Nothing but Net for Fort Thomas Apaches Hero, Terry Anderson
Terry Anderson, the youngest son of the late Maggie Rope Anderson and Paul Anderson Sr., grew up in the small community of Bylas, within the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in southeastern Arizona. As a young boy, he didn’t realize that one day he would be labeled as a basketball hero after playing the position of guard for four years for the Fort Thomas High School Apaches boys basketball team.
It all started in 1966 when the Fort Thomas Apaches made it to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix for the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) State Basketball Championship against the Pima High School Roughriders. The Fort Thomas Apaches lost the title that particular year. Anderson was a freshman and his averaging score was 24 points per game for that year.
In 1967, the Fort Thomas Apaches, consisting of Terry Anderson (guard), Monical Cromwell (guard), Paul Anderson, Jr. (forward), Steven Pike (guard), Eddie Nasby (forward), Franklin Dosela (forward), Jackson Moses (forward), Charlie Russell (guard), Terry Hinton (forward), Bennett Learkey Rope (center) and Brent McEuen (center), made it to the AIA State Championship Finals against the Camp Verde Cowboys. The Fort Thomas Apaches “caged the crown” by a score of 64-63. Terry Anderson was a sophomore and his top score was 36 points. The top rebounders were Moses and McEuen. The Anderson brothers were named to the All-Tournament Team. Over the three-day championship finals, more than 24,000 fans attended, mostly consisting of members of the 21 tribes in Arizona.
In 1968, the Fort Thomas Apaches lost in the playoffs towards championship title to the Camp Verde Cowboys at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Anderson was a junior and his averaging score was 32 points per game for that year.
In 1969, the Fort Thomas Apaches lost the championship game to their rivals, Pima High School Roughriders at the coliseum in Phoenix. Terry Anderson was a senior and his averaging score was 34 points per game.
The Anderson brothers helped make basketball history in Bylas. While Paul Anderson Jr., earned some All-Tournament Team titles, his younger brother, Terry Anderson, made the All-Tournament Team for four consecutive years while in high school and also was the only Native American to be selected as an All-Star player during his senior year and attended the Arizona All-Star Basketball Banquet held at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Each of those four years, the Fort Thomas Apaches boys basketball team made it to the AIA State Basketball Championship game for the Class “C” Division, and the team was led by their coach, Marland "Honk" Norton of Fort Thomas, Arizona.
Various newspapers throughout the state described Terry Anderson as “a basketball hero” who “has graceful speed”; “Anderson has unbeaten teammates Fort Thomas Apaches running”; “Anderson improves each year on the court” and is “fast and good on defense”; is a “guard and leader on fast breaks for the running Apaches” and has “learned the game quickly from his older brothers”; “tiny Terry”; “king-sized scoring of half-pint Anderson”; a “talented individual” who “rips the nets”; “Anderson making long shots, underhanded layups and free throws, kept the Apaches on top”; “first-class hero”; and “Anderson is a crowd pleaser!”
The basketball legacy in the Anderson family began in 1962 when older brothers, Ned and Leon who were part of the starting five for the Fort Thomas Apaches, but lost to McNary in the AIA Championship State Basketball finals held at NAU in Flagstaff, Arizona.
In 1963, other brother Leon, was a member of the starting five on the Fort Thomas Apaches basketball team and played for the AIA State Basketball Championship against the Pima High School Roughriders. The Fort Thomas Apaches captured their first gold ball trophy and the game was held at the Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona, where many of the local Apaches fans were present to cheer their team to victory.
In 1967, the Anderson brothers, Paul Jr. and Terry, led their team, the Fort Thomas Apaches, in beating the Camp Verde Cowboys for the AIA State Basketball Championship title.
In 1989, Leon “Josh” Anderson Jr., son of Leon Anderson Sr., led the Fort Thomas Apaches in winning the AIA State Championship title. The game was held at the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Arizona.
In 1991, Aaron Anderson, son of Paul Anderson Jr., led his team from Round Valley High School and beat Holbrook High School for the AIA State Basketball Championship title.
In 2013, the legacy continues, as the granddaughter of Terry Anderson Sr., Angelica Gonzales, the 16-year-old sophomore guard for the Division 1 basketball team from Mountain Pointe Pride High School situated in southern Phoenix (Awatukee) and is the fifth school in the Tempe Union High School District, will be playing against Highland High School for the playoffs towards the AIA State Championship Finals for Division I. If they win, they will play at 2:30 p.m., on Thursday, February 21 at Wells Fargo Arena on the Arizona State University campus. If they win that game, then they will play at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, February 23, in Glendale, Arizona.
“Since my older brothers all played basketball, I also grew up in Navajo Point, playing ball with them since I was five years old. Basketball just became a part of me and it was a natural thing to play basketball. It seems like we found the time to play basketball everyday throughout the four seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer. We had no electronics around that time and we grew up struggling,” recaps Anderson in his native Apache language.
“One of my older brothers, Leon, use to make a rim and sew the net and we would use rubber balls for the basketball because we couldn’t afford a real one.”
“In those days, while we were growing up, it seems like we were being sent off to trade schools or job corps because only the rich kids could go to college.”
“When I went to Outward Bound during my sophomore, junior and senior years in high school, that was when I met with different schools and found out that I could go to college and further my education. After graduating from Fort Thomas High School, I received three scholarships from Arizona and California, but I chose Eastern Arizona College because it was closer to home and my family.”
“One morning during my senior year, I remember sitting with my mom while eating breakfast early in the morning and telling her that I wanted to do three things after college. That was to get a job, build my house and buy myself a car. I took a drafting class and I would show my mom the house I designed. She was happy for me and continued to encourage me.”
“For two years, I played basketball for EAC and during my freshman year, our team won the Dodge City tournament championship game in 1970 in Kansas.”
“After college, I started working for the Forestry Program in San Carlos. Our parents taught us to be independent and to go bed early and get up early and get a good night’s rest.”
“In addition to playing basketball, I should have focused on getting a better education and took more classes.”
“I met and married Rebecca Noline and together we have five children, Beckilyn, Micah Paul, Terilyn, Terry Jr., and Ivana and we have 11 grandchildren whom we love very much.”
“When we were in the state championship game in 1967, we were behind the Camp Verde Cowboys 63-62. Two of our centers, Brent McEuen and Learkey Rope had fouled out. There was 14 seconds left and the center from that team missed a layup and my older brother Paul Jr., was underneath the basket He quickly grabbed the ball and threw it to me and I looked at the scoreboard and there was only 7 seconds left so my mind went wild thinking what should I do. Either I could make a drive and go for a layup or just throw it.”
“All I remember is dribbling the ball and letting go of it at half-court with 3 seconds left. The basketball went in, hitting no rim and just the net. Then the buzzer went off!”
“It was loud and I remember my late brother, Eddie Anderson Sr., and his wife, Audrey, crying and hugging me. There were no three-point shots back then and we had won by 1 point.”
“The fans were all over and I remember our coach, Honk Norton coming up and carrying me up in the air.”
“I will always respect Honk Norton as our coach. He wanted to help us and went out of his way to do that. He would drive to our Bylas community to check on us and occasionally he would take us out to eat in Safford or go to the movies. He kept us together as a team and he was like a father to us and we became like one. There was hardly any alcohol and there were no drugs back then. I still thank him to this day for helping us out when we were young.”
“My respect also goes out to two of our players, the late Eddie Nasby and Franklin Dosela. The Fort Thomas Apaches has always had good players and is a championship team.”
“As our Fort Thomas Lady Apaches go to their next game on Thursday morning, February 21, at 9:00 a.m. at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, I encourage them to stay in control and to win the title because they will always remember it for the rest of their lives. They need to put everything aside and just concentrate on the game.”
“I say to them, don’t give up! Go in 100 percent and give it all you got. Help each other and talk to each other. A lot of other teams tried to win to get where you are, but you are there now and you can do it because you have a good chance to win.”
“Be aggressive and think. Look out for fast breaks and hustle. There is no room for drugs and alcohol if you want to play basketball or any sport. There is no future in that and you can’t get a good start in life with drugs and alcohol. You also have to focus on getting a good education and plan your future by going to college and becoming financially independent.”
“Back then, we only had 1 bus for the team but somehow the fans always made it. Now, you have busloads of fans following you and they will be there to cheer you on to win the state championship title!”
Terry Anderson vows he gives all of his credits and life’s accomplishments to God. He adds, “My mom and dad were praying people and taught us that God is good to us and helped us grow spiritually.”
“When I look back, I strongly believe that an angel carried that basketball and dropped it into the hoop when we won our state championship title in 1967. Remember to pray for our Lady Apaches as they go to the state finals.”
“On Thursday morning, February 21, I’m planning on being at the game in Prescott Valley at Tim’s Toyota Center to support our Fort Thomas Lady Apaches for their game at 9:00 a.m. against Joseph City. Afterwards, I’m going to ASU to watch my granddaughter play at 2:00 p.m. I’m pretty excited about the two games and I can’t wait until Thursday. The newspapers back then wrote that we were the ‘running and shooting’ Fort Thomas Apaches and we still are,” concluded Anderson.
For further information on the Fort Thomas Lady Apaches and the 2013 AIA state championship, click here.