It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
And no, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m talking about March Madness, baby! I love these incredibly intense 4 weeks of basketball overload. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat my bracket being busted! I love the feel-good stories and the emotional roller coaster rides. If you don’t know this about me…I love college basketball, and March Madness is my Oscar Red Carpet.
Let me see if I can explain my madness: I grew up playing and had my own journey with basketball. My dad also grew up playing basketball and passed everything on to me. We then proceeded to teach my son, Spencer, how to play basketball, and he currently plays college basketball (what a dream come true for me!)
So, you could say basketball runs deep in our family. So much so, that the last person to hold the scoring record at my high school was my dad with 50 points in a game in 1970. All my life, people have told me what a great basketball player my dad was in high school…he was legendary. Inspired by Pistol Pete Maravich and with 70’s long hair and sideburns swagger, my dad lit up the hardwood. That 50 points was actually scored in just one half of basketball (there are 2 halves per game for any non-basketball folks reading this). I wish I could’ve seen him play, just once.
My dad continued his basketball legacy and coached my 5th and 6th-grade basketball teams. I hated the game back then…HATED it. I wasn’t interested in running, I didn’t like being bumped by other girls, I thought it was all boring…but in a small town like Gentry, AR, there’s not much to do. So, I kept playing anyway. By junior high, I started liking it more and more and was getting pretty good at scoring points, which is always fun. Not to mention, I had a really great basketball coach at school, Scottie Nolan. By the time I got to high school, I was a pretty decent player, and my team was fantastic…The Gentry Lady Pioneers were pretty legendary in their own right, and we won a lot of basketball games.
My senior year, a reporter asked me what my personal goals were for the upcoming season, and I said I would like to tie my dad’s scoring record of 50 points. I didn’t think about the question again all year and proceeded to have a really good senior year. In fact, I was being recruited by colleges to play basketball. In the district finals, we were playing Farmington in the “dome” at West Fork (only long-time NWA peeps will remember the dome), and I was having a pretty good scoring game. I was never very good at keeping up with my points during the game so I had no idea just how good my night was going. I get fouled towards the end of the game and go to the free throw line for two shots…unbeknownst to me, at this point, I had 49 points. I looked at my dad in the stands as I did many times before shooting a free throw, and he gave me the “you got this” signal.
I made both free throws thus giving me 51 points for the game. We won the game and afterward, someone comes into the locker room and tells me there’s a TV reporter outside that wants to speak to me. So, I go out and the reporter tells me I’ve broken my dad’s scoring record with 51 points…I just started crying. I didn’t want to break it, I wanted to tie it, and I could’ve tied it by missing a free throw had I known I had 50 points! My dad was there hugging me, and he was so proud…he told me the record was meant to be broken, and he was glad I was the person who broke it. That was 1989, and it’s still the scoring record at Gentry High School.
I was blessed to earn a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Arkansas while pursuing a degree in Journalism. It was truly an incredible experience. I got to play basketball all over the country, including Hawaii, and even played in the NCAA Tournament AKA March Madness, people! I know that my son will have the opportunity to play during March Madness one day as well, and I can’t wait to watch that happen for him. Basketball has been a great gift to my family in so many ways.
So, because of our long history and love with basketball, our family has a March Madness bracket contest each year, and the winner basically wins bragging rights all year long. I always have a busted bracket by the first weekend and agonize over who to pick in each game…but I love every bit of it. I love figuring out where I’m going to watch the first round of March Madness surrounded by fellow basketball fans.
Here’s my bracket in case you’d like to see my picks…but I in no way encourage you to copy me because some years I am really terrible at picking teams! And let’s be honest…sometimes it seems the most random brackets do best ?♀️
Happy March Madness! Let me know how your bracket holds out!