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TIME OUT by Joe Flanagan

Maybe I’m still bummed out by Boone Central’s loss in the district final.

Or, maybe, I’m just getting old.

Whatever the case, I have to admit, personally, high school basketball is losing a little of its appeal.

Is it just me, or does high school ball, especially below the Class A level, get a little uglier each and every year? Hasn’t the game lost some of the “artistic skill” that made it so exciting?

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been through athletic disappointment, as an athlete myself and as a parent. And, yes, I’m certainly older, but I’m not necessarily one who thinks “the good old days” were the true golden age, never to be seen again.

However, the current physical, bumping, banging, grabbing, pushing, stop-the-other-team-at-all-costs style of play that seems to get rewarded with wins, state tournament berths and championships makes me grind my teeth.

Hey, I’m all for good defense. Great defense, in fact.

I grew up watching John Wooden’s UCLA teams literally disable opponents with their half and three-quarter court traps while rarely laying a finger on their foes. Of course, that morphed, more recently, into Arkansas’ “40 minutes of hell” under Nolan Richardson, with a deep crew of superior athletes mauling opponents until they physically and mentally melted down.

Both styles produced NCAA championships. And, yes, as you can surely tell, I was much more a fan of the former than the latter.

However, even with the pro and college games becoming overtly physical – forever changing basketball from a so-called non-contact sport – they are entertaining and riveting nonetheless. The very best professional players in the world and top student-athletes around the nation are still capable of performing at a high level even under such duress.

The trickle-down effect to high schools – particularly small-town high schools – has had an exceedingly more adverse effect, in my opinion.

Average athletes, who don’t practice and train year-round just for basketball, confronted with such physicality, have much more difficulty performing at a profficient level than previously. Don’t believe it? Go back and watch film of games 15 years ago – even 10 years ago – compared to today. To me, there’s a noticeable – and unattractive – difference …

Complete Column in Print Edition of the Albion News.