Basketball

I was very conscientious in my school work. I made very good grades but it was not easy for me. I worked very hard.

When I was in the eighth grade my mother was advised that I should have more activities outside the classroom. There were no counselors back then and as I remember this was the advice of the principal who was also my scoutmaster. So that year I was given only three regular classes and a class in basketball. At that time the school’s basketball players were allowed to practice during the regular school day and count that as a subject with the same credit as a regular class. That could not be done today. It would be in violation of accreditation standards and state law.

This automatically put me on the basketball team. I was the only eighth grade student on the team. There were 12 regular team members and me. The school had only 12 uniforms that had been used by prior teams for many years. The tops were dark gold and the pants were black. I was the only one without a uniform. My daddy must have felt sorry for me for he bought me my own uniform. It had black pants but the top was bright yellow with a very large “13” on the back. Never the less, I dressed out in it for every game.

At first I was very clumsy and had difficulty doing the practice drills, but the older boys had compassion and tried to help me as much as possible. I put the same effort into practice as I had put in my regular studies. Since the basketball class was at the end of the school day, I would stay after school almost every day to practice.

One of the best players lived near the school and he too stayed after school and practiced shooting. He would get me to guard him as he practiced his different shots. I was not much of a guard but he would coach me on what to do and I gradually got better. The player was Billy Tate. He became a kind of big brother to look up to and to help with problems.

After a while the coach began to notice my defensive ability and in my second year was often used in games. I’ll always remember our first game in the district tournament that second year. At the half the score was tied. The coach decided to use me in the second half to guard the top scorer- on the opposing team. He played a lot like Billy and my practice with Billy paid off. I stopped him cold. Our team won almost 2 to 1. I had made my mark and after that I played in many games and later became a starter. I never made more than 12 points in a game but I was good on defense and rebounding. I loved the sport, the cheering crowds, and I played my heart out.

I went out for basketball in college and made the first cut, but I had a lot of academic catching up to do so I gave up playing basketball for good.