Garfield's motto: Loyalty over everything
Garfield star Tony Wroten Jr. came up with L.O.E. — loyalty over everything — while he was sitting out last basketball season with a knee injury suffered playing football.
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Three large letters run down half of Des'Juan Newton's left arm: L.O.E.
The L starts just below the Garfield senior's shoulder. The O covers his biceps and the E ends at the elbow. Smaller script letters next to the larger characters fill out the tattooed phrase that best describes the top-ranked Bulldogs.
Loyalty. Over. Everything.
The acronym was created by Tony Wroten Jr. while the senior point guard recovered from a football injury, a torn ACL, that ended his junior season of basketball months before it began.
Since Wroten couldn't play basketball, he had time to think.
He thought about his future. He thought about his friends. He thought about loyalty.
He decided to brand his social network. It is a group that extends beyond the Garfield basketball team, but the meaning behind the motto holds true for the team as it prepares to play Puyallup at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the Class 4A quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.
"I started L.O.E. when I was at the house, just thinking," Wroten said. "I've got a group of friends who are doing positive things and it was a time in my life where my name started getting bigger and bigger. People started to come around (who) I didn't know. I decided to make a team and call it loyalty over everything, something that really means something to me."
L.O.E means so much to those around Wroten that Garfield teammates like Newton have branded themselves with the letters.
"Basically, that's what we go by," senior guard Glenn Brooks said. "Loyalty is everything. He's really loyal to us and we're really loyal to him. We've got his back and we know he's got ours."
When people talk about Garfield, much of the focus is on Wroten. He is the Washington-bound star, an athlete who has been in the spotlight for years as one of the top-ranked players in the country. People talk about his demonstrative and flashy play on the floor and his quick quips on Twitter. The conversation isn't always flattering.
"You can be judged in a good way or a bad way," Wroten said. "It's something you can't control. I know people might think I'm a bad person, this and that and not team-first, but once you get to know me, you'll realize I'm a totally different person."
How much can be learned through a few games and the muddled musings on Twitter?
To understand Wroten, ask his teammates. They are the guys he will lean on if the Bulldogs make a run at the school's 12th boys basketball state title.
"He's a great guy," Brooks said. "He wants to pass. He's unselfish. He's going to get on you, but at the end of the day he's going to encourage you to get better. That's what he's trying to do, challenge everyone to get better."
Newton added, "People think Tone's cocky, arrogant, all that stuff, but nobody knows Tone until you actually get to meet him. Tone's actually really quiet. Around his friends he chops it up, but Tone's real quiet."
When Wroten was out last season, other players were forced to mature quickly. Freshmen Daeshon Hall and Will Dorsey learned a lot, while Brooks stepped in and filled the leadership void. Garfield fell short of the state tournament, but the experience hastened the program's development.
"We've been ranked No. 1 all season," Newton said. "Just because you're No. 1, that doesn't mean anything. That's just paper. We kind of have to deal with it, because we didn't go to state last year and we kind of use that as our fuel. We're hungry."
Someone recently posted a message on Wroten's Twitter page. "I like how I've never met @TWroten2, but b/c (because) of his Twitter, I feel like I know the guy pretty well."
His public perception doesn't mesh with the teenager who values loyalty over everything. Wroten and his teammates say anyone outside the program can think what they want. The Bulldogs care only about how they work together on the floor.
"Tony knows how to deal with public perception and, to be honest with you, (neither) he nor I care about public perception," coach Ed Haskins said. "We talk about it all the time. We care about the guys who are in that locker room. We know who we are."
Who they are is embodied in the three letters that run down Newton's arm: L.O.E.
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org