WICHITA, Kan. -- High school has been more than a place to play basketball for Aubrey Sherrod.
Wichita Heights High School has been 'home' for the 18-year-old who has poured a steady stream of points through the nets and gained national recognition. And Heights' Charles Doughty Jr. has been his 'father.'
When Sherrod came to Heights three years ago, he already had everything he needed on the basketball court. At 6-4, he had the feathery shooting touch, the gazelle-like quickness and the keen eye for passing.
But Sherrod, whose father died when he was 2 years old, needed something off the court and his coach stepped into the void.
'He's just like a father to me,' said Sherrod. 'He's a teacher and friend first and a coach second. Any time I feel down, I can talk to him about my problems.
'It's nice to have a relationship with your coach that goes beyond basketball.'
The two attend church together and go to Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings together, and Sherrod drops by his coach's house almost every day just to sit and talk.
'He's certainly been like a son to me,' Doughty said. 'He's the kind of kid you'd like to have for a son. He's just so mature. He's a fantastic youngster.'
And a pretty fair guard on the basketball court.
Sherrod was named one of the nation's top 40 high school players by Parade Magazine, and was the leading scorer last Thursday in the Capital Classic High School All-Star Game.
Sherrod scored 20 points and made four steals to lead his U.S. All-Stars to an 91-85 win. But Sherrod didn't make any razzle-dazzle moves or bring the crowd to its feet with any thundering dunks. He was just his usual consistent self.
'He can play and you never even notice him,' Doughty said of the youngster who averaged 27.5 points and 7.5 rebounds his senior year. 'He's never flashy -- just consistent... A lot of kids talk a lot and brag a lot. But not him. He doesn't need to.
'If you were looking for perfection, he might be close to it.'
If herrod's physical abilities are near-perfect, his demeanor and attitude are even better.
Neither his coach or any of his teammates can remember Sherrod ever complaining to an official or even frowning at a call.
'He never shows emotion,' Doughty said. 'He's like Bjorn Borg. Nothing ever, ever bothers him. I told him that one day, somebody will be giving him a really rough time and he'll get flustered. But he said, 'That will just say he's having trouble with me.''
Sherrod learned to be calm when he was a youngster watching basketball on T.V.
He saw players moaning to officials about calls and he vowed never to be like that. 'You see people crying and complaining and there's no reason to act like that,' he says softly. 'There's no way you're going to change the ref's mind anyhow.'
Sherrod, the youngest of five children, grew up around basketball. Even before he learned to read, he was shooting at a rim in the backyard with his two older brothers.
When Sherrod was in the second grade, he was so tall he was asked to join the sixth-grade squad along with his brother Avery. The team cruised through an undefeated season and it slowly began to dawn on Sherrod that basketball was meant for him.
It has carried him to national prominence and carried his team to a second-place finish in the state championship. It has also led him to a crucial decision: whether to attend Kansas State or Wichita State, the two schools he's narrowed from a list of hundreds of offers.
But basketball has also carried Sherrod to a painful time. It's time to leave 'home' and time to leave coach Doughty.
'He's been the closest an older man I've had in my life,' Sherrod said. 'And it's been three great years. I learned more than basketball -- I learned how to be a better person.'
As Doughty puts it, 'I hate to see it come to an end... I'm sad to see him go. And he doesn't really want to let go, but he's got to move on.'