Coolidge senior Tim Anderson enjoyed the seven-day stay in California so much he thought about missing the bus back to the airport.
Coolidge sophomore Byron Hawkins found the experience on the West Coast so exhilarating he almost forgot he was afraid to fly.
Dunbar senior Harold Hunter was so impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and friendliness of the people in Sacramento that he is considering returning to California, perhaps to attend college or even live.
When it was time for the the basketball players, coaches and administrators of Coolidge and Dunbar high schools to return home after a recent week-long trip from the streets of Northwest Washington to Sacramento, there were few dry eyes in the parking lot.
"The experience was so positive and the kids and their adopted parents for the week enjoyed themselves so much, no one wanted the trip to end," said Coolidge Coach Frank Williams. "It was a very touching scene when we left. A lot of hugging and kissing. One lady invited two of the kids to come back and spend a week this summer."
Coolidge and Dunbar were selected to represent the Interhigh League and the District of Columbia in a good-will exchange program with the public schools in Sacramento. Two schools from that city made the trip here last year and played basketball against four Interhigh schools.
Williams and Dunbar Coach Roy Westmore said their players had scrape up nearly $4,000 to pay for the air fare to Sacramento. All the players stayed with families of the students at Burbank and Grant Union high schools to offset the cost of room and board.
"Each of the players gave their 'families' $30 to sort of pay for their food for those days," Williams said. "But the families gave them the money back when we left."
Except for practices and three games (Coolidge and Dunbar won all six games), coaches saw very little of their players. The visiting students toured the Sacramento area, attended class with their adopted brothers and sisters and as Coolidge senior Darrin Logan put it, "had the greatest time of my life."
He continued, "I had been to California before so I knew what to expect -- good weather, fun. We went to school with the kids we stayed with and there's no big difference in their schools and ours. The biggest difference is all the nationalities. They seem to get along pretty good. I could easily adjust to that school."
When the two Sacramento schools played in Washington, the coaches and sponsors complained the District's school system didn't promote the games well and attendance at Howard's Burr Gymnasium was poor. It was different this time.
"Everywhere we played, it was a standing-room-only crowd," said Dunbar's Kevin Washington. "They cheered us if we made a good play. They really enjoyed basketball."
Hunter said, "The fans really got behind us. They even gave us cheerleaders.
Williams said there was a great deal of media attention because of the local newspapers and a radio station co-sponsored the games. Before each game, players exchanged souvenirs and presents.
"Everywhere you went, there were posters with pictures of the kids on them," Williams said. "They pumped up the games and the kids were treated like celebraties. And the people came out to support the games. We played at Sacramento High, which holds close to 4,000. They squeezed them in, too."
Westmore said lines formed "in the rain" 90 minutes before the game started to buy tickets.
Hunter said an uncle came from San Francisco to see him play but was turned away because the gymnasium was full.
"He was kind of angry," Hunter said. "He couldn't get in after that long drive."
Dunbar's Darryl Prue, who was easily the most impressive player out there, said he and his adopted brother talked very little about the sport responsible for this trip.
"We spent a lot of time talking about other things," Prue said. "When we were scheduled to play his school, he told me he was going check me. I don't think he thought I was very quick and he got in foul trouble. We didn't talk much about the game or his foul trouble; we just went out for pizzas."
Asked to describe the biggest difference between the cities, Prue said all the houses and streets in Sacramento looked the same.
Hawkins said Sacramento was a "highway city.
"You make a wrong turn out there and you might end up in Los Angeles," Hawkins said. "In D.C., you make a wrong turn on Rhode Island (Avenue), you are on 13th or 14th Street. No problem."
The Sacramento schools are expected to come back to the District next fall.
"It would be fair for two other Interhigh schools to experience a trip of this nature," Westmore said. "But I wouldn't turn down another chance to go."