High school basketball is back, so just enjoy what we do have

This is a chance for seniors to end their high school basketball careers on the court and for juniors, sophomores and freshmen to learn and continue their development as players.

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Oak Forest’s Juan Avila (23) lays the ball off the glass for two after receiving a long pass from his brother last season.

Oak Forest’s Juan Avila (23) lays the ball off the glass for two after receiving a long pass from his brother last season.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

It’s time for high school basketball players to take advantage of the opportunity they have been given.

Sure, it’s not the same. Nothing really is the same right now in any walk of life. And there are a whole lot of negatives to sulk about, including no state tournament, no regional or sectional championships to play for, no holiday tournaments or high-profile shootouts, no big crowds filling gyms or even classmates in the stands to watch them.

This is no time, however, to be dismissive, pessimistic or dwell on missing those great basketball traditions that make the sport memorable and even more meaningful.

Forget about what moment felt the worst over the past year or that cancellations and postponements became the norm. This is the old feel-good motivational rigmarole where you simply cut to the chase: “Let’s go make the most of what we have and run with it.”

That’s especially true when you’re not sure how long it will be around and if the plug will be pulled. (I know, I know … Shush!)

But it’s true. It’s time to finally appreciate what you do have, no matter in what form it is, how safe you have to be while doing it or how long it will be there.

That starts with being with and playing with your teammates again in the gym that for many has been a second home while growing up in the community. It continues with wearing a real uniform again. And it includes that missed sound of your coach barking, encouraging, cheering and motivating again on a daily basis.

After months of mostly rag-tag basketball, the opportunity for organized, structured basketball is there for you. While it will surely be different, the competitive juices should at least begin to percolate again as you scratch and claw for playing time or a starting job while looking forward to actually playing and preparing for a real game — one that will actually count in the win-loss column.

The schedules will come together and evolve sooner than later in this shotgun season. While it looks like most leagues will play conference schedules, with some even with expanded league schedules, maybe those conference championships will mean even more in 2021. Set your sights on that preseason league favorite and take them down.

As a result, there will still be “big” conference games going forward and maybe a few high-level non-conference games around the Chicago area. Look forward to those.

There will still be lessons learned, improvements made and chemistry developed, just as there are in every past basketball season.

There will still be crunch-time moments at the end of games, buzzer-beaters, upsets and the chance to celebrate and feel good after wins.

Most importantly, there will be fun again once you get back into the swing of this whole season again. And if there isn’t fun, well, that’s on you. You’re playing basketball again. The 10, 12, 15 or however many games you end up playing — and all the practices with your friends and coaches in between — are better than not playing at all. This is a chance for seniors to end their high school basketball careers on the court and for juniors, sophomores and freshmen to learn and continue their development as players. It sure beats waiting around to see when and if you’ll be playing.

Will there be some frustration along the way? Sure. But this should not be a road of futility by any means.

This season may not be for the fans or the school or the community you play for with pride. It may not be one for the media to hype or truly dissect. It may not be one full of traditional goals. But it’s a season for you and your teammates, a chance to play basketball, to engage and compete with one another as a team.

Welcome back!

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