MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - They built a basketball legacy in the 1990s, but low enrollment and the near closure of North High School in 2010 took a toll on the program. But after nabbing a state championship title last month, many say the school is on the rise again.
"For us to end the season on a win, it feels good. I can't explain it,” Senior Jamil Jackson said.
Winning is something North High's boys basketball team does well. "From 1980 on, Minneapolis North dominated basketball, one of the best programs in the state,” Coach Larry McKenzie said.
But for the last 13 years, there hasn't been much to celebrate
“The school went down from 1,700 kids to roughly 60 to 70 kids," McKenzie said. "What was traditional a great program with a big legacy had dropped off the map."
Now the basketball program is having a resurgence and the school is academically on the rise as well.
"This is beginning of a new era for the North High,” Jackson said.
At the team's banquet Sunday, pride in the much awaited comeback was felt by everyone.
Vanessa Stephen's son played on the team that won three consecutive championships from 1995 to 1997; but on Sunday, she simply came as a community member who loves to see positive happenings on the northside.
"Having them know they are loved, they are supported,” Stephens said. “This is more than just the basketball team, this is a community and we love and support them."
Coach McKenzie also puts a huge emphasis on teaching players lessons that translate far beyond the court.
"All along, this has been about more than just a basketball program, but about a community and the positivity happening in the northside,” McKenzie said.
He insists that they do well in school, encourages them to go to college, and tells them to dream big.
“In spite of what you mostly hear and see about North Minneapolis, there are some really positive things happening in North Minneapolis. And there is a great group of kids who are doing great things and will come back as productive members of this community.”
McKenzie says 75 percent of the 2016 team were on the honor roll, and all three seniors are attending college next year.