WORTHY THIRTY: Ribet Academy head basketball coach and athletic director Reggie Howard and assistant coach Pookey Wigington are Inglewood natives and have been friends for 30 years. (Kenneth Miller/Photo)

It takes a lot to build a championship basketball program, and for the private school Ribet Academy it all starts at the top with the two owners of the school Ferah and Ron Dauzat.

“I along with head coach Reggie Howard wants to personally thank Ferah and Ron Dauzat for all they do for the Team Dream Academy and the school, their unyielding commitment and dedication has been amazing,” said Wigington.

Ribet, a tiny private school in Los Angeles was founded in 1982 by the late Jacques Ribet who died a decade after it opened as a result of respiratory failure in 1992 at just 38 years of age.

By then Ribet had established itself at a fledging basketball power, winning the CIF-SS VA championship in 1991 and again in ’92.

The Fighting Frogs didn’t win another CIF title until 2010 under Will Middlebrooks and since then Ribet had been less than an after thought in the annals of the champions in prep basketball.

That was the case until last season when the owners agreed to allow for Inglewood native Pookey Wigington to join forces with his childhood friend Reggie Howard.

GOOD ‘N SNOOKY: Ribet Academy senior guard Snookey Wigington shows his CIF championship ring presented during opening night at the school on Nov. 21. Snookey was named 2019 CIF Division 4 Player of the year for the Fighting Frogs. (Kenneth Miller/Photo)

Wiggington, a graduate of Morningside and Howard, a graduate of St. Bernard after starting out at Morningside are responsible for one of the more remarkable transformations in Southern California high school basketball.

“Coach Reggie and I have a 30-year relationship and we both thought about it and felt there was no better coach in the country suited to providing these student athletes with the tools they will need to be successful in the classroom and on the basketball court,” said Wigington.

Wigington made his comments on opening night of the 2019-’20 season on Nov. 21 at Ribet when the team was presented with their CIF-SS and State championships rings in the school gymnasium.

Howard is a former Division 1 assistant coach at Cal State San Bernardino and coached the Barstow College and earned his bachelor’s degree at UC Riverside in 1991 and later his master’s degree at Cal Baptist in 2008.

Before Wigington and Howard arrived, the school endured five consecutive losing seasons, but last season went 27-3 and finished ranked No. 24 in the State of California.

RING KINGS: Ribet Academy boys basketball team gathers following the presentation of their 2019 CIF championship rings on Nov. 21 at their gymnasium. (Kenneth Miller/Photo)

Their recipe for success is just 23 miles away from the location of the school, where Wiggington develops and trains aspiring basketball players through his Team Dream Academy at Rogers Park in Inglewood.

Established in 2012, Team Dream Academy is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing youth [boys & girls], grades 2 through 8, a high level, well-rounded academic & athletic experience.

Team Dream Academy is the foundational centerpiece for the thriving Ribet basketball program, furnishing the school with their next wave of upper level talent.

“I wanted for the kids from Team Dream Academy to have to opportunity to receive a well rounded private school education and I believe that Ribet Academy has provided them with that,” Wigington explained.

It also doesn’t hurt that one of Wiggington four basketball-playing sons, Snookey Wigington transferred to Ribet.

“I didn’t feel that he was getting the proper development and respect where he was and so when he came in here after sitting out a year because of injury he has proved what he can do,” added Wigington.

All Snooky did was capture CIF Division 4 Player of the Year and serve as conductor of the Fighting Frogs high powered offense during the most successful season in the history of the school.

Another of the prize Team Dream Academy transfers is Tyler Powell, from St. Bernard of Playa del Rey, who has emerged into one of the top recruits in the nation and is only a sophomore.

Ribet is a school that has also attracted students from around the world including such far and away places as China, Russia, El Salvador and Jamaica who are attracted to its academic curriculum.

“We decided that we were going to do everything first class and the school wanted to do everything the right way and now we are looking to be one of the best programs in the country and to give our kids an opportunity to earn a scholarship at the highest level,” Wigington elaborated.

Howard is a further testament to the highest level Wigington alluded to.

“We (Pookey and I) hung out that summer (2018) and I was in transition at the time, we were watching his son play. I was presented with a scenario where I could become the athletic director and I had just obtained my master degree and it was a great opportunity,” said Howard.

Howard credits Pookey, who while serving as the assistant coach of the team is also an astute businessman who is responsible for much of the success of superstar comedian Kevin Hart, with teaching him business and increasing his knowledge to learn.

“Even at 50, it not to late to learn,” he added with a laugh.

He says that he talks to Wigington some 10 times a day, which for those to aspire to meet the indefatigable mogul would be awe inspiring if they could reach him that many times in a calendar year.  

Ribet Academy is fortunate to have the responsible leadership at the top of their school that welcomed and supported the contributions of two Inglewood homeboys who have committed their time and resources to making Ribet Academy greater than every before.

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