Robert Loper, an East Texas coaching legend, and Vicki Barrett Castleberry, a former Neches High School star, were inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony Saturday night in San Antonio. The gala topped off the annual Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Clinic.
Loper, a native of Jacksonville who was a longtime coach for several schools including Frankston and Bullard, and Barrett Castleberry, who led Neches to two state titles, were honored in the Tamayo Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel San Antonio Airport.
Joining Loper were coaches Reggie Davis, Robert Hale and J.D. Mayo. The foursome collected nearly 3,500 wins.
Along with Barrett Castleberry, the other players are Jill Sutton-Dodd, Amy Sutton-Porter and Dennis Tealer. The four players combined for 11 all-state team honors and 12 all-state tournament selections.
“These players and coaches in the Class of 2019 are among the best of the best,” TABC Director Rick Sherley said. “They exemplify excellence both on and off the court, resulting in positive impacts on their school and Texas high school basketball.”
Loper coached at Frankston, Gary, New Summerfield, Bullard and Neches high schools en route to winning 917 games in 41 years. He spent 38 years as a boys head coach and three as a girls head coach. His teams made 22 playoff appearances, which included 15 district championships, six regional tournaments and a trip to the state championship game, where his team lost by one point.
He coached for 50 seasons, retiring in 2016.
Loper played at Jacksonville High School before getting his degrees at Lon Morris College and Stephen F. Austin State University. He also received his master's in elementary education and a mid-management degree from SFA.
Loper’s career started at Neches (1966-67), followed by stints at Gary (1967-71), New Summerfield (1971-73) and Bullard (1973-80). He was actually an assistant under coaching legend Vernon Harton his first year at Bullard before becoming head coach the next season.
After the 1980 season, he decided to return to his hometown of Jacksonville where he became the junior high coordinator and assistant to coaching great John Alexander. His first group of eighth-graders was eventually part of the 1984 Jacksonville High School team that earned a Final Four berth at the state tournament.
Loper then decided to get back on the varsity sideline.
Loper started coaching at Frankston in 1980. He led the Indians to 12 district championships in his last 17 years of coaching. He also led Bullard to three district championships.
Through the years, which included coming back from a heart attack in 2008 (when he did not miss a game), he earned 610 wins at Frankston in the last 28 years. His Frankston teams made the playoffs 19 times.
“You try to prepare your teams as best as you can and then they have to play on the court,” Loper said in a 2016 interview.
He had some great squads over the years, two in particular that stand out: 1977 Bullard Panthers and the 2002 Frankston Indians. The 1977 Bullard team lost in the regional championship to Terry Teagle (future Baylor and NBA standout) and his Broaddus squad 54-53. Broaddus, the defending champion, went on to win another state championship.
In 2002, Frankston made it to the state title game and lost in the final three seconds to Little River Academy in Austin, 49-48.
Loper was a three-time All-East Texas Coach of the Year — 2000, 2002 and 2016.
Barrett Castleberry played at Neches High School where she was in three state tournaments in 1973, 1975 and 1976, winning titles in 1973 and 1976. She scored nearly 3,000 points in her career. She was selected all-state and all-state tournament in 1975 and 1976.
She is still listed in the state tournament record book in six different categories. During her career, the Lady Tigers’ record was 139-11. She played for legendary Hall of Fame coach Lee Snider.
Other inductees include:
Reggie Davis — coach at Waco Midway where he won 910 games as head coach for the boys for 17 years and the girls for 23. His teams won 27 district championships or co-championships. He led the boys to the state tournament in 1974 and the girls to the state tournament in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997. He captured the title in 1994.
Jill Sutton-Dodd — player at Gunter High School, where she played in three state tournaments. She was selected all-state and all-state tournament in 1995, 1996 and 1997. She is tied for the state tournament record for the most 3-pointers made in a game and made a total of 342 3-pointers in her career. Gunter compiled a 131-9 record when she played, and she led the state in 3-pointers made. She and her twin sister Amy scored more than 5,200 career points.
Robert Hale — coach at Seymore, Crowley, Azle, Weatherford, Pampa, Burleson and Lewisville high schools. He won 863 games in 41 years, including a state championship at Pampa in 1996 with a 33-3 record. He had 20 playoff appearances, including four state tournament berths, nine regional tournaments and 13 district titles.
J.D. Mayo — coach at Dallas Skyline, Nocona and Joshua high schools. He collected 808 wins in 41 seasons as a head coach, spending 38 years in the Dallas ISD. He led his teams to 22 playoff appearances, including 12 district championships and one regional semifinal. Mayo coached two NBA players, Larry Johnson and C.J. Miles. He has the most wins in DISD history and is a past president of TABC.
Amy Sutton-Porter — player at Gunter High School and was a member of three state tournament teams. Her accolades include being named District MVP three times, all-state three times, all-state tournament three times and the Class 2A Player of the Year in 1997. As a four-year starter, her career record was 131-9 as she made 241 3-pointers in her career. She and her twin sister Jill scored more than 5,200 career points.
Dennis Tealer — player at Gonzales High School, where he led the team to the 1974 state championship. As a three-year starter and three-time all-state player, he averaged 17 points per game in his sophomore season and 24 as a junior. During his senior year, he averaged 29.4 points and 18 rebounds. He was a unanimous all-state tournament pick and is still listed in the state tournament record books in two scoring categories.
To nominate coaches, players and contributors to be considered for the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame, send information to the TABC office by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail (TABC, P.O. Box 2886, Sugar Land, Texas, 77487).