VALDOSTA -- It's gone. The "Magic Carpet" is gone.
Valdosta High basketball will no longer be a magic carpet ride.
Valdosta High has ripped out the green carpet that has adorned the floor of its gym for years, and replaced it with a floor of Teraflex, a hard plastic surface whose appearance makes it look like a wooden court.
"No more carpet," Valdosta boys basketball coach John Miller said. "We've got a new floor."
The contract to replace the floor, valued at $107,227, was given to Consolidated Specialty Products from San Antonio.
"They are the same people who have furnished the flooring for the Olympic courts for the past few years," said Bill Aldrich, director of operations for Valdosta City Schools, in a recent story.
Aldrich oversaw the process of replacing the gym floor for the city school system. He and others decided that if Consolidated's Teraflex floor was good enough for Olympians, it was good enough for Wildcats.
The gym floor has been carpeted for most of the current Valdosta High School's history. When the school was built in the early 1970's, the site that was chosen was a dried-up lake bed. But though it had dried up, that didn't prevent moisture from rising to the surface-- and destroying two wooden gym floors. After that, the school went to a carpeted surface, which could handle water better than a wooden floor could. Since then, Wildcats and Lady Wildcats have played their home games on carpet.
"When I first saw the gym, I was like, 'Carpet? No, not carpet,'" former Wildcat point guard Jerrod Jones said recently, shaking his head.
How much advantage the carpet gave Valdosta is debatable, but the Wildcat boys have been highly successful in Miller's 15 years coaching the team. Many people say the carpet threw opponents off, with the different bounce a basketball had off it, and the lack of the normal sound of a basketball hitting the floor.
"I've always felt there wasn't much difference," Valdosta girls head coach Deidre Williams said. "I mean, basketball is basketball. The basket is still 10 feet high. We practiced on it every day, so we're used to using it."
"I don't know how much it helped us, but I know the carpet was good to us over the years," Miller, who sometimes called it the "magic carpet," said. "We've won a lot of games on the carpet. We went undefeated at home for a whole season two or three times."
The Wildcats also made two appearances in the state championship game in the 1990's. Of course, that meant winning games on other floors, too.
"Good players made us a good team," Miller said, acknowledging that there was more to the Wildcats' success than the floor they played on.
"I guess we lose some of the psychological advantage we had with the carpet," Miller conceded.
The removal of the carpet is the most notable change in the Valdosta gym, but it's not the only change.
The school has devoted time and money to improving the gym the past couple of years. Last year, new lighting was added, making the gym, which used to give off the appearance of a cave, brighter. The new floor, a light color, also helps make the gym brighter than the dark green carpet did.
Recently, the gym's lower bleachers were replaced with a new set of mechanical bleachers. Now the bleachers can be pulled out or pushed in via the flip of a switch rather than by manpower. Also, the gym walls received a new white paint job.
"Once they started renovating the gym, I guess they kept seeing other things that needed to be fixed," Williams said. "Before, it was just all bad, so you didn't notice."
The teams have only been able to use the gym for a couple of days, but Miller already sees a difference in the surface.
"It's nice. It's totally different than the carpet," Miller said. "From a distance, it even looks like wood. We can't complain about carpet burn anymore. I like it, and so far, I think the players like it."
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