Legacy of 2011 team will go beyond wins and losses

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Record does not say what kind of people these Cats are

By John Herndon

When I started thinking about the way the 2011 Anderson County boys' basketball team would be remembered, the litany of anything, everything that could go wrong crossed my mind.

I could start with inexperience. Then lack of size. How about injuries? Simple bad luck. And did you ever think you would see the day when weather – yes, weather – would affect a basketball team? A hundred different things, some big, many small, came together. Add them up and you have Anderson's 8-17 finish and the first time staying home during the regional tournament since 2000.

But I went to the first basketball expert I ever knew. She's the one that showed me where that big 840 was to listen to Cawood Ledford tell me the Kentucky Wildcats were moving to the right side of my radio dial on WHAS. And she was the one that took me to my first state tournament when Glasgow beat Seneca for the championship.

My mom is 82 years old now, but still loves the game. She makes as many Anderson games as she can, even though she knows relatively few of the players these days. But it is still fun for her.

And like many in Anderson County this year, she pulled hard for the Bearcats to succeed. Part of it was because the name on the front of the jersey meant she and the Bearcats shared the same ZIP code. But her biggest reason was more fundamental.

“That is the nicest-acting group of boys I have seen in a long time,” Mom told me on several occasions.

More than once, she said, “They try so hard.”

Really, that is what matters most. Two years ago, we were giddy – rightly so – when the Bearcats made the Sweet 16 for the first time in 12 years. Mom was determined to make it to Rupp Arena. She had seen every Sweet 16 game the Bearcats had ever played and nothing was going to stop her then.

But to Mom, and many others that have watched high school sports for many years, the championships don't mean as much as people.

And what I learned about the 2011 Anderson County basketball team was that they are All-American people. You can have all the five-star recruits in the world. I would rather watch Ryan “The Revolver” Ratliff out there giving his best.
(And yes, I gave Ryno that name during the year.  He laughed.)

You see, I have learned that sports really do teach about life, but it is more about getting the most out of God-given ability than winning championships. Don't get me wrong. No one wants to win anymore than I do. But while it is true that hard work and doing one's best are important and are part of the ingredients of success, athletic ability is also part of the equation.

Maybe nothing summed up Anderson's season more than what Anderson coach Glen Drury said back on Jan. 21. That night, the players selected as Anderson County's best in 100 years of high school basketball were honored just before the Bearcats played Western Hills.

Anderson fought, scraped and clawed, but came up just short against an old rival it usually beats. But this year, Western Hills was a bit quicker and a lot bigger. The Wolverines prevailed in a close one.

One of the most intense competitors anywhere, Drury was disappointed, certainly, but philosophical. “If the worst thing that ever happens to these kids is to lose a high school basketball game, then they will be all right,” he said.

Last Tuesday, Anderson suffered elimination in the district tournament for the first time in over a decade. Drury was down, as he always is in the hours after that last game every season.

“I told the kids I was very proud of them,” he said. “I told them I would go to war with them.”
Then he paused.

“This group is an outstanding group of young men,” Drury said. “They are what a student-athlete is supposed to be.”

My mom would certainly agree.