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I shall be released

20 August 2010 No Comment

In the near future, I will be re-visiting my high school gym to play basketball there for the first time in 20 years. This is a genuinely monumental event for me and is significant on multiple personal levels.

Once this event occurs, I’ll dive deeper into its related significance. It is an intensely personal subject with unlimited depth. But it involves my pure love of the game, desire to revisit my teen years and high school experience, to put a positive ending on a negative outcome, and finally reconcile something that has haunted me for two decades.

I loved playing basketball as a kid, and fortunately was pretty good at it. I ended up down at the Lake of the Ozarks by the time I was a freshman, and at that time had begun attending school in a little town called Versailles, which was about 10 miles from the water where I lived. My graduating class had 65 people.

I did well as a freshman, leading the junior varsity in scoring at around 10 points per game. Now, this is the late 1980s, so I’m thankful to my late grandma Doolittle for keeping such a great scrap book of these events, as otherwise they essentially would have went undocumented. My sophomore season, I performed well at first, and saw a lot of varsity minutes, which was unusual at my school for a sophomore. My specialty was 3-point shooting.

However, I started to become a bit distracted around the age of 16. Typical kind of a deal when a shy guy/athlete starts to gain some popularity. I vacillated between JV and varsity the last part of that sophomore season, and went into my junior season as a starter. But, my wayward spiral was imminent at this point, and I lasted only about 10 games before getting the boot for disciplinary reasons. I found myself in major trouble since I was 17 by this point, and not a juvenile as defined by our legal system. The stories related to this are best saved for another time.

Now, that team my junior season actually became a district champion in my absence, and I’ll always wonder if I could have pushed them deeper into the postseason. But, my point here is that I made some mistakes as a teen and it really took away from my basketball experiences in high school, which was something I had worked toward for my entire childhood.

Obviously, when I have the opportunity, I tell kids to realize how precious these years are and if you mess up like I did, you do not get a second chance. Schools tend to be strict with extracurricular activities, which is kind of a Catch-22 because taking away basketball only made me rebel even more – too much time on my hands – before getting things turned around. But … the reason I bring this experience up is because just this week I reached out to my JV head coach at Versailles. It was a great email exchange, and he is going to let me shoot around at my high school gym. The last time I was in that place was for my high school graduation in 1991. So … I am beyond excited about this. Not to be corny or melodramatic, but I’ve wanted to do this for many years to kind of complete things for myself. To not recall my mistakes, but to walk off that court feeling good about things. To really re-connect with my younger self.

Basketball is incredibly important to me, as is my radio show, so I just wanted to share that story. Not only do I love to watch, read and listen to all things hoops-related, but I use the sport as a means to stay active, and play alone 2 or 3 times a week around St. Louis. By the way, if you know of a great place, indoor or outdoor, to play around town, drop me a line. I’d be thrilled to mention my personal favorites.

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