Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Opinion: Volume 2

December 24, 2003

In the '90s, the landscape of basketball in Basehor, much like Kansas, was quite a bit different than it is today.

Stocked with prodigal sons of Basehor, the high school teams won games and league championships. The Jayhawks, led by a twanged coach, ruled the Big 8 and Big 12 like a punishing Roman legion.

Most every home in the city had a basketball goal and on any given day, a flock of new jack players, inspired by dreams of playing for the Bobcats and Jayhawks, were there honing their skills.

That was then.

Today, the high school teams are struggling, Roy bolted to North Carolina and video games have replaced shooting hoops as a preferred hobby.

It's a depressed situation and one which boils the blood in my veins worse than if someone punched my dog in the snout.

Last week, I wrote a column about "Big Dave" Selbe, a guy I believe stands for everything right about basketball -- team play, hard work and love of the game, to name but a few.

In doing so, my goal was to let people know this game is still around, that good people can be good players, and perhaps, maybe just maybe, inspire another basketball renaissance in Basehor.

It's not out of my system yet so if these paragraphs come off as a love song toward hometown hoops or if I come off as a guy telling remember when stories, so be it. I've been accused of worse.

Today, I'll tell you more about guys who are a credit to the game and examples younger players should follow if they wish to succeed.

In the '90s, any kid who played pickup ball went to one of two places: the Laffere house on 155th Street and the Knipp home on 154th Terrace. Those homes were Basehor's version of hoops Mecca, places where one game, and one game alone, was held sacred.

There you found an eclectic mix of players, and feverishly intense games were played relentlessly.

The two linchpins were Greg Laffere, who led the 1995 Bobcats to a fourth-place finish at the 4A state tournament, and Dale Knipp, to my knowledge the only Basehor player ever to wear Bobcat and Jayhawk uniforms.

The two couldn't have been more opposite in style of play, but more court attributes united than divided them. They were the ones that worked the hardest and loved the game the greatest.

They were the ones that would rather walk into hell drenched in lighter fluid than lose a basketball game.

Perhaps the most telling lesson from the two comes not from their victories, which were plentiful, but from their most crushing defeats.

For Dale, this happened in the 1993 substate tournament, and for Greg, a second round state tournament loss to Paola in 1995.

Losing wasn't in their DNA, and I imagine both had an empty feeling in the dungeons of their stomachs that neither could quite place.

Maybe it was shame, but I doubt it. Maybe it was regret, but I don't think so.

Maybe it was what it was, which, I think, was pain.

That I suppose is the lesson in all this.

You have to play this game so hard, be possessed by it so much and love it so thoroughly that it hurts.

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