Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 1, 2013

THE SKINNY: Torch is passed to hoops


GOSHEN — With the books closed on another prep football season in Michiana, our attention shifts squarely to winter sports - specifically basketball.

The girls have been underway for a few weeks now, and the boys just got their seasons tipped off last week.

I’ve covered prep hoops in a number of locations - Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and North Carolina.

And there’s just something special about Indiana basketball.

Basketball is one of several sports I played - though, like the others, not very well. My prep basketball resume is limited to a brief tryout for the J.V. team at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, Calif. in 1981 - a tryout that ended with me not finding my name on the final roster on cutdown day.

I knew the prospects were going to be pretty limited for a 5-5 point guard with limited range, even more limited speed and further limited shooting ability.

But I gave it a shot anyway - and never regretted it.

Playing a sport can give you a bit of perspective when you go out to cover it.

When a player talks about battling his way up from the J.V. and waiting patiently for his chance to shine, or beams about hitting the game-winning shot in overtime, you don’t have to have experienced that joy to be able to write about it effectively.

But it helps.

Even if your experience is limited to getting the occasional 3-point attempt swatted back in your face during a 5-on-5 drill, you can still smile and nod knowingly as you jot down what a player shares with you in a postgame interview.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed covering the sport - but it was not until I moved to Indiana in 2007 that I got a glance at prep basketball the way it was meant to be staged and played.

From the action on the floor to the (usually) good-natured fun that rolls back and forth between the student sections during a game, Indiana basketball is in a class all its own.

Few things have the power to bring a community together more than prep sports, especially in the smaller communities that make up the bulk of the Goshen News’ coverage area.

What else is going to lure hundreds of people out in the snow and cold on a Friday night?

Contact Goshen News sports editor David Vantress at 533-2151, ext. 325 or by email at david.vantress@goshenews.com. Follow him on Twitter at dvantress_tgn.