When construction crews demolished Bladensburg High in 2001, forcing the student body to relocate, a sense of school spirit was lost along with the building.

Despite attempts to maintain the school’s history by displaying mementos such as championship banners and trophies, the history of the athletic program didn’t seem to carry over, even after the school reopened in 2005.

“Man, nobody was trying to talk about Bladensburg pride or even play sports back when they moved us into those trailer learning pods at the middle school,” said boys’ basketball coach Antonio Williams, an alum. “At the old spot, kids would point at spots on the court and say, ‘White Chocolate’ [Jason Williams, who played as an opponent at Bladensburg] took so-and-so’s ankles here’ or, ‘Brian Davis hit a game-winner from there.’ But when we relocated, those things couldn’t really travel with us.”

When Williams was hired in 2012, he used jersey numbers as a way to connect the past with the present.

“As an alumni and now a coach, this school and its history mean the world to me,” Williams said. “In order to move forward, you have to know where you started.”

Williams said he adopted the jersey idea from his favorite college program, North Carolina. The Tar Heels are known for assigning their point guards No. 2 or No. 5.

During senior Brian Upshur’s freshman season, Williams assigned the crafty 5-foot-10 guard No. 10 because he reminded the coach of former Bladensburg standout Calvin Cage.

“I really wanted to be Number 6, but when I asked to switch, Coach just said that he gave me 10 for a reason,” Upshur said.

Williams provides each player with stats and video clips of a former Mustang who might bear a basketball resemblance.

“It was kind of spooky when I watched Mr. Calvin’s film, because I saw so many similarities in our moves and our overall style of play,” Upshur said. “When you find out the person that wore your number before you and all the things that they did, it just puts a chip on your shoulder and makes you want to work that much harder, because you don’t want be the guy that didn’t carry on the legacy.”

While the jersey connection is a nice tribute, Williams knows that to truly bridge the gap between the stars of the past and his current team, Bladensburg must win. After finishing 7-17 last year, the Mustangs started 5-2 this season before dropping their past two games — a competitive effort against defending Maryland 4A champion Eleanor Roosevelt and a tight loss to Spalding.

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