• Shawn Garrison: Indians reflect on lasting legacy

  • Less than 24 hours after the greatest season in the history of the Fort Osage boys basketball program ended, I asked Indians coach Josh Wilson what he thinks this team’s legacy should be.

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  • Less than 24 hours after the greatest season in the history of the Fort Osage boys basketball program ended, I asked Indians coach Josh Wilson what he thinks this team’s legacy should be.
    Particularly, what will he remember most about his five-player senior class? D’Vante Mosby, Zach Adams, Austin Regier, Marc Crowley and Brad Thatcher started from the bottom. When they arrived, the program hadn’t seen a winning record since 1974. The Indians had never won a district title and they hadn’t earned a conference crown since 1970.
    That all changed with the Class of 2013. That group helped bring home consecutive district championships the last two years, won the Suburban Middle Seven conference title this season, advanced to the Class 5 quarterfinals for the first time and finished with a 22-5 record – the best mark in 43 years – after Saturday’s 81-55 loss to Rockhurst at the Independence Events Center.
    No doubt, Wilson has an abundance of fond memories of these guys, but his answer surprised me. He cited a famous quote traditionally attributed to Gandhi.
    “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
    His lasting memory of this accomplished core won’t be the trophies and accolades it collected over the last two seasons, but rather the transformation each player made over their four years. Because back in 2009, Wilson saw a group with some potential, but not much else. Mosby, Regier and Adams were all good enough to letter as freshmen, but their first two seasons didn’t yield any collective success as the Indians finished 5-19 and 7-17.
    “They had to change,” Wilson said. “And they realized they had to change, which is hard to do.”
    Wilson described those seniors as puzzle pieces when they first arrived. After two years, the Fort coaching staff met and decided they were pieces that didn’t fit the puzzle the program was hoping to put together.
    “Those first two years we discovered real quick what does not work,” Regier said. “You can take bad situations and you can keep doing the same thing, that’s the easiest thing to do, or you can look at it and realize why it didn’t work and say we’re going to change that. We’re going to make this about a team.”
    The Indians chose the more difficult path. That meant arriving to practice early and staying late. It meant sacrificing individual shots and even playing time to adhere to a larger game plan – something Wilson said this year’s team did better than any he’s coached.
    More than anything, it meant taking a collective interest in each other.
    It took time. Last season, the Indians started 6-10 and their season was teetering on the brink of collapse before they rolled to an 8-4 finish. That included an emotional 48-43 victory over Raytown South, the program’s first win over the Cardinals since 1995. After that triumph, a fired-up Mosby grabbed a marker in the locker room and penned the two-letter motto that became a rallying cry over the following 13 months.
    Page 2 of 2 - “US.”
    “There’s been times where you’ll do anything to win and there’s times you feel like you have to do it all,” Mosby said. “Over time, it just got to the point where you just got to say we’re going to do this together and you’ve got to really buy into the fact that if you want something, you can’t do it all by yourself.”
    As the Indians bought in, success followed. But Wilson said the change in the program’s culture was about much more than wins and losses. Admittedly, Wilson said, there have been plenty of players he’s coached who he didn’t necessarily care to see much of outside of practice. That wasn’t the case with these guys.
    “With these kids, I wanted to sit in the locker room with them and just talk after practice,” Wilson said. “Or they’d want to stay and shoot more baskets or come in my office and watch film.”
    Added Mosby: “It’s more than just winning games. I want to go to practice and see my guys.”
    As the final seconds ticked away Saturday night, the five seniors grabbed seats on the bench. Mosby slapped hands with and encouraged the reserves entering the game. Underclassmen contributors like freshman Skylar Thompson and sophomore Will Penamon fought back tears before breaking down in the locker room minutes later.
    And a few feet behind them, the Fort Osage student section left little doubt about how this team will be remembered. For the entire final minute, they raised dozens of 8 1/2-by-11-inch signs into the air. On each sheet, printed in black ink, were the two bold letters that came to symbolize everything the program is about.
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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