There’s something going on at North Central within the basketball programs. If you scour the rosters, you’ll find the last name of Ervin all over the place.
There are three associated with the boys team: coach Andre Ervin and his sons, Jacori and Gelonni, who goes by Juju. Then there’s Shalene on the girls team.
And there’s more on the way.
It shouldn’t be shocking that Ervin’s children are ushering in a new era for the Wolfpack.
Andre Ervin is among the single-season and all-time scoring leaders at Community Colleges of Spokane, was a key contributor to the Sasquatch’s 1999-2000 NWAACC (now NWAC) championship and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2008. The 6-foot-10 big man played overseas for a while before returning to embark on a career in youth and community service and coaching.
Jacori, a 17-year-old junior, stands 6-10 and is an imposing presence in the paint. Juju, a 6-8 sophomore, can play inside or outside. Shalene, a 5-5 junior, is a playmaker on the perimeter.
Andre joked Shalene used to “rough up” her brothers when they were growing up.
“Yes, I did,” she said. “Only to make them better.”
Do they return the favor now that they have the upper hand?
“Actually, no,” she said. “They’re very sweet to me. Usually.”
Coming off a six-win season, the boys team is off to a 2-4 start. In an informal preseason poll of the Greater Spokane League coaches, many had NC finishing in the top half of the 4A/3A division.
The girls team, under new coach Joseph Kraus, is off to a 5-0 start.
“The culture change is crazy,” Shalene said. “A new coach, new players. The team has come together, and we have a winning culture now.”
‘Go Team Ervin’
Andre Ervin wants to build something at North Central, and it goes deeper than basketball.
But that’s the obvious place to start.
“We got a thing we call ‘Go Team Ervin.’” he said. “The goal is to become a big, influential basketball family in the region. And not just that – we want to lift the community up.”
Mom Stephanie Ervin played in high school for Lake Roosevelt in Coulee Dam. She grew up on the Colville Reservation, so Andre is always mindful of honoring her Native American heritage.
“(Stephanie) was a pretty good basketball player out there at Coulee Dam,” he said. “So, we are also highlighting what it means to be Native and Black playing basketball in the area of Spokane.”
“It’s something that we all stand by,” Shalene said. “All of us are always hyping each other up, making each other better always. So, ‘GTE’ is something that really brings us all together for sure.”
“I want to make sure my kids have an opportunity,” Andre said. “All three of them have an opportunity to play college at the next level. And then I got a couple more coming up behind them.”
The Ervins didn’t vacation over the summer as many families do. They were on the road all across the country playing club ball and attending camps, all in the pursuit of strengthening their games.
“It was a really busy summer,” Juju said. “Traveling all over the nation, playing all different types of competition – five stars, four stars, three stars … played it all.”
“This summer was big for me and Juju,” Jacori said. “We improved a lot. We got to do some travel ball and it just helped us to play against higher competition.”
Though Jacori and Juju are already being heavily recruited, they try not to think about that aspect on the court.
“Sometimes you think, ‘Man, I gotta show out,’ ” Juju said. “But I usually just try to have fun, just gotta be me.”
It’s easier knowing Jacori is right there with him.
“It’s amazing playing with my brother,” Juju said. “It’s something I’ve always been wanting to do because I never really played with him growing up. But now I’m playing with him, and it’s really dope.”
“I can feel Juju’s energy when I’m playing defense with him,” Jacori said. “Offensively, when Juju is in the game, he lets me go 1-on-1, or I could pass it to Juju, and he’s just really reliable to finish that. So, it feels fantastic playing with my brother.”
Andre Ervin loves coaching his children, but he admits he got into coaching for a selfish reason.
“I’m gonna be straight honest on record – I didn’t trust coaching in the GSL, because I heard a lot of stories about coaches having a hard time with different kids, kids of color and all the things of that nature,” he said. “So, I said, ‘OK, you know what, I want to get into coaching.’
“I know how to work with kids. I build relationships up with the community and family because I’m a community person. And so, it’s great having this opportunity to coach my kids.”
He got into coaching with Fred Crowell for NBC Camps with an opportunity in Alaska before ending back up in Spokane at Valley Christian.
“I owe everything to Valley Christian School,” he said. “I helped rebuild their program there. I love those people there with all my heart.”
Though Andre doesn’t take off his coaching hat at home, the kids really appreciate that he’s been through everything they are going through.
“He’s always telling us what to do with our game,” Juju said. “He’s always coaching.”
“He knows my game, he knows Juju’s game, he knows Jacori’s game,” Shalene said. “We can always talk about our faults and what we could do better and what I did do good.”
Jacori used to be nervous about his height, but Andre has helped him build his confidence.
“I’d have trouble against bigger guys, older guys, guys who would try to muscle me,” Jacori said.
“We go at it a lot. A lot. I feel like it’s only made me better, playing under him. He showed me all these moves. He’s gotten on my case when I don’t hustle. You know, I go after him a lot, but I really appreciate it.”
“He is my probably No. 1 hype man,” Shalene said of Andre. “Actually, let me say, my mom is my No. 1 hype man, my dad No. 2 for sure.”
This is Ervin’s second year as head coach at North Central.
“This was my dream job,” he said. “When I started at Valley Christian I said, ‘In five years I’ll be at North Central.’ ”
Ervin has worked as a cultural classroom trainer. He not only coaches at NC but is an intervention specialist.
“I’ve trained educators how to connect with kids of color, or low income, or different backgrounds,” he said.
Part of that has been putting in no-cost basketball programs to give younger students something to put their energy into.
“We just made it very inexpensive to train these kids to play basketball.”
Ervin said he’s in “Phase 2” of the rebuild at North Central.
“I just took everything and went to the foundation,” he said. “I actually redug the hole and everything.
“It wasn’t competitive (at NC). That was the first phase. The second phase with this new young team is to teach them how to become a perennial playoff team.
“Phase 3 is going to be next year where now we’re looking to be perennial state participants and trying to win championships.”
Shalene said the changes within the girls program have been palpable.
“The culture last year was just negative energy,” Shalene said. “We pretty much took on the losing culture and just kept it the whole season. This year, the way we jive on the court is insane. We all have such high basketball IQ, skills, and our work ethic is just insane when we come together.”
“This would not even be possible without the type of support here at North Central,” Andre Ervin said.
“We raise these kids here as a village. The teachers, the administrators, they give me all the support in the world here at North Central.
“We think of North Central as a Wolfpack village, you know?”