By Andrew Glover
PAWNEE, Okla. —
When David Page took over the Pawnee boys basketball program in 2004, the Black Bears were already pretty successful — several players from a team that reached the area finals were returning. Over the last nine years, Page added a new chapter to the Black Bears’ tradition, leading them to four state titles and seven state tournament appearances.
“We’ve had a lot of good kids that have spent a lot of time playing and are coachable,” Page said. “We expect to win and know how to win.”
Page led the Black Bears to the state tournament in his first seven seasons and five of those seasons, Pawnee played in the championship game. Out of the five final appearances, only one ended without a gold ball.
“Our only loss was to OCS (Oklahoma Christian Schools) and Blake Griffin,” Page said. “It wasn’t even fair.”
One of the keys to Pawnee’s success during Page’s first seasons was his son Keiton. In 2008, Keiton, who developed into an outside scoring threat, recorded the second-most points in a state tournament game with 54 against OCS and holds the record for most points in a tournament (138) and career (369 in 10 games).
“It was really fun and enjoyable (coaching him),” Page said. “He made it easy because he took care of a lot of things.”
The younger Page went on to play for Oklahoma State University and set the record for most 3-pointers in school history. Page is now the assistant strength and conditioning coach at OSU.
“It was enjoyable getting to sit back and watch him play,” David Page said. “My family is very proud of him for what he did on the court and how he carried himself as person with good character.
“It’s really exciting to see him coach. It’s a different level than I’m at. Hopefully he will get to become a college assistant coach.”
During Page’s senior year, Pawnee won the first of three straight Class 2A state championships. It was the 2009-2010 championship team that was the most dominant.
“We went 28-2,” coach Page said. “That’s the best record I’ve had in my career.”
Page said the success the Pawnee basketball program experienced led to a large outpouring of support from the community.
“Pawnee is a great community and the best basketball community,” Page said. “It’s fun playing in front of a big crowd every night. Once you start winning, people expect that from you.”
He said it hasn’t necessarily put pressure on him.
“I think pressure is self-inflicted,” Page said. “It feels good having those expectations. If the kids listen to coach (Mike) Brock and I they are going to be a success.”
Last season, the Black Bears won their first 18 games on their way to a 23-4 record, reaching the area round of the playoffs. The game that stands out for Page was pitting his undefeated squad against the undefeated Glencoe Panthers last February.
“It was a really interesting game and fun game to play,” Page said. “Both teams had a lot of great players. It’s a rare thing for two teams to be that far in the season and be undefeated. Next year I could see us both ranked in the top two or three again.”
Unfortunately for Page, his team was on the short end of a 73-62 score and lost its star player Nathan Brock to an ACL injury.
Page said those early years with his son playing helped the program be where it is today.
“They’ve been in the gym with Keiton and watched him grow up,” Page said. “He still comes to practices and games when he can. We got a great freshman and sophomore group coming up that was undefeated in junior high. The future is bright.”