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Local opinion columnists

Youth sports bring extended family together

By From page A8 | March 23, 2014

One of the major considerations my wife, Vicki, and I had when we decided to retire in Idaho a few years ago was the ability to live closer to family, hers to be exact.

Her mother was born in Idaho and several relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews all call the Boise area home. Her mom and sisters live a few hours north of here.

What wasn’t so apparent at the time was reconnecting with another family member, one not related to Vicki and her Idaho-born clan. This relative has connections to me and my first wife, Karen. She is Karen’s sister’s daughter. That makes Lisa, my niece, by a former marriage.

Despite a divorce more than four decades ago from her Aunt Karen, I continue to be Lisa’s Uncle Bill and she still is my niece. We’re family, even though she was born in 1972, the same year that Karen and I separated. Through the years, I was around to watch Lisa grow up, attending family functions that involved Lisa, her brother Mark and their parents.

The divorce did not interrupt being there for kids, whether it was birthdays or important kids’ activities. We were so connected through family that Lisa, when in high school, would occasionally baby-sit our daughter, Jennifer, and son, Kevin.

She was an outstanding athlete in high school and played softball at the collegiate level before graduating, settling down and starting her own family in Roseville where, at one time, we all lived.

In 2005, she, her husband, Craig, and three small children, packed up and moved right here to Meridian, a suburb of Boise. They were drawn to Idaho by the less-expensive housing and extremely inviting livability factors. Idaho has been good to her family.

She was excited when she heard we were moving here and we stopped by to visit while we were house hunting. We made an offer on a house just doors away from theirs, but the deal fell through. The home we eventually purchased is still within walking distance.

John, Lisa’s oldest son, became the catalyst that brought the families together so frequently during the past four years. As a freshman at Rocky Mountain High in Meridian, John made the varsity basketball team. During the past four years, he has rewritten the school’s record books for his outstanding play.

After attending a couple of games that freshman season, I was immediately addicted. It brought back memories of when my son, Greg (Lisa’s cousin), played basketball at Roseville High during the 1980s. High school basketball is a great spectator sport and John had incredible skills for a 14-year-old. I’ve attended dozens of games since that winter of 2010-11.

He completed his senior season a couple of weeks ago, leading his team for the second straight year into the large-school Idaho state basketball tournament. Last year, his team lost the championship game by three points. This year was a bit of a disappointment for the team, losing in a semifinal game to last year’s state champion, Borah High.

John unquestionably was among the best point guards in Idaho. He set school single-season records for baskets and free throws made, assists and steals. He completely shattered career records for points scored, field goals, free throws, assists and steals. He ended his senior season averaging nearly 12 points, five assists and three steals per game.

There is no doubt John has basketball intelligence and skills to play at the collegiate level, but at 5 feet 11 inches tall (we’re being generous here), the big schools are not breaking down the doors with offers. He has had plenty of interest from nonscholarship schools, but nothing has quite jelled, yet.

He’s a 3.5 GPA student and a great young man who will no doubt go far in his college and adult life. I will miss his uncanny, John Stockton-like passes, his clutch game-winning and game-tying 3-pointers, his tenacious defense and his leadership abilities on and off the court.

He was selected to play in an all-state prep basketball game in Northern Idaho that will conclude his high school career. I will miss that game. I definitely will miss those wintry nights traveling around the Treasure Valley to watch John and his Grizzly hoop team light up the night.

But alas, Lisa and Craig have two more children and I plan to be around to root for them. Their daughter, Raimee, a sophomore at Rocky Mountain, was just named Gatorade Idaho Girls Soccer Player of the Year and a finalist for the national award. Raimee scored 34 goals, had 11 assists, scored in 18 of 21 games and had 11 multiple-goal games. With two more years to play, she no doubt will be one of the most recruited soccer players to come out of Idaho in a long time.

Then there’s Nathan, a seventh-grader, who has already demonstrated the kind of basketball skills that earned his older brother accolades during his high school career. I attended one of his club team games this year. Another star point guard is in the making and John better hope his little brother doesn’t someday erase too many of those newly achieved records.

Lisa and Craig can count on Uncle Bill to join them on the soccer field sidelines and in the gym to cheer for Raimee and Nathan as they continue the winning legacy established by big brother, John.

Bill James is a former Daily Republic editor and publisher now living Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise.

Bill James


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