In 1974, the Gonzales Apaches boys basketball team, led by head coach Vernon Hill, shocked the state of Texas by winning the Class 3A state title. During their run, then-senior Dennis Tealer dominated the state tournament, scoring 41 points in the semifinals and 37 in the finals. The 41 points is the most scored in an individual game in Conference 4A (then 3A) while his 78 total points is the most in a two-game series in 4A.
Now, 44 years later, Tealer will be recognized for his athletic achievements, as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches announced recently he will be inducted to the 2019 TABC Hall of Fame, becoming the first ever Gonzales athlete to do so.
“I was actually shocked,” Tealer said of the announcement. “It had been 44 years and I knew that I was nominated probably as early as 20 years ago. Hadn’t heard a whole lot since then. I was really surprised to hear that Coach Roy Halamicek, who now lives in La Grange, has been advocating for my admission for quite some time now and was a thorn in people’s side and beat the bush a lot and eventually wore people down.”
“I didn’t know anybody had that kind of energy,” Tealer joked.
Halamicek wasn’t the only one pushing for Tealer’s induction. Hill as well as former teammates Lawrence Fryer Jr. and Garland Blundell also advocated for him.
“Dennis was an exceptional high school basketball player, he could take over and control the outcome of a game,” Hill said through a press release sent by Halamicek. “Dennis had the ability to not only block shots but to control the ball and gain possession of it.”
“Dennis was not just about himself,” Blundell said in the release. “He played in a manner that was unselfish and his main goal was for success of the team.”
“He could have scored even more points had he been selfish and not put the team first, ahead of personal accomplishments,” Fryer said.
“I am blessed to have played and grew up with many high character people like Lawrence Fryer Jr., David James, Jeff Menking, Tommy and Greg Bludau, Garland Blundell, Jimmy Jackson, Jeff James, Billy Peeler, Doug Kotzebue, Leonard Arnic and Randy Walton,” Tealer told the Inquirer. “We all had roles on our teams and they were nice enough to let me shoot and score a lot.”
Those roles is what Tealer believes propelled the Apaches to the state tournament.
Midway through the season, three players, two of which were starters, quit the team. Although no specifics were given as to why they quit, Tealer did note that the team was “very disappointed, obviously” and being in a small town, it’s hard to just call someone up to replace the talent.
“Took some time to build our confidence,” he said.
But as the season progressed, the Apaches were winning games and had a legitimate shot at winning their district and zone.
“Everyone understood their roles,” Tealer said, “I was playing with high character people who cared about winning. Everybody just put their own personal goals aside for the benefit of the team.”
By the end of the season, Gonzales and Samuel Clemens High in Schertz were tied up top of their zone. A playoff game at Texas Lutheran University decided who would leave the zone in first place and, as Tealer explained, it was “very close and back and forth, but luckily we won thanks to a few outstanding clutch shots by Fryer during the fourth quarter.”
“GHS had not won district in basketball since 1958 and we felt very good about winning our zone,” he said. “I think we felt that anything else we won would be gravy on an already successful season. I am certain that none of us contemplated making it to the state tournament.”
And yet they did, taking down team after team before reaching the state tournament.
Tealer ended the 1973-74 season averaging 29 points per game and 18 rebounds per game, totaling 1,100 points, which is currently 27th in the all-time single season scoring list in Texas. His career 2,176 points is currently 94th best in the state all time.
His offensive prowess was definitely highlighted, and rightfully so. However his presence on defense was not ignored by opposing coaches.
“We don’t have a number on his blocks because those weren’t charted,” current head basketball coach A.J. Irwin said, “but his ability to change the game with his presence is what made the difference.”
Irwin retold a story about a head coach frustrating his team with a broom to show how well of a blocker Tealer was at the time.
“That week in practice, the coach had their manager with the broom and when kids went up to shoot a layup he would swat it away with the broom,” Irwin said. “[Their star player] gets upset at the manager and tells the coach ‘why are we doing this? What is he doing?’”
“Is he frustrating you?” the coach asked his player.
“Yeah it’s frustrating!” the player replied.
“Good, that’s what it’s going to be like playing against Tealer,” the coach concluded.
Although no number was given, Tealer believes he averaged about three or four blocks a game.
“I wish I could exaggerate,” he laughed. “You send a message to folks [with the block] and I think they kind of receive it.”
Tealer and teammate Randy Walton, who was also 6 feet, 5 inches tall, took pride in defending their basket.
“I think against some teams it was a bit of an intimidating factor were people would drive in,” Tealer said. “I took it personally about them attacking our basket and try to defend it as aggressively as I could. I took pride in that.”
In the state final game against Crosby, Tealer recalled a time where that intimidation proved to be a factor in the game.
“Early on, one of their guards came in and try to do a layup and I swatted it out of bounds,” he said. “I don’t think he drove for the rest of the game.”
“That’s the type of game-changing ability he had,” Irwin said. “His hands, his arms, his ability to jump and get around the rim, his anticipation for the ball was marvelous. It was something you had to respect.”
The Apaches went on to win the state championship game 77-62 against Crosby.
After high school, Tealer went on to sign with the University of Houston, but quickly realized that college wasn’t the right fit.
“Big city, big university, wasn’t necessarily a good fit for me, so I transferred after one semester to Texas Lutheran University over in Seguin where I played for three years and graduated,” Tealer said.
Tealer eventually moved to California where he’s lived since 1983, though he frequently comes down to Gonzales to visit. He has also worked in law enforcement for over 32 years.
The ultimate teammate, Tealer, even with all the stats he accumulated over the years he’s played varsity basketball, claims that they were merely fortuitous achievements.
“I feel as though a lot of it had to do with being at the right place at the right time couple with hard work and dedication and having really good teammates,” he said. “I know there have been many good athletes before me and after me and sometimes things just line up for you and you’re able to have good matchups and be blessed with good teammates who you can work with and get some really outstanding things done. I don’t think it’s Dennis Tealer so much as it was circumstances.”
Circumstances or not, Tealer took advantage and did what needed to be done to get Gonzales to the state title. And now he’ll be rewarded a Hall of Fame induction for it, 40-plus years later.
Better late than never.
The induction banquet for the Class of 2019 will take place in San Antonio on Saturday, May 19, 2019 at the El Tropicano hotel Coronado ballroom at 6 p.m. Information on how to purchase tickets will be available on www.tabchoops.org.