“March Madness”, what an amazing time of year!!! A few weekends ago, Indiana was jam packed with college and high school basketball. As I witnessed the 2017 IHSAA State Finals and the NCAA Division 1 ‘Elite 8’ Tourney, I came to an understanding about something that most don’t take the time to think about, especially as a young kid or teenager. I’d like to give everyone – particularly the young audience – a little bit of perspective.
This may sound like a line straight out of the movie, “Pursuit of Happiness”, that’s because it is, paraphrased haha. “You gotta dream… You gotta protect it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.” That is exactly my message. It may sound a bit odd to others, but do you know what my favorite sound in the whole wide world is? Beside the sound of my baby boy and girl crying as they came into this world, it is “the roar” of a crowd. I don’t know, I must have developed this love as a young kid when my dad would take me to Kokomo basketball games on Friday nights. That anticipation of “the roar” as a 3 point shot attempt goes up while the crowd yells in unison “Threeee”, or the anticipation of “the roar” when a talented athlete breaks into the open court knowing he’s going to throw down a monster dunk.. And then to hear it!!! Wow, goosebumps every. Single. Time!!!
So, as I’m sitting on my couch watching game after game, I realize: there are people in this world that will never ever get to experience “the roar”. College and Pro crowds obviously are on a whole other level as far as attendance goes, but that sound, that “roar” was an old familiar sound. Even 13 years removed from playing high school basketball, I can still hear that sound, and it’s something that you will never forget. Seems just like yesterday, 2003, Kokomo’s Memorial Gym on a Friday Night, it was Kokomo basketball program’s 100 year anniversary. Legends of Kokomo basketball were in attendance that night and we were facing an, as usual, tough Muncie Central team. They would later beat us in the first game of the regional, but were no match for us that night. The electricity of 5,000 plus spectators provided us on that special night more than enough energy to get the job done.
I will never forget my coach, Mike Wade, calling me from the bench to enter the game for the first time that night. It had been a back and forth game, and as the half approached I could only imagine that he put me in to make a key play we needed to go ahead. That key play, I provided; with a defensive possession on the south end of the basketball court, just in front of our student section it wasn’t long before I made my move. With sturdy, rugged defense I got my hand in on a pass and deflected to a good friend and teammate of mine Deshawn Hawkins.. I’ve heard many athletes say that as they are making a big play they hear nothing that they zone out, not me, I wanted to hear it. So after Deshawn grabbed the ball I had run out ahead of everybody to get a lead down court. I noticed a guy from Muncie by the name of Josiah Miller, he wasn’t far behind so when I got it I had to do something quick. Deshawn and I locked eyes and he tossed it out ahead of me and when I caught it I raced down to do a patented hook layup that a couple teammates used to laugh at me about, but it worked. That last moment as I laid the ball off of the glass, I heard a loud smack that I would realize later was Josiah smacking the backboard in an attempt to block my shot. The ball went in and 5,000 plus went crazy in Memorial Gym to close out the first half. There would be many other moments throughout my high school basketball career that I would hear “the roar” of the crowd, but none would compare to that night.
As I sit on my couch watching big shot, after big shot the high school and college athletes were hitting in the biggest games of their young lives, I kept hearing that old familiar sound. A sound I can’t shake, honestly don’t ever want to shake, because it puts me back out on that basketball court. Takes me back to when I would hit a big shot and the crowd would erupt for me, because of something that I had done or a teammate had done. I think about why I was able to hear those sounds, and at the end of every day it comes down to my ability to shoot the basketball.
Kids, knowing how to shoot the basketball can bring you amazing opportunities, opportunities just like the one I described to you. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they should be able to look ahead, look into time and see what it is they want to look back on and say, wow, that was a great time. Whether it is good or bad you will be at a point in life where something is going to trigger an emotion, you want that emotion to feel good and not one filled with regret. I’m thankful that I put myself in a position to succeed when I was given the opportunity, for me that was working on my jump shot. In working so hard to be great at shooting the basketball, doing so lead to moments of being able to hear the beautiful sound of a cheering crowd. Choose to be a part of the game in a way that only you can be, everyone has their special and unique place. Doesn’t necessarily have to be shooting the basketball as it was for me, maybe its defense, maybe it’s getting to the basket, maybe its rebounding. Whatever it is nurture it, grow it and watch it help you fulfill some of your dreams..
“A Jump Shooter is Always in the Game”
~J.C. Barnett III