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Class Of '17: Hoop Dreams Dashed, This High School Junior Aims To Graduate Early

Lara Solt
KERA News Special Contributor
Ricky Rijos, sitting, is in his 11th grade professional communications class as teacher Melody Barnhart points.

Like a lot of high school juniors, Ricky Rijos Jr. of Flower Mound High is facing uncertainty.

Ricky had dreams of playing basketball after high school. Goals have changed. He’s given up on basketball. Now he wants to graduate a semester early.

Today, we're checking in on Ricky as part of KERA's American Graduate series, "What's Next For The Class of '17?" KERA has been following a group of students since the eighth grade. We're catching up with the students now that they're wrapping up junior year of high school. 

In Ricky’s professional communications class, teacher Melody Barnhart flashes a picture of Cowboys legend Tom Landry, with his trademark fedora.

She asks “Who is this guy?”

One student guesses Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback. Another offers Vince Lombardi, the iconic Green Bay Packers coach.  

No no, no, no, no,” Barnhart says. “Who is it? The first name was right. His name was Tom.”

“Tom Landry,” says Ricky, barely audible.

He nails it. His love of sports runs deep. Until a few months ago, so did his desire to play basketball for the Flower Mound High School Jaguars. Thing is, he’s only 5 feet 6 inches tall. Last fall, Coach Eric Littleton set a high bar for a kid like Ricky to make varsity. 

“You better be an assassin when you shoot the basketball,” Littleton said last fall. “You better be able to shoot it from anywhere at any time against anybody. You’ve got to be able to dribble and pass and catch better than anybody. And equally important, you’ve got to have a heart that’s the size of the moon.”

Ricky couldn’t quite clear those hurdles.

“It was like the beginning of the season and I got hurt, sprained my ankle for a couple weeks,” Ricky says. “I was in the varsity gym at first and I came back after I was hurt and I went to the JV gym and I just never made my way back to the varsity gym. And then I never really got that much playing time. So it’s just not as fun when you’re not playing, I guess.”  

Learn more about Ricky and his plans for the future here.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.