Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2003

Opinion: Hawkeye Hand

June 26, 2003

The final chapter of Extra Point is the tragic tale of a man graced with immeasurable talent but a penchant for self-destruction.

When Hawkeye Hand was found behind a dumpster at Gene's IGA in Ellsworth, Kan., with a needle in his arm and a gun in his hand, the people that found him knew his dream of making an NBA roster was over.

It all started in the third grade on the asphalt courts of Ellsworth Elementary School. The young Hawkeye would go there every day to watch as the older boys played basketball at recess. One fateful day Hawkeye decided to join in the fray.

He practiced every day at his house a few miles outside of the city on the little goal his grandfather put up for him. He was a natural -- a silky smooth ball handler with a beautiful touch around the rim and a jump shot that would make Reggie Miller jealous.

After mastering the elementary school courts, he went to Kanopolis Middle School in Kanopolis, Kan. He took a couple of years off basketball in the fifth and sixth grade, and that is when he first discovered drugs. The older guys he used to play with in elementary school introduced Hawkeye to the cruel and twisted world of marijuana.

Blazing up the courts and the street scene, Hawkeye attracted the attention of some NAIA coaches. When he was a seventh- grader, he averaged a triple double in points, rebounds, and assists. He also owns the title of the only seventh-grader in Kanopolis Bulldog history to ever break a backboard in a game.

His eighth-grade year was when people saw that this young basketball prodigy was headed for big time trouble. In the middle of his eighth grade basketball season, Hawkeye was leading his team to an undefeated season when he was arrested for assault and battery after beating a younger player, whom we will call Khomas Tepka, mercilessly for stealing his fruit cocktail at lunch.

He was forced to quit the team and was sent to a maximum-security juvenile detention center. He quickly made friends with all of the other inmates there because of his skills on the basketball courts.

After his release, he went back to Ellsworth for high school and a fresh start. He was fine during his first two years of school, scoring 40 points a game and grabbing 15 boards.

He was poised to finish his final two years of high school and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft when once again his older friends pressured him into experimenting with hard drugs, which eventually led to Hawkeye's hard fall.

At first, he was under control. He traveled the country playing in AAU tournaments, dominating better-known players in bigger cities. He torched various fabled courts like those at Rucker Park, and began to make a name for himself outside of rural Kansas.

While his life on the court was magic, his life off the court was tragic. He was falling deeper in the hole his so-called friends were dragging him into. He dug so deep he could not dig himself out, and his story eventually lead him to the alley.

I do not know where Hawkeye is today, but he is not the success he should have been. He had all the talent in the world, but instead he became one of the biggest failures.

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