Hoops Nightmare But Ends Well Years Later

2-13.  7-12.  2-19.  5-16.
That’s not some combination to a lock.  Those are the high school basketball records my four years.  16-60.  Just about any time we played on the road, it was “parents’ night” or “senior night” because opponents were just about guaranteed a victory after their festivities.  If losing builds character, I have it in spades.  Heck, the picture you see above is an air ball.   I’m not kidding.

I was the best defensive player on the team.  When I was telling this story to a friend a few years ago he chimed, “That’s like being the best in remedial reading.”  Thanks for the perspective dude.

One night back in the winter of ’79, we were facing a team with the state’s leading scorer.  Jimtown’s Troy Neely was pouring in 34-points per game.  This is in Indiana, which is no amateur hour for high school basketball.  And this is before the 3-point line (but well after peach baskets).  When I speak to JTG students and tell them this story (which leads to a life lesson) I really sell the punch line, “My high school sports highlight was holding the state’s leading scorer to 6 points… (a few nods of “not bad”)… OVER his average.
Students stare at the sealing, doing the math.
It sinks in.
A smattering of laughter.

I go on, “Yep.  Troy put 40 points on me that night and I know it was all 40 because when I looked over to my coach and asked if we were going to change things up because I was getting killed he shouted, ‘Nope, you’re the best we got.'”  Awesome.  Troy was good but maybe even a better trash talker.  He really let me have it, embarrassing me in front of my parents, friends and girlfriends (yes plural… they didn’t know.  It didn’t end well but another story for another time).

Fast forward seven years later.  I picked up the phone in my office of the local ABC TV affiliate.  It’s a buddy from high school who is now a loan officer at a local bank.  He remembers how Troy treated me that night and thought it was time for a little payback.  This was quasi-evil, but very clever and I gladly went along with it.

“Hey John,” he began.   “I have Troy Neely in front of me applying for a small business loan to start a construction business.  All his paperwork lines up but told him a person from his past will have the ultimate say on whether he gets to live his dream of owning his own business.  I’m going to hand him the phone.”

Oh, this is gonna be fun.

“Troy,” I said.  “You don’t remember me but back in high school you put 40 points on me one night.”
Troy blurted back, “Well, that doesn’t really narrow it down.”
“THAT’S what I’m talking about.  You ran your mouth then and still do.  Well, I get to ultimately decide whether you get your loan.”
Silence.  Sweet silence.
“Are you going to run a respectable business where you treat your employees and especially your competitors with respect?”
“Yes sir.  Absolutely sir.  I understand sir,” Troy rattled back like a scolded 10-year old.
“Well good.  I’ve decided you can have your loan,” I responded.
“Thank you sir.  I won’t let you down.”

Now, you and I know there was no way I had any influence on whether Troy was approved for the loan.  But man, I didn’t mind the image of drops of sweat dripping down his forehead and not because he was putting on a shooting clinic on a Friday night seven years ago.  I tie up the story with the JTG students telling them that they may very well cross paths with high school rivals or classmates that they simply never like.  Those same people could one day be their co-worker, or boss.  I finish by telling them to find a way to get along with their peers on class projects and more importantly, co-workers when you enter the workforce.

(Full disclosure:  This story includes some embellishments.  Troy was actually, a pretty cool guy, not that he would remember me.  Bigger point is getting along with everyone because you never know when you are going to meet up again.)

Do you have any similar memories where crossing paths with someone after some years have passed, went well… or didn’t go so well?
Let’s talk in the comments section.



By |2017-02-08T17:53:08+00:00February 8th, 2017|Life Lessons|Comments Off on Hoops Nightmare But Ends Well Years Later

About the Author:

Call it John Dwyer 2.0 After 29 years as a TV Broadcaster, Dwyer is President & CEO of Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG). JTG, an affiliate of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), is a non-profit organization dedicated to stewarding at-risk high school students toward graduation with follow through toward post-secondary education and/or job opportunities. Associated with JAG since 1981, JTG consistently obtains a graduation rate above 90-percent with a full-time job rate at nearly 70-percent. The most vulnerable, socioeconomically challenged young men and women, graduate with self-esteem with the realization and skill set to achieve success after high school. Does it get much better than that? Dwyer, is a resident of the Nashville area since 1996. He was sports director and/or a news anchor at TV stations in Nashville, Jacksonville, Florida; Ft. Myers, FL and his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. He is a 10-time Mid-South Region Emmy Award winner, along with winning numerous other awards. He is also a former Heisman Trophy voter. John is a 1985 graduate of Butler University, where he majored in Radio/TV while minoring in journalism. An avid running (or “plodder” as he likes to call himself), Dwyer runs in Nashville’s annual marathon. (Current tally: 7 Full, 10 Half). He accomplished a goal, once thought out of reach, be qualifying and running in the Boston Marathon in 2009. Married to Lynley, Dwyer resides in East Nashville with his wife and dog Lola. Dwyer served on the Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee board from 2006-2012, and was board chairman for three years.

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Supporting and Empowering our Communities of Color

COVID-19 Update

JAG and JTG Statement in Response to COVID-19

 As we are all feeling, COVID-19 has shifted how the world operates in a way that is unprecedented for our generation, and Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG), one of 39 JAG state affiliates, are no exception. The impact of the coronavirus and the immediate danger it presents has closed our education system, directly affecting students and their families. This is especially detrimental to JTG students, who often look to their JTG Specialists and classmates for steadiness and security in their lives.

We also recognize that our students and their families are disproportionately affected by the closure of restaurants, stores, bars, and other service-industry places of work. These jobs often provide the entry-level opportunities our students need to enter the workforce. A difficult environment is likely to continue for some time, so we are in the process to reposition our training and support to make the best case for our JTG students to be considered for employment.

At a time when we must social distance ourselves to protect each other, the thousands of JTG students we serve need us more than ever.  We are responding to and encouraged by the requests from many JTG Specialists to access online learning modules and platforms provided by JAG educational partners like the Skills to Succeed Academy, EverFi, and Tallo. We are excited to see the interest in the JAG Genius and the use of virtual connectivity and the online sense of community – something we all need in these times.

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG) recognize we need to modify the way we provide support and deliver competencies to our students during this time of uncertainty. In response to the way business and education are adapting (in real time) to COVID-19,  JAG National is establishing new protocols and processes to ensure full, virtual engagement with our young people to ensure they have the competencies they need to meet the very competitive job market ahead. That is why JAG is providing the immediate recommendations below that are of highest priority, which impact the day-to-day lives of our students and Specialists. Like our world right now, please know that these are in real-time and subject to change.


Moving forward, we will have ongoing recommendations that will be built into new practices that will serve as both short- and long-term solutions to continue JAG’s data-driven model. This will help us remain accountable to our students, our partners, funders, and each other.