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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Consummate Team Player Brings Honor to His School, Community, and to Himself

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Let’s face it. I am as big of a sports fan as the next person, but athletics at every level, high school, college, and professional, has become more about “me” as an athlete or player, and not so much about his or her team, or the responsibility of respecting the sport and the privilege to play. Just my opinion. But I see it all the way down as far as the early youth leagues. But once in a great while, we as fans get the privilege of knowing a player, and / or witnessing an unselfish act of sportsmanship and kindness during the heat of battle, that brings honor to his or her team, community, and to the player, as well. A short time ago, Paris senior football and basketball player, Cameron (Cam) Reed, extended an uncommon act of sportsmanship to another player on a team Paris was playing at the time, and thus made an impact on Paris athletics that will live in the minds of fans forever.

Cameron Reed (Resident Press Photo / Jim Best)

In a recent, late-season basketball game versus the Danville Little Johns, Cam entered the game with other reserve players from both teams when the game had been decided and both coaches had begun to substitute freely. This was not new to Cam; as a player on the Eagles’ roster, he was used to coming into games late.

But on this night, Cam Reed, who like most substitutes who enter games late whenever the score allows them to play, could have played selfishly, looking to score anytime he touched the ball. But he chose to, after securing a loose ball from an offensive rebound, and with time running out, chose to pass the ball to an opposing player who also saw limited playing time during the season. The Danville reserve missed a jump shot, and Cam rebounded. And with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Cam took the rebound, turned toward the Danville player, and passed him the ball. The surprised Little John reserve took the ball, shot again, and made the shot at the buzzer. The crowd on both sides of the gym erruppted, and that is the way on of the greatest acts of sportsmanship I have ever witnessed as a sports fan took place at Paris Gymnasium that night in February.

In the days following the game, I had the opportunity to ask Danville head boys basketball coach, Dusty Wright, what he thought about Cam’s pass, and to tell me a little about the player Cam passed the ball to on that historic night.

Coach Wright responded by saying, “My player’s name is Talon Hefner. Talon is a junior for us. He is a kid that we love having in our program because being a team is as much about how we can enhance each others’ life as it is about scoring points or getting rebounds. Our kids love Talon and we are thankful to have him in the program. I was very impressed with Cameron’s compassion in the moment. It says a lot about his character that, even while competing, he still was willing to put others’ needs above his own. It was definitely a moment that his family should be proud of. My dad and Cameron’s grandpa Jimmy worked together for years, and I know Jimmy would have been proud that his grandson represented their family in such a positive way.”

Danville’s Talon Hefner (31). Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

Coach Wright went on to say, “Moments like that are bigger than the game and the real reason that high school sports are so valuable.” And again, in my opinion, Coach Wright is right. Moments like these are bigger than the game itself, and in the fog of losing perspective on the value of sports that we as fans, and the players themselves seem to lose at times, this is why we play. It builds character in young men and women, and Cam Reed is an example of the character that athletics can help build within a person.

Coach Wright, again in my opinion, is a class act. He understands that teams want to win, but he has not lost perspective on the true reason why we play sports in schools.

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Cam, along with his father, Michael Reed, to visit with him about how this all happened, and after having time to reflect on the moment and what all of this has meant to him and his family. Sitting in the Paris coaches’ office on the afternoon of hosting Booneville in the last regular season game, Cam reflected on a moment that has made him a legend in Eagles history. Cam began by saying, “Well, honestly, just being able to be around my friends, in all of the sports, every kid says they want to play at the next level, but, what motivates me are the fans and the little kids, that look up to everybody. I feel like just to play as good as we can and do what we can do, and help them as much as we can. I hope to motivate them (the little kids) to work hard and do as well as they can, to eventually be as good or better as we are.”

I asked Cam what he felt like he was going to take from his experience of playing at Paris. He quickly said, “Just the brotherhood. It’s like, as soon as you meet a new coach, you are already part of the team, like you have known them forever. It’s just how quick you bond in the sport. You play as a team, and you play together. Even in Boys Club, I was not the best at everything I did, but it never stopped me from doing the best that I could.”

And that is another indicator of Cam’s character. When you talk to Cam, he only speaks of doing his best and helping others around him do their best, as well.

Cam’s father, Michael Reed, is an active Paris supporter and is Cam’s biggest fan. And Mr. Reed has, of course, always been proud of his son, but the actions of Cam, particularly over the past few weeks, has made his father even prouder. In fact, in social media, the day after a big road game win at Booneville, Michael Reed indicated that a picture of his son leaping off the bench, celebrating the team’s win, was “one of the proudest moments of his life.” And Mr. Reed, and other members of Cam’s family, you should be very proud! Cam went on to say, “That was a very emotional moment (the win at Booneville), having lost to them in football and then beating them at Booneville in basketball. Their students holding up that “41-27” sign to our players during warm-up, it just sent Jude, Mequell, and me to a different place (the three had played for Paris in the football game against Booneville.) In the photo below, Cam is pictured in that special moment, coming off the bench to celebrate his team’s basketball win at Booneville.

Resident Press File Photo / Jim Best

Finally, Cam shared with me that moment when he passed the ball to Danville’s Talon Hefner. “Whenever I grabbed the ball and I saw their team run down the floor, I saw Talon. I thought that this means a lot more to him than me, as I have already had my time of playing in JV and varsity games. I knew it was probably his last chance to score this season. He was already that close and had not moved. So, I just grabbed it and gave it to him. When it went in, I probably gave him the biggest high five, and he had one of the biggest smiles on his face that I have ever seen. I knew that most kids have had more opportunities than he (Talon) will ever have.”

After the game was over, Cam said that he thinks Talon didn’t fully realize at that point what had just happened. “He said a couple of words to me, and we talked for a little bit after the game and before I left. It was crazy to see all the love that we got, even from people we didn’t even know. Like, I still hear about it today. I can’t go through town in Paris without someone stopping me and telling me about it.”

Cam brought honor to him and the school district. The fans at Danville, in my opinion, think much more highly of Paris just because of Cam’s single act of sportsmanship and compassion. In fact, I believe Cam would make a great coach, primarily because he is a student of the game who has great passion for sport, and, most importantly, has great compassion and caring for people. Just the kind of coach I would want my own son to play for.

Mr. Reed, sitting at and listening to Cam’s interview, added, “I coached him from T-ball to high school; coached him in both basketball and football to high school. The biggest thing I see in him talking about others, the one thing we taught him was to always protect each other, always care about each other, and just because you don’t have the strength or the ability that others have, don’t ever think you are not good enough to do it. And as he has gotten older, I have seen a change. As his father, I could not be prouder of him that what I saw that night.”

Mr. Reed went on to say that Paris coach Josh Ferrell has instilled more love for the game of basketball game in Cam than perhaps any other coach he has had. And I agree; Paris is lucky to have Josh Ferrell as both their coach and as a positive influence on the young men in his program.

Michael and Cameron Reed (Resident Press Photo / Jim Best)

Cam is a special person and player that comes along once in a great while in some programs. And on that historic night at Paris Gymnasium, it was my privilege, along with everyone else in the gym that night, to witness Cam’s character and the greatest show of sportsmanship and unselfish play that I have personally witnessed, perhaps ever, in my lifetime.

Cam, on behalf of all of us, thank you for bringing honor to the game, and thank you for providing a welcomed break from the usual selfish and self-centered attitudes that we all too often are forced to see in athletics at all levels. So to the consummate team player, I say, thank you, and best of luck in achieving your dreams and continuing to be a light of inspiration for others to see and witness.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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