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At the end of the recent DCSAA boys and girls championships at the George Washington University Smith Center, the student section from Sidwell Friends began to chant in unison, “We own D.C.! We own D.C.!”
To many longtime observers of local high school basketball, there was a reaction of surprise. But upon further review, the students had the right to make the bold proclamation.
Both the girls and boys teams at the Quaker School in northwest Washington had just claimed the DC State Athletic Association (DCSAA) championships, not just for the season, but for the last season as well. It is unprecedented as there has never been a season when both boys and girls programs have achieved that lofty accomplishment.
The Sidwell Girls Basketball Team
The girls’ teams, under the direction of Tamika Dudley, finished and ranked nationally after again playing one of the toughest national schedules in the country.
This comes after going undefeated at 30-0 in 2021-22 and finishing number one in the country for the first time in school history.
“We never shy away from competition,” said Dudley, in her fourth year after a highly successful stint at Woodbridge High School. “When I came to Sidwell four years ago, I did not have any special expectations. My goal here was the same as at Woodbridge. That was building a platform and to put Sidwell on the map.”
Part of that building process included some outstanding young talent and the incorporation of a philosophy that was built on creating a highly competitive culture among all the members of the team that transferred to a tough team mindset.
A key to that building process centered around then-sophomore guard Kiki Rice and freshman Jayden Donovan. The team finished that season as both Rice and Donovan established themselves as two of the top underclassmen in the country through tough team practice competition.
Dudley recalls, “Kiki was a sophomore and Jadyn was a freshman, so we built around them. There were young people around them who were willing to work hard and buy into what we were trying to do. We figured that if our practices and preparation were competitive, it would make all the players better.”
Dudley, who was named the prestigious Naismith National Coach of the Year in 2021-22, upped the ante that has proved to be fruitful.
“When I saw that we had the potential to be special, I scheduled games against some of the toughest competition in the country,” noted Dudley, a former standout high school player at Woodbridge and later at LIU in college. “This would give Sidwell and the players the visibility that they deserved.
During that historic season, Rice was named the Nation’s top high school player and pursued offers from several major programs before selecting UCLA. She is regarded as one of the top freshmen in the country, evidenced by helping lead the Bruins to the current NCAA tournament. In a recent tournament game, the broadcaster continually alluded to Rice’s skills, saying she’s advanced and how rare it is for a freshman to come in and play at such a high level.
While Rice had an impact on the program’s wins, Dudley ensured that the success was not short-lived.
Donovan followed Rice by being ranked among the top seniors in the country this past year. The forward/guard will take her talents to Duke University, a team that is on the rise under the guidance of local standout Kara Lawson.
The tradition established by Rice and Donovan appears to be intact. Dudley’s daughter, guard/forward Kendall and guard Leah Harmon, both rising seniors, will be among the top players in the country like their predecessors. And for good measure, freshmen Jayla Jackson and Ava Yoon represent yet another potential important cog in this machine.
The Sidwell Boys Basketball Team
There is a different narrative for the boys program. Under Eric Singletary, the Quakers have been one of the most consistent high school basketball programs, not only in the DMV, but more recently in the country. Under Singletary, Sidwell has won three of the last four DC SCAA state titles, finishing 26-4 this past season.
The program has long had good players, but as the reputation has grown nationally, more and more top-flight players have decided to pursue their educational and basketball futures there. Sidwell is one of the few programs in the country that can boast two NBA players: Sadiq Bey (Atlanta Hawks) and Josh Hart (NY Knicks).
“When I took on this position 14 years ago, I did not have any special formula,” admits Singletary, a 1993 graduate of Sidwell “Having played the game, I wanted to give the players an experience that I was not able to have. There were a lot of great coaches before me who influenced my approach. I watched and learned from the likes of Joe Dean Davison (Dunbar), Morgan Wooten (DeMatha), John Wood (Spingarn), Mike McLeese (Dunbar) and I learned so much. That is what I brought to Sidwell.”
Over the years, Singletary has carefully and quietly built a strong foundation. The Quakers, under his leadership, have won three of the last four state championships and are invited to national tournaments throughout the country. Singeltary has already received several coach of the year awards.
Currently, Sidwell has a possible future pro in 6-7 forward Caleb Williams, a rising senior, who has been a key to the team’s success the past two years. And the cupboard is certainly not bare. Rising juniors Jalen Rougier-Roane and Acaden Lewis are already getting the attention of recruiters.
“For me, it is a very humbling experience,” he revealed. “I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed over the success of the program and I have been so blessed to be a part of [it].”
He goes on to add that the formula had to be one of balance.
“Sidwell is an outstanding academic school so we had to bring in people who can handle that as well as the demands of building a successful program. And in no way can you leave out the parents and the community. It is all a team effort,” the longtime coach said.
Because of the success of the program, Singletary has been able to upgrade the schedule, giving the program more visibility as well as showcase the talents of the players.
Regarded as one of the top high coaches in the country, Singletary has stayed the course and used a simple philosophy to build the fledgling program,
Notable Sidwell Alumni Elevate Reputation
“We are fortunate to have those kinds of people commit to Sidwell,”he said, referring to some of the former players who laid the groundwork. “If not for a Jamal Williams, there would be no Josh Hart, if not for a Josh Hart, there would be no Sadiq Bey and so on.”
Speaking of graduates of the program, the Howard University program was the beneficiary of Sidwell’s success. Jelani Williams, brother of Caleb, played at the University of Pennsylvania following his career at Sidwell. While playing at Penn, he had injury problems that included five procedures on his knee.
Howard coach Kenneth Blakeney brought Williams in as a graduate and it proved to be a great move. Williams helped the Bison to its best season in 31 years and an NCAA berth for the first time since 1992.
“Jelani brought something special to this program,” said Blakeney, who has received national coach of the year honors. “He brought leadership to this program. We knew that coming from that program, he would bring that.”