One’s best years better be enjoyed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 17, 2000

If these are supposed to be the best years of my life, I might as well quit now.&uot;

I’m sure I wasn’t the first angry teenager to espouse such sentiment and I’m sure I won’t be the last. I remember that I said the words to my mom in our kitchen, but beyond that, my memory is a little fuzzy.

I was probably upset about a girl I no longer remember or a test that obviously has had no bearing on my adult life. But I was suffering from the myopia that is adolescence.

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Ironically, those high school years have, so far, been the best years of my life. College required a lot more effort than high school, and I worked non-stop to help put myself through school. And while my adult life has included the blessing of my wife, again the necessity of work rears its ugly head. I’m not unhappy with my life … but what I wouldn’t give to have no responsibilities outside of a clean room, Friday night football and a date for Saturday.

I would often daydream about this, and wish I could meet just one youth who honestly understood how good he or she has it. Someone who took advantage of the opportunities afforded a healthy high schooler, and was grateful for those opportunities.

I got my wish this week when I sat down to talk with Natchez High’s basketball stand-outs Vasshun Newborne, Jamal Bouldin and Je’Kel Foster.

I met them at the school to talk about the tremendous season the team is having so far. I picked those three to represent the team pretty much at random – I’ve only been to a handful of games, and I remembered that they had played pretty darn well.

Sitting in the locker room, we talked about the team’s goals, their toughest opponent so far and what went wrong in Natchez’s only loss this season. They answered my questions fairly and accurately, but without what I’d call enthusiasm (aside from the excitement any student has about cutting class for a viable reason.)

And then I asked them why they played basketball.

You’d have thought I just asked them what they thought about my handing them a crisp $100 bill. As if morning practices before school weren’t proof enough, their love of the game will never be questioned by me.

But what struck me most by their near-giddy responses was the maturity inherent in their realization that this point in their lives is fleeting and precious. They didn’t put it quite like that, but the sentiment was clearly there.

One of them looked across to the freshman wall of the locker room and said it seemed like just yesterday that he sat over there. One of them said that it seemed unbelievable that Natchez has already reached the midpoint of the basketball season. One of them said he’d be happy to stay in high school and play basketball forever.

It made me happy to know they were enjoying a time of their lives that really ought to be enjoyed. They, and all prep athletes, have been blessed with youth, health and the chance to use them.

It’s hard not to root for guys like that. I already knew this team had the talent to do somethings special. Now I know that they already have. They are doing exactly what they should be doing – having fun. Any other accomplishments this season are just icing on the cake.

Good luck on the season, guys.

Nick Adams is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3632, or e-mailed at