If not for two major injuries, things might have been a tad different for Joey Pollard. After all, Henry County's off-and-on starting guard during the previous four seasons had his first ACL tear as a sophomore and another tear as a junior.
With injuries like those, you cant question the fact that Pollard could have had a more successful high school career. The questions come into play when thinking about how much more successful it would have been.
Though he still had an outstanding career as a Wildcat - you can't argue with that - maybe he would have led Henry to a district title, more wins and been one of the top point guards in the 8th Region. Maybe he would have continued to build from the early success he showed - when he was a starter for the Cats as a freshman. Henry's head coach, Jason Holland, calls him one of the most athletic players he's ever coached.
"Joey's a very athletic kid, and that's one of the things that let him come back from an ACL tear that usually takes two years to get to full strength," Holland said. "He did a good job just to come back with the adversity he's faced. That says a lot about Joey. Nobody knows what he's been through to even get the chance to play again. If he never tore his ACL, how good would he have been? You have no control over it and how it unfolds - it's just part of basketball."
Pollard's teammate Ben Roberts was also an off-and-on starter for Henry since a freshman. His leadership and deadly long-range shooting will surely be missed when the Wildcats take to the court again. Then there's Cari Dunaway, who moved into the starting rotation this season as a senior and led Henry as the team's defensive centerpiece.
The three seniors played their final high school basketball game last Wednesday against Gallatin County - all three walking off the court to an ovation from the Henry crowd with just 42.9 seconds remaining and the game out of reach for the Cats. The fans knew how much these three players meant to Henry County's program during the previous years, and Holland couldn't agree more.
"I'm proud of their efforts during the four years we've had them," Holland said. "They helped bring the Henry County basketball program a long way."
I must admit, saying goodbye to seniors, especially ones you've watched grow and mature over the years, sure is tough.
There will be other seniors in the county missed, too. The Ladycats said goodbye to Jean-Anne Moore, who, like Pollard, suffered from setbacks, including season-ending injuries to end both her sophomore and junior years.
Four miles down the road at Eminence High School, the Warriors have already said goodbye to their seniors as well. The girls' team will be without Kelli Hawkins next season, while the boys' team will be missing Nelson Hedges, Ethan Keiser, Trevor Davis, Ryan Paris and Josh Clift.
They will all be missed - every senior this previous basketball season - both on and off the court.
But by looking at what HCHS and EHS has coming back, there's no reason to hang your heads long. After a combined 20-84 record this season, things are definitely looking brighter down the road for each team. It's a road that should be filled with more victories, and less road blocks and speed bumps along the way; a road each team should look forward to traveling.
It's also a road that wouldn't have existed if not for these seniors. They will truly be missed.
Tommie Kendall can be reached at email@example.com.