The Column: Juniors should only keep plugging away

Junior year.

It’s when high school basketball players are supposed to reap the rewards of all the work they’ve put in during the offseason, all the minutes they’ve logged in lower-level games and all the time they’ve spent watching older classmates shine.

It’s their turn now, right? Right?

Take a look around at some of our area boys basketball teams, and juniors are thriving at Rantoul Township High School (Johnny Jones and Talon Hardin), Fisher (Kyle Williams) and Armstrong-Potomac (Shawn Johnson).

The same is true with the Fisher girls basketball team (Caitlin Cole and Sydney Blackwell, just to name two) and with the Armstrong-Potomac girls basketball team (Morgan Zindars and Rachel Miles, among others).

But for every junior or underclassmen that is thriving, there’s double the amount who are unsatisfied. Unsatisfied with their playing time. Their lack of scoring. Their lack of contributions.

It’s easy to watch from the bench and think while a teammate makes a mistake, ‘Man, if coach would just put me in the game, that would never happen. This is bogus.’

It’s harder to encourage a teammate to pick up their play or help them out after they mess up a certain halfcourt offensive set or out of bounds play.

It’s easy to stand and stew while the starting lineups are announced before a game thinking you should be out there.

It’s harder to earn one of those five spots.

Just quit, they start to think.

It’s easier that way.

No more feeling exhausted. No more feeling sore and worn down. No more late nights staying up doing homework, trying to stay awake during class the next day or dreading the thought of practice. Life will be so much more fun, right?

Maybe. Most likely not. Sure, you might have more time to spend on Twitter, but what would you tweet about now that you’re not part of the team? You don’t have anything to gripe about now that you’re not at practices or not enduring another long bus ride.

What would you do on Friday nights? Tuesday nights? Monday nights? Saturday mornings?

Here’s what you shouldn’t do.

You shouldn’t quit.   

The memories you’ll make, the lessons you’ll learn, the work you’ll put in, won’t come close to any other feeling you’ll get after your playing days are done. You’ll find yourself pushed to the brink of exhaustion, to the brink of frustration, to the brink of adversity.

If you think high school is tough, you’re in for a long and difficult life. Playing a game with your friends in front of your peers and relatives is nothing compared to what awaits you after high school.

Junior year is halfway up.

Do you want to walk away from a sport where players get injured all the time, where quality effort in practice this year might reward you with a starting spot next year, or do you want to slink away, leaving the possible rewards you’ve worked to reap so far in the past?

Do you want to never know how your high school basketball career might end?

It’s your choice.

But choose wisely.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor with the Rantoul Press newspaper. Like the column, love the column or hate the column? Let him know at mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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