(WMC-TV) - Now in his 36th season as head coach of the Booker T. Washington High School boys basketball team, the Fred Horton is still as much about winning in the classroom as he is about winning on the court.
This season, victories on the hardwood have not been a problem. Booker T. Washington is 25-0, in search of the team's first undefeated season in the Horton era.
Horton's task for nearly four decades has been to not just win games, but to take boys from some of the roughest neighborhoods in Memphis and mold them into men.
"It's easy to get in trouble, and hard to get out," said Horton. "And as long as I can keep them close-knitted together, along with our teachers, and this is what Ms. Conners emphasizes a lot is character."
His disciplined but honest approach has endeared him to his players. They become the sons the father of three girls never had.
It has always been freshman Khalil Spencer's dream to play for Booker T. Washington.
"I wake up every morning with a smile on my face knowing that I'm going to the high school I've been wanting to go to since I was a little kid growing up," said Spencer. "It's just amazing."
It has also been a dream come true to play for the man he has known all 14 years of his life.
"I call him grandpa, but at times I call him coach, as you know," said Spencer.
Spencer is Horton's grandson. They two may have different surnames, but share the same set of athletic genes.
"Khalil, I love him to death," said Horton. "And I can remember the time I used to have him knee high. He's from a basketball family, and I think he's a mature young man to be 14 years old."
The freshman has made an immediate impact on the team. Spencer is the first freshman to start for Horton since Andre Allen, the future Memphis Tiger, did so in 2001.
Spencer has deserved his starting spot, averaging more than 20 points per game.
Spencer and senior Martavious Newby, the area's leading scorer and Ole Miss commit, form a dynamic duo. They are helping lead Booker T. Washington to the state's top ranking in Class A as their unbeaten season continues.
"Then on top of that, we're undefeated, and I'm playing with my grandfather," said Spencer. "It's amazing. It's amazing."
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