Thanksgiving ‘TIMEOUT’ throwback from four grateful past local athletes
During the holiday season, families gather around to share valuable time with one another while eating delicious turkey, savory gravy, and hearty stuffing. Another common Thanksgiving Day practice amongst American families is watching sports together. Sports are often referred to as a metaphor for life with many athletes expressing a high level of gratitude for their past experiences and how those shaped them and their character to date.
Four local athletes across different schools and playing surfaces recall the ways they were blessed through thick and thin during their high school playing days in Lamar County. From each of the “Big Four” schools, one thankful athlete took the time to finish their seconds, put aside the leftovers, and appreciate their past blessings from the community that helped them grow so tremendously on and off the court or field.
A Wildcat with a winning attitude and a strong work ethic on the hardwood
Former Paris High School basketball standout Trevon Dennis starred on the court and led the team well in every way he could. Dennis, who led the Wildcats to the Regional Tournament in Commerce in three of his four seasons, earned several honors during his career at Paris High. However, the motivation to win trumped the spoils from winning for the former Wildcat star.
“A moment I appreciate from Paris High and I still do today was the support from people who watched us play,” Dennis said. “The fans, the people in the media, and everyone in the community showed up especially in the playoffs. Even just the love and support from everyone just asking me how I’m doing — I could tell people really cared about us. I just wanted to go out and play well because of the people that wanted to keep seeing us win.”
Even though he had a highly successful career for the Wildcats, it was not something Dennis was born into right off the bat. After moving into the area in middle school, however, Dennis was grateful to have realized he was meeting the people who soon became his brothers on and off the court.
“I was thankful because when I moved to Paris my sixth grade year, I was with those guys ever since then,” Dennis said. “It was always the same guys mostly always playing together, so on the court it was good. But, outside of basketball, we all really got to bond since we were always together. Even through the bad times, we all got through it together and I’m so grateful for that. I think the off-court experience really took things to another level.”
As his skills and craft continued to ascend, Dennis’s game in turn continued to evolve and improve. However, he believes the mental tools have been just as instrumental, if not more, than his physical skills.
“My body is one thing that helped my game a lot,” Dennis said. “I just continued to get stronger and taller along with understanding the game more. I’ve been able to create more open shots, grasp an understanding of the game, and play hard on defense. I got to play against a lot of really good competition on the AAU level, and after a while, the game just continued to slow down and get easier for me. I kept getting a little bigger, a little faster, and a little smarter. I always had a heart, but I’ve always just had a motor to me.”
Following graduation from Paris High, Dennis signed with North Platte Community College Knights basketball team in North Platte, Nebraska. The signing with North Platte followed a strong senior year for the 6-foot-5 guard Dennis, who posted per-game averages of 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocked shots.
A promising, powerful, and positive Pantherette
The North Lamar Pantherettes softball program has a strong, no-nonsense and success-oriented reputation. The girls routinely take care of business and their collective game is ice cold to many. However, one transcendent talent broke the mold in a big way. Although she is a goofy, fun-loving, and animated personality, no one opposing her was fooled. Former program legend and dynamic shortstop Ashlyn Reavis led the team both with her unique and positive personality as well as her explosive game at the plate and in the field.
“Out of all the great things that happened within my high school career, I’m most thankful for the relationships and the memories that I have with my home town,” Reavis said. “The things I learned on that field will always be something that I carry with me. The culture in North Lamar softball taught me so much about life, and I’m forever grateful for the coaches that instilled that in me.”
Even though she made it no secret that she enjoyed having a good time, Reavis was as skilled and serious a competitor as it gets in the eyes of her team and supporters. Whenever she made a big play from the shortstop position or recorded a powerful hit, North Lamar seemed to generate new life and come up with a big response when they needed one most. The grit, attitude, and determination she played with is something she credits mightily to her head coach, someone who she views as a role model.
“No matter the circumstances on any given day, Coach (Ashley) Endsley always showed up and gave us her all. She has taught me so much within the game and even more about life,” Reavis said. “Coach Endsley’s words became conviction for me and, when I’m not around her, I think back to all the things she taught me. Even since I graduated, she still influences me to this day. My favorite thing about Coach is the way she carries herself. She always said to us that, ‘Humility is the key to success,’ and I respect that so much. When I become a coach one day, I will be the coach that Coach Endsley is to me.”
The sponge that is Reavis’ brain did not stop absorbing information upon high school graduation. Instead, the inquisitive mind has continued to retain wisdom and skills from her new home on the college playing field.
“‘Life is all about perspectives, so, even when things are rough in the world around us, there’s always a silver lining.’ That is something that Jess, my head coach at Nicholls State, taught me,” Reavis said. “Another one in Coach Santiago said, ‘Leaders eat last.’ Also, I learned that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. That is something that teaches us to focus on the things we can control. As an athlete in a college program, it’s the best feeling in the world. I’m very thankful to be surrounded by strong women who help push me to be the best person I can be at all times. Everyone there teaches me that as long as we work from the inside out in life, the outside circumstances will never break us. I look forward to playing ball in the spring and Geaux Dirty Red!”
During her Pantherette days, Reavis struck out fewer than 10 times in her final three seasons combined. She also helped lead the team to the Regional Finals during the 2019 season.
The Lady Mustang ace who championed through a deck of challenges
Pressure pushes people to their limits. However, those who can withstand the heat usually come out better on the other side. Adversity builds character, diamonds cannot be produced without pressure, and former Lady Mustang ace softball pitcher Paige Shelton is a living example of these theories.
Despite sustaining multiple painful and tough injuries, such as an ACL tear and a softball thrown at her head, Shelton strived to be a leader, perform well on the mound, and be a good teammate to everyone in the dugout at all costs.
“My freshman and sophomore years did not go as planned for me, and I didn’t feel like our team bond was where it could potentially be at,” Shelton said. “During my junior and senior years, we took the underclassmen in and we remembered what not to do and what to do. We knew we needed to include the freshman in everything we do, so that aspect really helped improve our level of play and our team bond.”
Even though her softball career did not begin on the mound, she ended it there for Chisum with dominance. What was at first a joke became a reality as Shelton rapidly evolved from Two of Clubs to an Ace of Spades through her hard work in just a handful of years.
“I didn’t start pitching for real until I was, like, 11 years old. I did it some in city ball, but it didn’t take it that seriously yet,” Shelton said. “In sixth or seventh grade, I told my mom that I really wanted to pitch and, by playing travel ball, I was able to get a lot of extra work on the weekends and put it into my role with the high school team and vice versa. It took me years how to swing a bat properly, to stop throwing my elbow out while pitching, and how to run properly — which everything thought was hilarious. But, there’s just an abundance of things that I can say that I learned throughout the years, but I’m very grateful for the time frame that I did to learn everything because, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am at.”
Whenever the going got tough, Shelton did not abandon ship. Instead, she remembered the people she has in her corner, which is something that she remains thankful for to this day.
“I remember when I got hurt my sophomore year, I went back and forth even wanting to go back or pursue college and travel ball,” Shelton said. “I remember if it wasn’t for my teammates and Coach (Darren) Pevey, too, I wouldn’t have made it through. They were all always on me making sure I was going to physical therapy or falling behind in any area. Obviously, my family have always been top supporters along with my best friends Alli (Whitley), Callie (Jaynes), Maura (O’Dea), and Kennedi (Wright) are always supporting me even if it is a good or bad decision — they never aren’t supporting me. I am always reminded that I have people supporting me as do a lot of people, even if you can’t always see it.”
Shelton played softball at Paris Junior College upon graduation from Chisum High School. During her time playing for the Lady Mustangs, she amassed more than 700 strikeouts despite missing most of her sophomore year with an ACL tear.
A star on the diamond and a true Patriot of our country’s pastime
Coaches across the board typically stress the importance in participating in multiple sports, and they also emphasize possessing a variety of skills within each sport. On the baseball diamond, former star Prairiland High School baseball player Daylan Whitley is appreciative of the multiple skill sets he developed and sees the benefits from the countless hours or work required to get to the point he is at today.
“I would say personally that being versatile at the high school level is a good thing because when you get to college, you have all of those opportunities to play different positions like I did,” Whitley said. “I went on to Carl-Albert State as a catcher to start out at. I figured out quickly I was not going to play catcher, so they moved me to third base and right field, and I found my home in the outfield. I feel like I fit well there and finding your role while continuing to grind are keys to success.”
No one can reach the mountain top figuratively or literally on their own and Whitley knows that. The former program cornerstone for the Patriots is thankful to have worked with a coach who pushed him to be his best at all costs and encouraged him to pursue his ambitions with both the right heart and mind.
“It would 110 percent be Bric Steed. He was my high school head coach for the first three years of my time at Prairiland, and he would move all of the nonsense to the side and would push me to achieve my goals, Whitley said. “There are no limits to what you can do as a person in this world as long as you put your mind to it. It all comes down to wanting to play the game and loving it, and that is a mindset Coach Steed helped me develop.”
Looking back, the piling victories were always sweeter for Whitley and his team in front of crowded bleachers. Being able to receive the support and backing from his foundation is something Whitley has always cherished.
“I would say it was a good thing not only for us being successful on the field, but also for our families and our fans. Especially at a small school like this — it would always make it that much more special,” Whitley said. “It’s really a great thing to see people experience that since they maybe did not get to themselves, and maybe it pushes them to want to do big things as well.”
In his last season for Prariland, Whitley shined brightly on the diamond as the team’s leading hitter in almost every statistical category. He helped guide the team to the Area Round of the playoffs as a junior and has quickly become one of the top players in the Vikings’ junior college baseball program in Poteau, Oklahoma.
A Happy Thanksgiving to all
After receiving quality coaching, plenty of success, abundant support, and growth through both good and tough times, these former athletes still have a reason to look back and smile. Despite the turmoil in our world today, some say it is always good to count your lucky stars and remember how much there is to be grateful for. For more sports coverage, click here.