Vike Seniors Demonstrated Vital Role
My first-ever assignment for The Pilot was back in January 2007, when then-sports editor Hunter Chase called me up to see if I would like to test my craft by covering a Union Pines varsity basketball doubleheader in Lillington at Western Harnett. The rest has been history
So in a way, I have come into my own as a sportswriter over a path in time parallel to that of Viking senior hoopsters Jon Toomer’s and Alishia Mosley’s maturation from scrawny freshmen full of potential into fine young adults and spectacular ballplayers. Over that time, they both joined an elite club at Union Pines by scoring more than 1,000 points in their careers.
Those two are the only players left from that first year: Mosley, a three-time all-conference player and two-time runner-up in Cape Fear Valley Conference Player of the Year voting and all-state selection, and Toomer, this year’s conference basketball player of the year and a three-time all-conference, two-time all-district selection who was the 2008 conference defensive player of the year in football.
With both Union Pines basketball teams having had their postseason banquets, Mosley’s and Toomer’s basketball careers in the Viking blue are now officially over.
One might be compelled to ask me what I have most taken away from my time covering high school sports, and if they did, my answer would not be that I perfected the art of my own brand of shorthand, or gained a deeper understanding of the importance of an offensive line in football or a shutdown closer in baseball, or why a basketball team would choose to run its offense through the inside to open up the perimeter.
No, I would say I have learned a great deal about the virtues essential in life, especially growth, determination, sacrifice and redemption.
Mosley’s career has exemplified the importance of dedication and how someone can take their God-given talent and develop it to its maximum potential to reach a goal. Each season she added depth to her game through practice, practice and more practice, as she developed from a freshman with OK handles who could not consistently sink a 10-foot runner in the paint into a versatile and potent threat who sinks turnaround fade-away shots from 12 feet with regularity along with 23-foot three-pointers.
She is among the best of the best girl prep guards I have ever seen live or on TV in the McDonald’s All-American games, and is hands down the most prolific, clutch and efficient three-point shooter I have ever watched in high school ball.
She also grew from a meek role player into a vocal team leader, and in the process has grown into an upstanding and charming young adult. Only a mere few of the very best will ever go on to play their chosen sport at the professional level, but the lessons Mosley has learned on and off the court while involved with Lady Viking basketball will go a long way in serving to help her be a smashing success in whatever she chooses to do in life once she hangs up the sneaks, be it after she graduates as a scholarship member of the NC A&T Aggies or when she retires from the WNBA.
Toomer’s story is similar in many ways but followed a somewhat different path. Mosley’s growth line started at a solid spot and grew steadily while increasing exponentially. Toomer saw his path reach a stark climax as a sophomore, when he was third in the conference MVP voting in basketball and led the Vikes in scoring after being named the conference defensive player of the year in football. After a solid junior year, when he was the conference runner-up in the MVP voting in basketball, things then took a downward turn.
He was forced to sit out his senior football season due to some legal matters, which also saw him miss the Vikings’ first five basketball games. However, Union Pines principal Robin Lea had the courage to allow Toomer to join the team this season, as she was confident in his character and felt he deserved a second chance.
Taking that second chance, Toomer rededicated himself to his family, education and his basketball team, and he rose to the challenge, leading the Vikings in scoring in 19 of their 22 games.
Ultimately, he was selected as the conference MVP, with his growth path reaching a new high in the process, as Toomer proved what he was made of while displaying poise and grace.
In doing so, he demonstrated that hard times and mistakes befall everyone on this journey called life. However, it is the fashion in which you get back up and continue after a fall, the lesson you take away from your mistakes as you apply that gained knowledge when faced with tests down the road, and what you truly learn about yourself in the way you handle misfortune, that defines the true nature of a person.
After he was recognized for surpassing the 1,000-point mark in his Union Pines varsity basketball career, Toomer’s mother told me, “I want Jon to know how very proud I am of him, and that he can do anything in this world that he wants, so long as he sets his mind to it.”
I tend to agree.
F.W. Manning II can be contacted at (910) 639-5481 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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