More than basketball

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Friday night was an emotional night at Bobcat Arena, as Berryville High School celebrated Senior Night and honored its senior basketball players at their final home game.

The same scene is playing out at schools across the state, as seniors look toward the future and their parents reflect on the past and wonder how the time went by so quickly.

I'm one of those parents. On Friday night, my son Ryan played his final home game at Highland High School in northeast Arkansas.

Ryan is much like a lot of high school athletes. He isn't a basketball star; he's a 5-10, 170-pound forward who made his first career start Friday.

But that doesn't matter. I couldn't possibly be prouder of my son if he were an all-state selection and a Division I prospect.

The reason is simple: Because when he's on the court, he gives maximum effort. Diving on the floor for loose balls, sprinting downcourt to contest a fast break even though it's a 20-point game, taking the ball to the basket against two bigger defenders.

Those things tell me a lot about my son, and most of it has nothing to do with basketball. They tell me that this is a young man who understands the importance of hard work and of giving his best no matter what. Those qualities will serve him well long after he's done playing basketball.

I admire his perseverance, too. As I asked him after Friday's game was over, how many boys turned out for basketball with Ryan in the seventh grade? 12? 15? Four were left standing at center court on Friday. Through all those tough practices, all those games, all those bus rides, those four stuck with it for six years.

Ryan's team is playing in the district tournament this week, hoping to advance to the regionals. After that, it's on to baseball season.

It won't be long, though, until Ryan graduates and moves on to the next chapter in his life. Following in his older brother's footsteps, Ryan will be headed to U.S. Marine Corps boot camp sometime later this year. There, he'll need to rely on things he learned as a high school athlete -- things like mental toughness, maximum effort and perseverance.

Something tells me he will do just fine.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers.