This will be, perhaps, the most controversial column I’ve written in the past 15 years.

Bruce Wallace

More controversial than my disdain for yip-yap dogs in favor of Labrador Retrievers.

More controversial than my irritation at all things Chicago Cubs, and those who persist in rooting for them.

More controversial than the time I noted that you could get through the political season without raising your blood pressure if you would just remember to respect your friend’s opinions and not mention that they were knuckleheads until they were out of earshot.

Yes, this will be controversial because I write today NOT to praise basketball players.

I do this at great risk, understanding that to fail to praise the courageous, athletic and outstanding play of our Eagles girls and boys basketball teams can get you tarred and feathered. Run out of town on a rail. Potentially running the risk of confrontation with Judy Taggart – who is the only grandma with one player on both teams.

But, nope, I’m not gonna do it. If you didn’t go see the district championships this past week – that’s too bad, you missed some classic matchups. And the good guys won – which makes it all the more fun.

But my personal opinion is not, “This is why we play the game,” – in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Our Eagles might play the game for glory on the court and hoisting trophies now. But what they are truly playing for is what they will do in the future.

“As much as I am impressed by what you do on the court,” I told one player in an interview this past week, “I am even more impressed with what you have accomplished in the classroom.”

It’s not difficult to believe that our Eagles basketball teams have plenty of court savvy, shooting and rebounding talent, etc.

However, that is not the talent that will serve them as adults.

What is impressive about these two SoBoCo teams is their talent off the court – in the classroom.

All you had to do was listen to the bios during Senior Night to understand what kind of young people we are watching.

Maguire Scheer? Our 3-point shooting phenom aspires to be an FBI agent and is excellent in the classroom.

Skyler Beeson? All she has done is earned a scholarship to Missouri S&T to study some kind of bio-engineering medical type stuff that, when she attempts to explain it, makes my head spin.

Emma Anderson, Garrett Goodnight, Kylie Shoot, Justin Marrs, Izzy Smith – all outstanding in school, as well as the rest of their teammates.

It’s too easy to say, “How wonderful that our team is full of great kids.”

Yes, they are great – but, frankly, so are the kids we defeated on Friday and Saturday night. I can’t find a single story about a one of them who was recently paroled for multiple carjackings. SoBoCo plays in Class 3 – mostly small-town schools with mostly “great kids.”

But what you can say about SoBoCo is that for the first time the boys and girls basketball team, full of great kids who also happen to excel in the classroom, won district titles.

So, you think I’m saying basketball doesn’t count?

Hardly. And this is the main point.

The same confidence Maguire Scheer developed to shoot those jumpers from the parking lot is the confidence he will utilize in his college classrooms and, if he does become an FBI agent, to serve his nation.

That same extra effort Emma Anderson gives to gain position under the basket and gather in rebounds will be the same extra effort she calls upon to spend an extra hour studying in order to pass her college finals, or provide the extra effort necessary to someday coach a youth team.

The life skills learned on the court – teamwork, discipline, respect for officials, coaches and opponents, that is what we hope they carry into the future. As much as we want them to hang championship banners, deep down we ask them to give the same effort in school and in life that they give on the court.

Thank goodness they have a coaching staff that includes Jeff Trammell, Pat Lacy, Nick Carlos, Mike Wainscott, Chris Jennings, Andy Jahnsen and Tony Phillips to point them in the right direction – on the court and off the court.

Congratulations to the Eagles basketball teams for winning in the classroom – first – and on the court.

By Bruce Wallace