Sincerely, Charlie

 

It’s usually the case that the best of the best in their craft make it to a Hall of Fame of some sort. Those individuals possess an intangible quality about them that set them apart from everyone. In the case of Charlie Hall, he couldn’t have a more fitting last name because the ‘Hall is exactly where he deserves to be; the Indiana basketball Hall of Famer is at home in the enshrinement of the greatest players, coaches and minds the state of Indiana has ever seen. Charlie is a bit before my time, but I’d heard the stories of how Charlie “the Snake” Hall could really play. As a coach, I witnessed the magic of his ’02-’03 Lady Kats basketball team as they made their undefeated run to a state title. There is an indisputable value Charlie brings to everything that he touches, that’s been evident in his time as director of Indiana All Stars. I’m pretty sure I know the reason why – he’s blessed me and touched my life with his remarkable character.

 

Hall with his girls after winning state championship in 2003.

 

It’s been 14 years since I’ve graduated from Kokomo. Often I think about when I was in high school and the wonderful time I had while I was there. Every year of school I had a weights class first thing in the morning. At the time, Kokomo’s facility was probably one of the nicest high school weight rooms in the state of Indiana. At the very center of that room was a small table, and at that table sat Mike Wade and Charlie Hall my weights instructors. Mike Wade I credit and forever indebted to for giving a little guy a chance; for believing in me enough to start me at shooting guard in competitive high school basketball, getting the chance to compete against some of the greatest competition in the state. Across from him sat Mr. Hall. In the many interactions I had with Charlie over the course of my time at Kokomo, he was such a pleasant man to talk to. What was most striking about him was that he always gave me the sensation of being full. From the age of 18 to now, it’s taken me this long to fully understand why it was I felt that way. When he and I would speak, he was always saying something that revealed something about me. A special quality that I possessed, something that he saw in me – that I could do, or noticed something that I didn’t think anybody could see in me. To anyone, especially a young man, that does so much for their self-esteem – not only that, it has great influence on that person’s next move or step in life. A single moment can leave a lifelong, lasting impression.

 

 

I’ll never forget – my senior year it was a Friday morning in weights class, and it was basketball season. When class was over and we were making our way down the steps to the locker room, a good friend of mine was asking me about the game coming that night. We were playing Richmond in Richmond, and facing a tough ball player in Dominic James. Up to that point I had seen no one as impressive or explosive as Dominic. Standing at 5’10”, the guy could literally jump up and look down into the basket. That night he went for 37 points against us and caught an alley-oop dunk with his elbows at the rim. In a losing effort we took that game into double overtime and lost on a buzzer beater 3 point shot. In the middle of telling my friend about how incredible James was, a voice from behind me says, “he doesn’t have anything on JC though!” When I heard it I looked back to find Mr. Hall standing there; so I smiled thinking he was just joking around, but he was genuine in what he said. Those are the kinds of things that set Charlie apart from everyone else to me; I received from him a regular dose of encouragement whether he realized he was doing that for me or not. I knew that I didn’t hold a candle to James, but that night against Richmond I had 12 points on 4 three pointers, and two of those shots were a huge reason we were able to battle and stay alive in overtime. Those words instantly gave me the feeling that I could do anything – and that night I made special moments and many other big moments throughout the season.

 

Indiana All-Star Devin Davis of Warren Central High School poses with game director Charlie Hall after receiving the series Most Valuable Player Award against Kentucky on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo by Gannon Burgett for The News-Sentinel)

 

When my time came to an end at Kokomo, Charlie your kind and inspiring words did not stop there. In a final send off to me you wrote me a very special letter that I still look at to this day. And so because I just have such a high regard for you, I wanted you to know what I thought of you. Thank you sir

 

Very special letter of recommendation Charlie wrote for me my senior year.

 

(You can find a small bit of the Richmond game footage in the tribute video to Ricky “Minnesota” Cardwell starting at the 3:43 mark.)

LB Holds the Keys

 

By now, Lawrence “LB” Burnett should be a name everyone knows in the world of basketball in Kokomo. I’ve learned and taken away so much from him in the past year. For myself, working my way into the player development field – I couldn’t have asked for a better example than him. Lawrence is from Chicago, Illinois – a land foreign to Kokomo natives in the sense that our styles of basketball are very different. I’ve lived in Kokomo all 32 years of my life, and played hoops about 25 of those years. There have been tough ball players produced here; too many to name individually, but in my opinion the culture of basketball overall in the area has always been a bit passive. And that is not necessarily a bad thing – we produce jump shooters, it just comes with the territory. But since the day I met LB, he’s been on a mission not to change – but add to the culture we have here in mid-central Indiana.

 

LB (left) and assistant coach Stacey Pollard listening in on coach Matt Moore’s gameplan during a timeout.

 

In my observance of him I notice that our styles of teaching are different – that’s the reason I believe I’ve always admired his methods. LB is tough man!! And his ability to transfer that toughness into his players is incredible. You can’t buy toughness, sit up on your mantle and claim to have it – it is totally and completely a mentality, a way of life. The way in which he builds that mentality up in kids is quite unique, and effective. With him, you will be respectful, you will listen, and you will perform. After taking careful consideration of the order in which he demands these things, I realize that a kid performs simply because he has taken the time to listen; a kid will listen because he has learned a respect for authority; and respect is taught while they are young and impressionable. In a deeper evaluation of that philosophy it is actually love, that produces these results. LB through his faith, love and passion for connecting with young people is truly a good man. By everyone that I’ve seen interact with him on a regular basis, he has made a great impact on their lives and earned their respect.

 

 

LB has produced and helped along many talented ball players that have a “go get it mentality. The fruits of those gentlemen’s labor are seen in the signing of overseas contracts, and some who have even made their way to the NBA. “Go and get it”, as much as it is about pure desire to be successful by one’s own will, it’s also about the mechanics. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from LB, is his teaching of counter moves. Out on the basketball court the environment and landscape is changing constantly. He prepares his players to the maximum, how to react to those changes and attack the basket. I especially love to incorporate this mindset into shooting the basketball, because there is nothing more rewarding to me than figuring out a way to rise up into my jump shot in reaction to what a defender has given me. Much of what I teach, more so for the older students is the art of deception, element of surprise, creating space and believe it or not closing down the space. Being a smaller guard, you have to find little ways outside of your athletic ability alone to create an opening to take your jump shot. LB’s emphases on making multiple moves work to your advantage – work! One is never going to just have a clear path to anything, even in life. Learn to create your own way!!

 

LB (middle) with two of his young guys..

 

If you’ve not yet made it a point to meet LB, please do this coming basketball season. There are very few people who know what it takes to get to the next level the way he does, and will actually give you the keys to making it happen. Take full advantage of having a man like that right here in Kokomo.

Giant Man, Giant Voice

As a Kokomo, Indiana kid just learning the game of basketball in the 90’s, the Carver Community Center was the hub of all basketball activity in the area at that time – at least in my eyes. I can still remember the smell of gym shoes, concession stand food, feeling the gentle breezes flowing through the open doors on hot summer days, and the aroma of a freshly waxed basketball court. I can even remember the very first time I’d seen the Michael Jordan painting on the east side gym wall, all lit up with lights that changed color around it. As significant an impact the senses of sight and smell have on the fondest of my early stage basketball memories – I’d have to say my sense of hearing is what I’m most thankful for in this instance. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the biggest voice this side of Heaven!

 

In the summer months, when you’d enter the front doors of the Carver Center for basketball camp, this great big voice that I described was already going. When you’re a kid 6’4” seems like a giant – who am I kidding, to me that’s still a giant; Phil “PC” Cox was that giant to me. I say this knowing full well that, “We Love This Game!!” was not created by coach Cox it was created by the NBA, but as far as I’m concerned that will forever be his trademark. For so many years I watched him with that chant, lead hundreds of kids in breaking it down at the end of the day at Carver basketball camp. I as well as so many others I’m sure, can still hear that echoing in our minds.

 

Speaking of an echo, Phil has a voice that can shake the rafters of Kokomo’s Memorial Gym. I’ve heard Phil rock the house singing the National Anthem countless times, in front of thousands of people. I’ve heard him singing beautiful songs in praises to the Lord on Sunday mornings, as I made my way to Sunday school class at Mt. Pisgah when I was small. He has used that “giant voice” of his for so much good in his life. For those of you who have read along with me as I’ve written about my journey in basketball, you know how often I express how thankful I am for how basketball has giving me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people. Phil Cox is absolutely one of those special people. His passion for investing in young people through basketball, gave me the chance to be close to him.  Because of him I learned a lot at a young age on a level not many get the chance to witness. In 1972 Phil Cox was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, fresh off a state championship at Connersville High school – and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to play for him, we had access to a perspective on the game that was quite unique.

 

A young and multi-talented Phil Cox on the cover of a magazine with a microphone in one hand and basketball in the other.

 

The passionate Phil Cox pumping his fist in excitement.

 

Over the years I experienced a ton of basketball with my ol’ coach, traveled a long way. AAU tournaments, Middle school basketball where I competed against his teams, and then eventually high school basketball – one thing always remained constant and that was Phil’s passion and desire for teaching. Boy, if it took you several times to get something right he’d sure let you know about it – and at the very top of his lungs. But when you got it right that very first time, his smile, his reassurance and celebration of you did wonders for building up your confidence. I’ve always appreciated his passion for the game, even more so his compassion for people and even more than that for being so down to earth – all while being basketball royalty in the great “basketball state”. I know that has more to do with the Man Who lives within him – if you’ve ever met Phil the love of Jesus is all over him.

 

Cox with former Wildkat standout Alan Arnett.

 

I’m so thankful for knowing Phil Cox the man. The time he took to spend and invest in us kids means more to me than he will ever know. It was not all about basketball with him – great life lessons have been gained from knowing him, lasting relationships were made through him, entire families came together all for one purpose. As a grown man, I understand now that all those years he chose to be a part of something bigger than himself, he made the decision to fill us up with his knowledge and wisdom of the game – and of life because he loved us. And with that in mind, I know how detrimental that can be to a man’s family. From all different angles but especially emotionally and financially, it can take a real toll on a relationship. So as much as I am thankful for Phillip Cox, I am even more so for his wife Darlene. Darlene, thank you for being such a strong woman and sticking by him all these years while he builds up young men like myself. It takes such a selfless woman who often goes unseen and unnoticed, to keep a strong man standing – otherwise he would surely fall.

 

Phil and his lovely wife Darlene.

Towe, Small Stature – Giant Heart

It’s such a great thrill to me, when I learn of something I’ve been totally oblivious to for so long – and it was right under my nose the whole time. Come on my people, momma – you’re a high school basketball historian!! Monte Towe, why did nobody inform me of the incredible man?!!

 

My beautiful mother..

 

As you would expect, being from Kokomo and watching high school basketball teams from the North Central Conference roll in and out of Memorial Gym, I’d known of Kojak Fuller; standing at 5’7” he is one of the greatest small guards Indiana has ever seen out of Anderson High school. With the recognition he received, how could I not know of Kojak, his extraordinary ability and performances earned him Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1993. Being right around 8 years old when he graduated, I was plenty old enough to be a basketball fanatic by that point. Fuller known for his prolific scoring ability was expected to do great things, even having immense promise for the NBA. But well, the Lord had other plans for Kojak – and he is living life for God impacting the lives of young people wherever he goes through the game of basketball.

 

Kojak Fuller looking to make a pass.
Fuller interacting with a young man.

 

How could this one slip by me though? It took a lady I work with in Fairmount mentioning who he was, for me to hear his name for the first time – ever. Monte is from Converse, Indiana and attended Oak Hill High school and graduated in 1971, he’s a “Golden Eagle”. When the lady I worked with pulled him up on the internet, I was amazed by what I saw probably more because he’s just so close to where I’m from, and I had no idea. A contributing factor that could have played a role in me hearing very little about Monte, is the fact that he’s older. He was born in Marion, Indiana in 1953, that’s one year ahead of my beautiful mother, (who is not ashamed of her age btw lol) and if you’ve ever seen her, doesn’t look near the age of 63. Anyway, Towe also standing only 5’7” was such an excellent high school basketball player he was given the opportunity to play at North Carolina State for Norm Sloan. He played college ball for NC State from 1972-1975 and in his time there won the NCAA National Championship in 1974. Amongst some of Towe’s greatest honors,  was earning All-ACC recognition and receiving the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the year’s best college player under 6 feet tall. In my mind probably the coolest thing about Towe is his connection to greatness. To me if it weren’t for Monte Towe throwing up the alley-oop pass for his teammate to drop in the bucket, a young North Carolina kid from Wilmington maybe wouldn’t have looked up to David Thompson as his biggest role model growing up. Michael Jordan was that young kid, and in 2009 when Michael was inducted into the Naismith Memorial basketball Hall of Fame, Thompson was there by his side the entire speech.

 

Duo credited with inventing the alley-pop.
Towe and Thompson came together to win a NCAA National Championship in 1974.
Thompson with Jordan after his Hall of Fame speech.

Towe went in the 4th round of the NBA draft in 1975 to the Atlanta Hawks, but played for the Denver Nuggets from 1975-1977. When his playing days were over he joined his old former coach Norm Sloan on the NC State coaching staff and stayed with him over ten years, even when Sloan went to Florida. Monte himself received the wonderful honor of being inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

 

Towe as a coach.

 

Monte Towe is just one of so many incredible stories of a small town kid, small in stature – with giant size heart. He as well as many others are living proof that no matter your circumstances growing up, or what size you are – you can do anything.

Matt, Moore Than Just a Coach

 

There are special people in this world that appear to go about their business as all others do – but produce differently. I thank God that He has favored me to have insight into the reasons why some things work the way they do; what is a clouded vision to many, is crystal clear to me. I appreciate that understanding, because it allows me to bring to light amazing people who have touched my life – and articulate why, they are amazing. Transparency is truly what sets us apart from one another. There is no greater component of change and inspiration than being relatable. The ability to open up not only for self – but to want to for someone else is an incredible quality to have. Some may think that being so open means you are at your weakest moment – but it is surely a way to find strength; and a way for others to find it with you.

 

Great leaders – they know how to change the environment in which they work, develop a culture that bears great fruit – because they know how to relate to those who work closely with them. Matt Moore, is as down to earth a basketball coach as you’ll ever meet; my experiences with “coach”, as I call him, are my own – so our views may be different and that’s ok. But the relationship that I’ve developed with him over the course of this past year, has truly been a blessing to me. A man who didn’t know me from Adam – wrapped his arms around me and welcomed me onto his coaching staff as if I was his own brother. I watched him keep a tightly knit group of gentlemen around him on his journey as head basketball coach at Kokomo High school. I seen how he took a group of young men with great potential, and some that were pretty rough around the edges – and helped them grow into men by the end of the season because he demanded greatness out of them; showed them that being a man is more about who you are off the basketball court, than who you are on the floor.

 

 

It did my heart good, to be a part of that environment – and he knew that. He granted me access to whatever I wanted as a coach, and allowed me to have a voice. I’m thankful that he seen something in me he knew would add value to the basketball program. Even more than him allowing me to be a part of Kokomo basketball, I am thankful for his friendship; In so many ways our home life matched up with one another. We both are married and had three kids at one time – he now has a fourth beautiful little baby girl, we worked to provide for our families and we love hoops. On several occasions we had the chance to talk, just he and I, and what I took away from those conversations with him was powerful. I found out more about who I was as a man because he allowed me to access who he was outside of being a brilliant basketball coach. I know I’m not the only person who has experienced this energy from him – but he makes you feel as if you are the only one that exists in that time with him. I know that personality resonated with everyone on the basketball staff, because I seen how that contagious mindset spread throughout an entire basketball organization. It gave us other coaches an unbelievable sense of freedom to do the exact same things he did for us, for others. We as coaches could help, and connect with our players in a way that maybe they’d never had before. What do you think that does for a young man? It breaks down walls, and barriers which possibly hinder them from being better basketball players – more importantly, better people.

 

 

Who we are as a coach of any sport and the success we have, first begins with who we are outside of the arena; and much, much more that involves being a selfless human being. Matt Moore is a great coach, because he is a great man! So, be sure that in whatever role you are currently fulfilling that you are either following selflessness, or leading selflessly. Thank you “coach” for your example.

 

 

Show Versatility

 

I met a young lady a couple of days ago that I didn’t recognize, and that’s hard here in Kokomo, Indiana. I was introduced to her by a distinguished gentleman that I know from the facility I use for my basketball program – her parents were present as well. As he proceeded to tell them who I was and about my business there, I approached the young lady with my hand extended and introduced myself as JC Barnett. Right away I noticed how shy she was. Her mother standing just to the right of her, kind of gave her a nudge to have her tell me what her name was. I then asked her where she attended school and what grade she was in. Again, with another gentle nudge her mother encouraged her to tell me that she was in the 9th grade, and that she was a basketball player. Of course naturally I asked her, “so you’ll be going out for the basketball team this coming season?” She replies with, “I don’t know, I’m not sure yet.”

 

She was such a sweet girl and it was a pleasure meeting her.. . I don’t know what will come of that young lady, or what she will decide to do – but I remember as a 9th grader, having a desire to do everything. I know most people are not like me, or think as I do as far as sports are concerned – that’s ok. One thing I did mention to her before we parted ways that day, was to be involved in as much as you possibly can. Do as much as you can handle, because that’s what helps you to thrive as a human being. The more you can put your skills and abilities on display the more opportunity you give yourself to move into different avenues in life.

 

I credit in large part, hoops, as the reason I have my current job – because of an amazing man I met on the basketball court. Being a decent football player got me a partial scholarship to a Division 3 college, which helped put a dent in high tuition. Football also is a huge part of what helped me build the confidence to be a basketball coach. I had my first experience in coaching a PAL football team in 2005 and then in 2006 I helped coach wide receivers with Aaron Alexander at Kokokomo High school, under Wayne Lance. Running track is where I met coach Byrnes, one of the kindest, most down to earth individuals I’ve ever met – he would do anything to help me or anybody else.

 

Do it all!! It does not hurt you to be an active student athlete in today’s society – it only helps you to move forward in this world.

 

Unassuming People

 

When I first met Eugene Carter, my first impression of him was that he reminded me so much of my grandfather; a kind and quiet gentleman. It’s been about a year now that I’ve known him, since I started using the facility I have for my basketball program – he’s been great, and such a gracious host to me and my students. Our relationship that started as just the occasional conversation here and there, I now make it a point to at least once a week sit down and have a nice chat with my good friend. Most times, sitting on the bleachers in a quiet basketball gym, we reminisce about the days we used to play hoops. I whip out my phone to show him footage of my playing days – and he of course looks at it with genuine interest. Eugene is from Newport, Kentucky – what us more northern Indiana folks would call the south, but it isn’t really too far; Newport is located just south of the Ohio, Kentucky border below Cincinnati. While I felt like I had a lot to share with him about hoops and the people I’ve played against, the more I started to listen to him speak about his experiences, I wanted to say less. That’s not a bad thing though – I’m more than happy to be quiet and listen to Eugene, he is truly a gem.

 

Standing at about 6’5”, Eugene is someone you look at and say – oh yeah, he was an athlete; he still has that feel about him. I learned that when he was growing up in the town of Newport, his family lived in as poor a situation as you could possibly imagine. With little to do and a basketball court just across the way from where he lived – he turned to hoops to keep himself occupied. On a dirt court, with rocks that seemed to place themselves wherever you wanted to bounce the ball – causing you to have to chase after it, Eugene developed his love for the game. The 8th grade was the first time he ever played organized ball, and as he puts it, “I was hard to handle! I had to play center, because I was taller than everybody else in my school – but most of the people I matched up against were taller than me. Boy could I leap though, I was already in the air while they were still winding up to jump. Allowed me to score and get a lot of rebounds.” It wasn’t long before he knew basketball was something that he was very good at, and could possibly be a way out of where he lived. He was absolutely right, over the course of his high school basketball career, Eugene posted numbers that would eventually place him into the Kentucky High school basketball Hall of Fame; Of course he had the opportunity to go on and play college ball too.

 

When Eugene speaks – there is a wealth of knowledge that flows, not of only about the game itself but of the people he has encountered. He says in a southern accent, “Cowens used to come by my house and wake me up in the morning to play ball”, and in my head I’m like, I know that last name but is that who he’s really talking about? So I say, “you mean, Dave Cowens?”, he says “oh yeah”. Later on he’s talking about something else and says, “that’s when Unseld and I started to get close”, and once again I ask out of curiosity, “Wes?”, he casually says, “Yes, uh huh”. As he continues to tell me story, after story about his experiences with even more basketball greats, I start to think – how many people in this world have done extraordinary things that hardly anyone knows about?

 

Dave Cowens with the Celtics
Wes Unseld with Washington Bullets

The most unassuming people have done some of the most amazing things in life – and have encountered extraordinary people. Often times we can be thrown by such humble spirits. They are the reason we should make every effort to be kind, and learn more about the people that enter into our lives – otherwise we would never know. They have something to share with us – and we have something to gain. We are more blessed by the wisdom of people like Eugene who are more than happy to share life stories with us; all we have to do is ask and we can walk away with something to apply to our own lives. So young people don’t ever be afraid to engage in conversation with someone you recognize as having a kind spirit. God has a way of putting us in a position to cross paths with someone that could tell us something that gives us a whole new perspective.

Cause and Effect

 

Everything we do has an effect on something else. If you smack a baby on the butt, that baby will surely start crying; if you put your hand on a hot stove, you most certainly will be burned. How do these things pertain to basketball? Let’s talk a little bit about defense.

 

Good hard, solid all around team defense is great for morale – means the play of everybody has been raised to another level, and is full of enthusiasm; it is essential to the success of the team. Let me give you a little perspective – truly, team defense is the effect. When everybody is playing as hard as they can on an individual level that is what binds everyone to create a solid defensive unit. The individuals are the cause of that.

 

What opportunities does that open up for you on the offensive end of the floor? When you play good solid defense, whether it be on the contest of a shot or stealing the basketball – it positions you to score much easier. When you force the offensive player to makes bad decisions, you or your teammate can make a play on the ball. In contesting every shot, I see opportunity in understanding who it is that has a better chance of rebounding the basketball and releasing down the floor. Being a smart defender presents a whole new world on the offensive end.

 

Me (as a sophomore) contesting at New Castle player’s jump shot. — Inside historic Memorial Gym

 

You as an individual have to make a decision on what kind of a player you wish to be. Will you choose to be someone who slacks on defense, and gets little opportunity to score the ball; and who doesn’t love to score? Or, will you be the kind of ball player that puts his heart into playing great defense – giving yourself chance after chance to score buckets? The choice is yours but, I hope you are putting the success of your team first and foremost. That starts with you.

In The Beginning

Me shooting at the free throw line. The great Ray Beets, a middle school teammate of mine (on the right of the picture), went on to be one of the greatest to put on a Taylor Titan uniform. He and I both combined to be a huge part of winning two back to back city and county championships. Kokomo’s head coach Basil Mawbey was quite impressed with our on the court relationship.

The start of my 7th grade basketball season was an interesting one – honestly, other than having athleticism to carry me along I wasn’t that great of a basketball player. I tussled with my jump shot a lot – I really didn’t have a set way to shoot the ball. To make kind of a long story short, that’s when I started developing the form that you see me using in the picture. With the development of this new found skill I really started to gain recognition as a basketball player at my age level very quickly – and mainly because of my ability to put up points from the outside. This blog is less about how this form came about and more about my experience with it.

Ever since I started using this form I’ve noticed it’s done a tremendous amount for producing successful shots. Not only that, but because of where my release point is – it makes it extremely tough for a defender to block my shot, even though I’m standing at only 5’7”. When it came to playing at a higher level of competition, as I did in high school and in various men’s basketball leagues in the Kokomo area, it helped that I could already have the basketball high and ready to release quicker than anyone could contest it. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t take smart shots – of course I wouldn’t shoot in the face of a 6’4” defender.. . Maybe just over 6’1” or a 6’2” :), but you know what I mean – take smart shots.

For those of you younger students that are still finding their way with their shooting form, try this form out. Around the 7th or 8th grade is a good time to start using it because you are strong enough, trust me – the challenge will be how to incorporate more leg into your shot, that is a must. Take a look at the picture, from where the basketball is at that point in my form, all you have to do is get full extension of the elbow finish with a high release and hold the follow through. After giving it a try, please feel free to let me know what you think about it. Need more of an example on how to use this form, check me out on Instagram username: jcbarnett_jumpshooting or my Youtube page link: https://youtube.com/user/jclbarne.

A Winner’s Recipe

One early mid-summer Saturday morning, birds chirping, the sun just beginning its daily climb into the sky and not a single cloud to disrupt its journey – I met a very good friend for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It is not my intent to romanticize the meeting but, the experience was joyful, memorable to say the least, and long overdue. I’ve known Bobby Pettigrew since I was a very little boy – he played P.A.L. football for my dad on the F. O. P. Chargers back in the day; I watched him play football for Kokomo, and then he coached me all four years of football in high school. Held within the mental scrapbook of my memories over the years, from playing ‘Madden’ on PS2 after practices, to watching him be inducted into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in track; our relationship even with interaction few and far between has always been one of brotherly love.

 

As we approached the podium to be seated by the hostess, I heard Bobby ask, “Is Jan working this morning?” Obviously a friend of Bobby’s I just figured he wanted to make sure he took care of this person by asking to be seated in their area. Aside from the fact that this individual was an employee of the establishment, we were the ones being taken care of – without question beyond the call of duty. Jan, a seasoned waitress, is as sweet as they come; she took care of us as we began to speak, chit chat and discuss our matters. Breakfast was an event that morning, we had laughs – Jan even fed Bobby a piece of toast, all in good fun. It was a great start to the day. Over the course of an hour, Bobby and I reminisced about everything! He brought up the time we got into a heated argument on the basketball court at the Sports Center; and told me the competitive relationship he and his best friend Frankie Young, another Howard County Sports Hall of Famer, have still to this day. We spoke about the love for our community and seeing positive things happening. Our love for Kokomo athletics and being a part of impacting the youth is a passion that we both share.

 

Bobby Pettigrew (on the right) with his best friend Frankie Young.

 

Ever since that day, my mind has been stuck on one subject that came up in particular. Bob, in reference to an old lost and forgotten dream, said these words, “Like you had mentioned one day on Facebook, it was a dream of yours to play basketball or any sport at Kokomo. These days it’s just like a normal thing for kids to wear the uniform; they take it for granted never realizing it can be taken away at any time. Coming up we had a sense of pride, we loved hearing that music as the players ran out. Thinking all day long about a rival game that Friday night. It meant everything to us, where has that spirit gone? Where did that dream go?” Honestly – where did it go? Listen, many of you have dreams that go way beyond high school sports, and I will never be the one to tell you that you can’t fulfill those dreams, but the dream has to start now! I strongly believe – the lack of a dream by our younger generation is a direct result of the diminishing of values, that was once instilled into the older generation as the fundamental keys to success. Go for every dream that you have – but, before you begin your journey let me send you with some perspective.

 

I’ll do this in the form of asking you some very important questions: For those of you with hoop dreams – are you making it to every single open gym? Because that’s what dedication looks like! Do you have a ride prepared, if not, you got your walking shoes on headed out the door early enough to be there on time? Because that’s what promptness is about! Are you giving maximum effort every play, every day? Because that’s how you gain opportunity! How are your grades, are you just barely passing or are you putting forth real effort in the classroom? Because that’s how you become trustworthy! How are you treating your mother and your father, are you mouthing off and being disrespectful or kind and polite? Because that attitude reflects in the relationship with your coach! Do you act as if you’ve made great plays before, or are you showboating after every made shot? Because your humbleness or lack thereof leaves a lasting impression on everybody! Important!.. . Very important! I am here to tell you all of these things play a role in your success. How you act at home, the way you treat people, the effort that you put forth – all carry over into everything that you do! Set yourself apart.

 

Blessed to be a Blessing – JC Barnett III