Calvin Stith considers himself lucky. While most other District basketball coaches have only one season goal - the Interhigh league title - Stith has two goals he considers within reach.
Stith makes it very clear that the first priority for his team, which has won its first four games, is the Interhigh crown. But his second goal is one that could last his players a lifetime: a college education.
"I see their counsellors and teachers as much as I see them," Stith said of his squad. "We never won a basketball title. That's my challenge. The other goal - (for kids) to go away to school and get a (college) degree - is just as important. That's my other championship."
To make sure his players meet that academic goal, Stith requires each player to carry a card which must be signed by each teacher daily so the coach knows the players are attending classes. Stith said he believes the card system, which was instituted at the school this year, is the only one in the District.
"You have to get your kids to class," said Stith, who has been basektball coach for four years at the school at 16th and R Sts. SE. "You don't want them running around the halls, becoming ineligible or so they don't have the grade to graduate. We have athletes, all the potential in the world, and (sometimes) they don't have the grades to go to school (college)."
There are plenty of college coaches interested in Stith's team, regardless of their grades. In the past, Stith occasionally found a college scout at one of his games, but this season he can't leave the gym after a contest without being approached by several recruiters.
"Now they're after the whole starting five. I haven't played a game where I haven't talked to two, three, four scouts every night," said Stith, who, at 6-foot-5, was a basketball center and an All-Metropolitan football offensive end at Anacostia before earning a football basketball scholarship to Winston-Salem (N.C.) State College.
"Me as a coach . . . it's tough. I don't want them (the scouts) talking to my kids during the season. I had to put a private line (at home), just for the scouts."
In trying to help his players win scholarships, Stith is paying a long-time debt.
"Someone did it for me. I played here and got a scholarship to school. I think I owe it to the kids."
The success of the Indians can be traced to patient, hard work by Stith whose record after three years stood at only 25-37. But a 3-15 mark in 1975-76 grew to 11-11 last year, and now Stith has an experienced, all-senior starting five.
Three players have started for Stith since their sophomore year: Forward Wilburt Skipper, who at 6-3 is averaging 23.8 points per game; 6-foot-2 1/4 James Coach, also a forward, who pulls down 15 rebounds and 12 points a game, and 6-foot guard Clarence Murdock. Dexter Price, a 6-1 guard who is second on the team in scoring at 18.3 points per contest, and 6-6 center Andre Adams are playing their second seasons on the starting squad.
"The best thing is I think we have the finest shooters in the city," said Stith, who also is head soccer coach and an assitant track and football coach. "I don't just have one shooter like I used to. They used to double-and triple-team Skipper . . . talent is getting better and things are getting easier. The kids are learning to win games instead of losing them. The kids are beginning to build character."
"It took us longer than it should have to get our poise, but we've got our teamwork (now)," said Skipper.
Skipper said it took him a while to adjust to playing on a team, since most of his basketball experience had been on playgrounds, playing one-on-one.
"We know each other as family (after playing together for three years), so we might as well get down to it (teamwork)."
Besides watching his players' athletic and academic careers, Stith sometimes has done chores that aren't in the usual realm of coaching. If the Anacostia gym is one of the better-lit gymnasiums in the city, it's because Stith himself got on a scaffold and replaced the many 300-watt bulbs in the gymnasiums with 500-watt bulbs. He also decided that the storage room was not the place for the scoreboard, so he took it out and installed it in the gym.
Stith lets his players know that he notices their hard work, too.
"when I came here," Coach said, "I was expecting to play JV (junior varsity). But the coach said I had a chance to play (varsity) if I hustled and played hard.
"We want to put this school on the map. We want to let the people in the city know that we can play on this side of the (11th St.) bridge, too. They call us the 'Across the Border Gang.' But with the talent we got, I think we can show them we can play over here, too."