ATTHEW (CHIC)Downing, a 57-year-old retiree, grabbed a good seat inside the Atchison (Kans.)High gym last Thursday, a spot just a few feet from the home bench. It wassenior night for the Redmen boys' basketball team, and Downing had plenty tocelebrate as Atchison prepared to meet Pembroke Hill. He clapped for hisyoungest son, Jaurrice, the first senior announced. The elder Downing thenapplauded two of his cousins, Ryan and Joshua, who were also playing theirfinal regular-season home games. And he smiled widely when two morerelatives—grandson Anthony and cousin Charles Ford-Downing, bothjuniors—completed the starting unit. "We've had a lot of Downings play forAtchison over the years, maybe as many as 35," Chic said. "But this isthe most we've ever had on one team."
In all, seven of12 players are Downings, including two sets of brothers and an uncle who is 10months older than his nephew. This group shares not only a name but also anexpectation that they carry on a tradition in this northeast Kansas town of10,169 people.
In the mid-1950sChic's uncle, Carl, was the first Downing to play for the school. A decadelater Chic became a two-time all-state player who would go on to coach theRedmen from 1974 to '91, winning four state titles, including two with teamsthat featured Jaurrice's older brothers, Matthew Jr. and Clifford. "We hearabout it weekly," Jaurrice says of the championship teams. Adds Joshua,"We tell those guys that we're a better team. They always say we haven'twon any titles yet."
That couldchange. Despite losing 59--43 to Pembroke Hill, the Redmen (15--4) were strongcontenders to reach the state 4A finals. (The postseason began on Monday.)Whatever happens, Chic Downing says, he's delighted with the family tradition."These kids could be doing a lot of other things, but they're out thereplaying together. That's something I'll always be proud of."