The Benefits of High School Basketball

Yes, the NCAA championship tournament, that annual hoops ritual known as March Madness, generates anticipation and excitement across the United States --- and likely even beyond. But there is another level of basketball that garners its share of attention at this time of year, too.

Currently, state high school championship tournaments are in full swing around the nation. And these games enjoy a strong following of their own.

A Most Enjoyable Form of Basketball

No, high school basketball isn't the NBA. Nor even the NCAA version of the game. These are high school kids, after all. But maybe the latter says it all. For pure atmosphere, entertainment, and love for basketball, the high school game might be the most enjoyable form on the planet.

High School Basketball a Great Community Event

The game's appeal extends beyond the players. First of all, admission does not cost an arm and a leg. Second, anyone coming to a high school basketball game experiences a community event, with each team a source of community pride.

The games bring together parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, fellow students and just everyday fans in a most congenial atmosphere (well, at least most of the time).

High Schools Offer High-Quality Play

And the games they see typically are of high quality in relation to those of some other high school sports. Most notably, high school basketball in most locales is farther along its evolutionary path than prep football, that long-held staple of secondary-school sports.

 Quite simply, high school basketball players often take up the game years before. In contrast, many high school freshmen have never before played a single down in an organized game before putting on the helmet.

 As a result, the basketball players have developed a better feel for their sport by the time they reach high school. And it surely shows on the court by the time they reach varsity play.

Memories of Gooden, Power and Kidd

Sometimes, fans even see a future college star in the making. For whatever reason, the budding stars of basketball tend to stand out more that those of some other sports.

In recent years, fans here in the East bay have enjoyed the privilege of witnessing current NBA stars Drew Gooden (El Cerrito High School) and Leon Powe (Oakland Technical High School). Going back a bit further, former Parade Magazine Player of the Year Jason Kidd led St.

Joseph Notre Dame High School of Alameda to consecutive state titles in 1991-92. As a high school player, nobody could have predicted that Kidd would go on to become a two-time Olympic gold medal winner and a probable future Hall of Famer. Given the quality of his play in high school, however, those achievements don't surprise.

A Great Hoops Atmosphere

Then there is that special atmosphere at high school games. In big pro arenas, the game sometimes gets lost. Sit up in the nosebleed sections, and the players become mere specks in the distance.

 For hardcore fans, this might work. But it works less well. Like some kinds of musical and theatrical productions, basketball goes better in the more intimate settings of smaller gyms. One thinks that this is more of what Dr. James Naismith imagined when he invented the game back in 1891.

What's that you say? Oh, yes, the big championship games sometimes do take place in bigger arenas. But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. Still, many of those in attendance know each other.

Those that don’t might get to know folks from other locales. For all of them, basketball is a further bonding experience. The end result is the most enjoyable basketball experience for the fans.

From “Hoosiers” to Real Life

Immortalized in "Hoosiers," set as a key backdrop in the "High School Musical" series, and closely examined in "Hoop Dreams," the passion for high school basketball in some areas might exceed that of others, but the game enjoys popularity from coast to coast. High school basketball, most especially a sectional and state playoff series, is something fans of all ages can savor.

Donald S. Cochran

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