photo by GLENN PARRISH
Maddie Backus tosses off a pass during the June 20, 2013, Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star basketball game at the Farris Center on the UCA campus in Conway. The East won the women’s game 57-47, making it the lowest-scoring women’s all-star game since 1988. Southside’s Calli White (20) was the game’s MVP.
First impressions, as most of us know, are generally hard, if not downright impossible to overcome when they go awry. I doubt seriously that Madison — as the 58th Arkansas High School Coaches Association All Star game program called her, but Maddie as I will refer to her — Backus of Mountainburg has to worry much about that.
Almost every year I venture to one all star game or the other and almost every year I leave a little disappointed in the attitudes of some of today’s most celebrated youth and while the machismo of football makes it the obvious offender, I have found it in other sports as well.
That was not the case this year.
After the game, a 57-47 win by the East, I talked with Magazine’s Kenzie Graham about not playing much due to an injury. Then I visited with Lady Rattler head coach Randy Loyd, who was an assistant on the West staff.
After watching very little of the boys game I hit the exit and told the GPS to guide me home. On the way back to the interstate I saw those lovely fast food letters D and Q together and decided it was time to do something different.
When I walked in I saw the red and white uniform of the West all star girls and although I was pretty sure who it was, a double check of the back told me it was Backus.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly a first impression. I have seen Backus play several times against Magazine and in regional tournaments Magazine hosted so this wasn’t a first impression in every sense of the phrase.
Still, it was the first time I had seen her in a non-basketball setting and I took away several things from seeing her with what I assumed to be her family.
First, I watched many all stars walk out of the locker room in street clothes — no, this isn’t to chide a single one of them for it — seeing Backus in full uniform, after a loss, and several miles away from the Farris Center made me think she didn’t want high school basketball to be over, never-mind that she has already graduated.
Second, I didn’t sense the sense of entitlement you often get with today’s athletes, even graduated ones — and Backus has signed to play college basketball at the University of Arkansas, Fort Smith. On either side of a booth that seats four comfortably were Backus’ parents and another male and female. The player sat in a chair at the edge of the table, in what amounted to an isle.
Additionally, I spoke with Backus and told her I would be sending a few photos of her from the game to the Press-Argus Courier, the newspaper in Van Buren that covers Mountainburg. She and her parents, again presumably, thanked me. Okay that could have been expected but when they prepared to eat their ice cream treats on the way home, Backus thanked me a second time.
Impressed, I asked if she had a Twitter account so that I could put her handle on them so she could get to them. She said no. That may have been most telling. That she wasn’t online telling anyone who would follow her how wonderful she is. And make no mistake, she deserved to be on the floor Thursday.
As I said, she will be playing for UAFS next season and I wish her nothing but the best. Given that the Hartland Conference sports information of the year Jonathan Gipson works for UAFS, and that he is a friend of mine, I figure I will be able to track Backus’ career, which I will gladly do.