie Coles in the ‘50s along with Ohio State Athletics Hall of Famer Andrew Pierce and five state champion track teams in the 1990s.

The boys basketball team, an eight-time district champ, won its conference six years in a row from 1999-2004 but had only two titles since then until this year.

Chappelle appreciates the power sports can have to connect communities.

“If you’ve got that one ballplayer in your neighborhood or at your school, you take a lot of pride in it,” he said. “Historically here in Yellow Springs, coming to the games was just a way to all be together. You know, you cheer for the kids. At one point I was one of the kids, and it meant a lot. I think the community as an ethic is suffering recently because of the pandemic, and I’m very proud to live someplace that didn’t hoard bullets and toilet paper but looked out for each other, so I try to keep that tradition alive.”

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