February 26, 2010
As the Lady Vikings are at the center of the Moore County high school basketball scene with a sectional final playoff game on the slate for tonight, I wanted to take a little time to bid farewell to UP hoops’ senior boys and also congratulate Bobby Purvis and the Vike men on another successful season.
My first ever assignment for The Pilot was back in January of 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 double header 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 Jon Toomer’s and Alishia Mosley’s maturation from scrawny freshmen chuck full of potential into fine young adults and spectacular ballplayers.
Those two are the only players left from that first year: Alishia Mosley (two-time all conference, runner up in CFV MVP voting and all-state selection last season) and Jon Toomer (two time all conference and all district in basketball, and 2007 CFV Defensive MVP at DE in Football)
Over that time they both joined an elite club at Union Pines by scoring over 1000 points in their careers. However, while one is waiting to again shine in the spotlight tonight, the other has sank his last ever amazing put back while donning the Viking Blue.
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, hard luck, potential, expectations 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 while achieving greatness. Each season she has added depth to her game through practice, practice and more practice as she developed from a freshman with okay handles who could not consistently sink a 10 foot runner in the paint, into a versatile and potenet 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 play 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 she 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 growth path reach a stark peak. As a sophomore, he was third in the CFV MVP voting in basketball and led the Vikes in scoring after being named the CFV defensive Player of the Year in Football. After a solid junior year that saw Toomer finish as the CFV runner-up in the MVP voting in basketball, and put forth another stellar football campaign, things then took a downward turn for him.
He was forced to sit out the 2009 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, feeling he deserved a second chance. With that second chance Toomer rededicated himself to his family, education and his basketball team, as he led the Vikings in scoring in 19 of his 22 senior games.
So after seeing his growth chart taking a dip downward, it then reached a new high as he 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 lessons 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 define the true nature of a person.
After Jon Jon was recognized for surpassing the 1000-point mark in his Union Pines' varsity basketball career on Senior Night, his mother told me “I want Jon to know how very proud I am of him and he can do anything in this world that he wants, so long as he sets his mind to it,”
You know what; I tend to agree with her.