We are all closing in on our fifties. We all have lost a step or two or three. Many of us now have hair that shows a little gray. Some of us are a little more round than we'd like to be, but others look like they still have a little game in them.
But the one thing that those of us who were members of the 1990-1991 Waubonsee Community College men's basketball team have in common is that we are now Hall of Famers.
During Thursday night's Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Student Athlete Recognition Banquet at the beautiful fieldhouse on the campus of WCC, I was honored, along with teammates Mike Ahng, David Bacon, Darrell Garth, Greg Hill, Louie Lambert, Adam Lebin, Parrish McGhee, Kevin Nichols, James Richter and Durrell Williams, manager Luke Magerko, assistant coach Ken Neahring and head coach Dave Heiss, as only the second team to be inducted into the WCC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Our team finished 29-8, a single-season wins record that still stands, finished with a perfect 12-0 mark in Skyway Conference play (the second of four straight league crowns) and ended the season ranked second in the nation. After starting the year 7-6, we won a school-record 21 consecutive games, including the school's first Region IV basketball championship and a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Tournament in Bay City, Mich. We lost our first two games at the tournament, but won our last game to finish seventh in the nation. Not bad I'd say.
To say Thursday night was special to me would be an understatement at best.
Now, I had originally enrolled at WCC to play baseball and work towards a degree in physical education, but my sophomore year I decided to try out of the basketball team, which was coming off a 27-7 season, including a Skyway Conference championship.
Did I think I'd make the team? Truthfully, not really, but I remember not wanting to say to myself, "I wish I'd at least gave it a shot," years down the road.
Now, I'm not writing this to shine a light on myself. Heck, I was just a role player, but I can truly say this was without a doubt the best team I ever was a part of.
Coach Heiss was tough, but there wasn't a second you didn't know where you stood with him or what he expected out of you. He was quick to praise you when you deserved it and just as fast if you needed a kick in the behind, so to speak. What I will always remember from Dave, and all the guys in fact, was from the very first practice they treated me as a basketball player, not a baseball player playing basketball.
The '90-91 Chiefs had a mix of guys from both East and West Aurora, Geneva, Milwaukee and yup, Serena. We liked each other, we cared about each other, we played for each other, and no one really cared whose numbers looked the best on the scoresheet at the end of games, just that our score was greater than our opponent. It was an exciting team to watch, but I've always felt it was the toughness, both inside and out, that was our biggest asset.
As we gathered now 27 years later on Thursday, sure we haven't all stayed in touch like we would have liked, but it felt the same as we shook hands, hugged and reminisced about that fantastic season that will be very tough for future WCC teams to equal.
In my two years at WCC, I made many friends through baseball, but because I decided to go for the dream I had to play college basketball, I gained 13 more from that team. It was a special time, with special people, all working for the same goal.
The shot I took to go out for the team ... it was the best shot I ever could have taken.