Tydus Verhoeven is impossible to miss.
When you’re 6-foot, 8-inches you tend to stand out in crowds.
So when 10-year-old Austin Briscoe saw him dining at Chili’s recently, he went up to the Manteca High School junior – who helped lead the Buffaloes to the first public high school state championship in San Joaquin County since 1928 – and let him in on a little secret.
“You’re my hero.”
Such is the life of a champion that helps unite a small community through a storybook run to an almost unattainable goal.
On Friday Verhoeven and the rest of his teammates were kings of the city for the day – winding their way down Yosemite Avenue in a parade, proudly displaying the 2016 CIF Division III State Championship trophy and waving to the onlookers who gathered along the route.
It’s the kind of moment that most high school athletes dream of.
And when they came back to the Dr. Robert C. Winter Gymnasium they got to do the one thing that they didn’t get to do at Sleep Train Arena after delivering the monumental win.
They cut down the nets.
One-by-one they climbed up the ladder to reach the nets inside of the gymnasium that they dominated nearly all season long in the run up to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs.
Those are the same nets that danced when the Buffaloes beat Albany and Archbishop Riordan in Nor Cal games to advance further than any school in Manteca’s history has.
They’re the same nets that Kenny Wooten brushed up against when he went up for a dunk, and the ones that bounced when Dwight Young dropped a shot from beyond the arc.
But as tall as all of the Buffaloes were walking on Friday – getting accolades by the Superintendent and the Mayor in the process – they were also humble before the people who came out to support them.
When Briscoe came down to the parade with his mother and they went over the gymnasium to see the festivities, he took the time to seek out Verhoeven and tell him that because of him, he has made the decision to stop playing soccer and pick up a basketball.
So he responded by letting the youngster wear the three medals that he had around his neck – a CIF Scholar Athlete Award, a CIF Northern California Championship Award and a CIF State Championship Award – along with the piece of the net ring that he had cut down to keep with his growing collection of athletic awards.
“That’s awesome,” Manteca High head coach Brett Lewis said about the interaction that Verhoeven had with the young boy. “All that you can really do when you hear about a situation like that is smile – and I’m sure there are a lot of kids like him that are in that position right now.
“As a coach it’s your goal to make a huge impact on the youth. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Of course Verhoeven will have another year to rack up even more fans when he returns to Manteca High School as a senior to defend the State Championship and make a push for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Title that has evaded the Buffaloes ever since Mark Henry – who came to honor the program on Friday – won it in the late 1980s.
He’s looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us – going out there with a target on our backs every night because we’re the State Champions and everybody wants to beat us. But we’re going to grind in the offseason and get in the best position to defend that,” Verhoeven said. “What we saw today with the parade and the community is what this is all about – making Manteca known. I play AAU basketball, and a lot of people ask where you’re from and when you tell them Manteca, they say ‘Oh – you guys just won state.’
“People know where we are now.”
If that’s not #forthecity, I don’t know what is.