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Column: Unsportsmanlike conduct

Posted: February 15, 2018 2:31 p.m.
Updated: February 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.

On Wednesday, February 7, I drove down to Columbia to watch my older son play in his last JV basketball game -- perhaps his last basketball game ever -- for Camden High School. It was the final game of the season and happened to be against Columbia High School, a team they’d faced at least once earlier in the season.

My son’s basketball experience wasn’t the greatest from his point of view. The team lost more games than they won and he didn’t get a lot of playing time despite his being 6-foot 5-inches tall. Also, as teens are wont to do, he got teased about certain things. And he’d never really played the game before this season. We explained to him several times that this year would be a learning year and that things would get better if he stuck with it. We’ll see.

Despite his feelings on the matter, I’ve been told by several people that he was still a good sport on and off the court. While on the bench, we often saw him pat teammates on the back. I recently learned he often encouraged kids at the Jackson Teen Center to come out and support the team.

I’m very proud of him for that, and I hoped that his last game -- win or lose -- would still turn out to be an end to the season in which he could take pride.

Unfortunately, that was not to be thanks to the players on the Columbia High School team.

Not only did Camden’s JV team lose by 20 points or so, the behavior of the Columbia High JV boys during the last 44 seconds of the game was appalling, disgusting and extremely unsportsmanlike.

I completely understand  running out the clock. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with languidly passing the ball to each other as time runs out, effectively ending the game with a win on your side. But I’ve never seen the kind of display I saw Feb. 7 in all my years of following my sons’ participation in various sports, from T-ball to cross country. I am sure that what I’m about to describe would never be tolerated by the folks at Camden High.

At the 44 second mark, Columbia had the ball with that 20-point-plus lead. During those 44 seconds only two players touched the ball: Columbia High No.s 23 and 11.

No. 23 held the ball to his right side for at least 10 seconds, likely longer -- no dribble, no attempt to score, and not out in front of his body -- before finally passing it to No. 11.

That player then circled the ball around his waist several times before holding it to his right side and then wiggling his butt as he  -- what? Danced? We have a picture that clearly shows him engaging in this behavior with more than almost 6 seconds left on the clock.

His antics were accompanied by a “beat” given by the Columbia High School cheerleaders. The players -- on and off the court -- gestured for everyone to join in the celebration.

And to top it all off, there are allegations that at least one, if not more of the boys on the Columbia side told our players to “get the f*** off our court” and “get the f*** out of our house.”

At the very least, despite the fact it would not have made a bit of difference to the outcome of the game, and with so little time left on the clock, No. 11 should have been ejected from the game in our opinion.

And yet, not a single adult did anything to stop them.

Not a referee.

Not the coach.

Not a school resource officer.

Not a school official.

No one.

It was if the students were in charge and the adults wouldn’t do anything, which is a sad and dangerous example to set for young people.

I’ve heard a rumor that this has all been influenced by the videotaped disciplinary incident at Columbia’s Spring Valley High School involving a female student and a male school resource officer (SRO) in 2016, after which the SRO was fired from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

SRO’s -- at least in Richland County -- are allegedly skittish about getting involved in any kind physical confrontation with students. While I don’t want SROs body slamming kids to the floor, I also don’t want them so scared of legal and career consequences that they do, literally, nothing when students clearly misbehave in such a terrible manner.

This brings me back to the coach, the refs and the school officials who really should have been the ones to step in. Along with parents, they have a responsibility to both set good examples and provide consequences when students don’t live up to those examples.

My ex-wife and I have sent a joint email to Columbia High’s principal and athletic director, copying Camden High’s principal and athletic director and the head commissioner of the S.C. High School League. We don’t necessarily expect anything to happen, although we did suggest they have a good talk with the players and coach about their unsportsmanlike conduct, the seriousness of the matter and how they can be gentlemen on the court instead of the hoodlums they appeared to be that night.


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