"You achieved something that some people spend their whole lives trying to find. What you achieved was that ever elusive victory within." - Coach Carter
Dear 2021, The clock ticks down to the final seconds. As much as we wish for time to freeze indefinitely, and for us to hold on to this moment...it can’t, and we are broken. As a competitor, you never want to admit defeat, but the time we had most feared was upon us. We embrace, cry, and prepare ourselves for the inevitable. Through all of our pain, and struggle, nothing can quite compare to the feeling of finality. We had lost the game, our season was over, and your high school careers were finished.
The huddle immediately following the final buzzer is one I will never forget. Fighting back tears as music blared and our opponents celebrated across half court, I remember looking each of you in the eye and not knowing exactly what to say. So often I was able to find bravery through you and in this moment, in your most vulnerable state, it was on me to deliver that as your leader.
But what a fitting moment this was for our journey. In basketball, nothing can be totally perfect, especially after a loss. But this was perfect in the sense that we were finally able to step back and acknowledge what YOU had accomplished as the most decorated graduating class in your community’s history (and that’s STAMPED). Three consecutive conference titles. Three consecutive trips to the elite eight. Two Eastern Region championships. One state runner-up. One state co-championship. A combined record of 67-16 over three years, with three conference players of the year, 12 all-conference selections, and 7 players being offered a chance to further their careers at the collegiate level. All while maintaining a team GPA of over a 3.0. What started in a dirty gym and a 15 minute bus ride from campus has turned into one of the most recognized programs in North Carolina, and one of the best runs in 1A history. Who would have thought a small school from little ole Henderson with no gym, no weight room, no history, no contacts, no nothing, could do such a thing? (See picture below for believers)
You have taken a program from dirt, and turned it into diamonds. You are now recognized figures in the community because of the way you conduct yourselves both inside and outside the classroom. When people see the HC Pride logo, they see it as a badge of honor rather than a separate entity in our community. You did that. You helped put Henderson Collegiate on the map athletically across the state, and re-established a long history of successful athletics in Vance County. What started as a dream, that was questioned over and over again (sometimes even by you), is now a reality. Yet, all of your accomplishments pail in comparison to the young men you have become. 100% of you have been accepted to four year colleges and universities. Schools such as Elon, UNC, UNCG, Clemson, Kentucky, Fayetteville State, WSSU, Harvard (shout out to our bomb statistician, Garland, for that one) and dozens more have accepted you based on your leadership, experiences, and potential to make the world a better place. Your impact extends FAR beyond the basketball court, and shows how, while your road at school was challenging (and I mean very, very challenging), it was not just worth it, but it was necessary for you to become who you had the potential to be.
Each journey is special, and each team is different. Your older brothers in the Pride of 2019 were the trailblazers and set the tone for the great potential we had moving forward. With your help, the Pride of 2020 took our program to new heights, overcoming significant obstacles, and put our community on the map by earning a state co-championship, all while playing one of the hardest schedules in the state against the best of the best (#AllTheSmoke). But 2021, you are truly the foundation. The joy you have for the success of your brothers is what makes you such a great team to be a part of and lead (#WeOverMe). All other Prides behind you will look up to your legacy, and the standard that you have set for our program and for the young men that come after you will be transformative for Henderson for years to come. It is a challenge they will willingly accept, and a challenge I cannot wait to see as their coach moving forward.
It is hard to put into words how much love I have for each of you. You have been older brothers and role models to my son, and as a father there is nothing more I can ask for.. Please always remember that in life, you will set goals, you will work relentlessly for them, and there will be times you exceed them, and times you fall short. But falling short does not make you a failure, or make the situation a loss. Rather, it makes you stronger and more prepared to endure until you reach it. Thank you for allowing me to be on this journey with you the past six years. Your potential is limitless. There is no greater joy in the world than knowing you will make it a better place. Whether coaching you or not, always know that I am one call away. Love, Marsh P.S. To the Prides of 2022 and beyond...you know what time it is. See you in the gym.
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