Well, the “amateur” basketball world is sure in an uproar this week

Well, the “amateur” basketball world is sure in an uproar this week. The breaking news just out alleges that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been handed out illegally to young high school phenoms and their families. This bribe money is an inducement, of course, aimed at funneling the teenager to a particular university, agent and/or shoe company. A bevy of coaches, agents, family “friends” and footwear people have all been implicated.

If the story is correct, some five star recruits have been offered as much as $150,000 to attend the “right” university. I’d say there was a tad bit more than laundry money involved here. Charges have already been brought against several assistant college coaches and a couple of shoe executives. At least one head coach has been put on administrative leave. University presidents all over America have broken out in cold sweats—praying their football programs don’t fall under the same scrutiny!

I played high school and college basketball. And if you don’t count the six ounce Coke and orange slices Coach Givens gave us at halftime in the locker room to “juice us up” for the rest of the game, I was not paid to be there.

Let me back up a little. My basketball career began in the living room. We’d push the furniture up against the walls and practice dribbling with a tennis ball. The goal was a coat hanger Leon somehow fastened to the wall above the door going in to the dining room. We’d jar the whole house coming down with a rebound.

Money never crossed our minds.

We moved the game outside to Paul David Campbell’s driveway. He had a real basketball and a goal with a partial net. We’d choose up sides and play from sun-up till sunset. There’s no telling how many youngsters developed their ball handling, jump shot and bounce pass skills on that old concrete. The camaraderie was wonderful…..right up until the fight broke out. And it beat the heck out of just sitting around the house all day.

My main competitor in those formative years was Emily Scarbrough. Let me tell you, she was the real deal. Em was a couple of years younger than me but she was a born basketball player. We wore out that court behind the high school gym. I used to be a little ashamed of getting beat by a girl most every day……until she made the high school All-State Team three years in a row!

For a spell there Jackie Burns, Nicky Joe Stafford and Leon would ride down to Gleason on Sunday afternoons and play in that big paved drive at Buddy Finch’s house. I would tag along as “Leon’s little brother.” They didn’t throw the ball to me much but I was in the game.

Buddy’s good looking sister, Pam, would bring out lemonade and cookies at halftime. As the Sundays rolled by, I got way more interested in Pam than I did the teams, the score or how Nicky Joe’s hook shot was working that day.

Sometimes there are incentives that outweigh the money when you are considering all the options in your basketball career.

Coach John Camp was my first high school coach. We played a little basketball in between the running. He was tough as whit leather, worked us to death and often demanded more than we thought we could possibly give. I was a sophomore, rarely got in a game, and I kept reminding myself, “Basketball is my least favorite sport. I just played it because it fell between the football and baseball seasons.”

You’d think it was a horrible situation for me. The exact opposite was true. Coach Camp was a mentor who touched my life forever. He loved the game into us. And he would accept only your maximum effort. Listen, if I’m lining up tonight to play hop scotch with my granddaughter…..she’s not going to get my second best jump!

Wasn’t it Horatio Alger……or maybe Bobby Knight who said, “The best things in life are free.”

I would have rather had my growing up basketball experiences than $150,000 ten times over. What teenager should be made to perform under that kind of pressure? Who would want to be a professional anything at age 15?

I’d rather remember busting my chin on the dining room table after a game winning lay-up. I wouldn’t have missed the fights over in Paul David’s backyard for all the tea in China. Emily’s sweat stained face was a thing of beauty. Pam and I dated only a few times but we’ve been lifelong best friends.

And, in retrospect, I should have PAID Coach Camp just for the privilege of being on one of his teams.