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CAN'T MISS


Every so often, in the world of high school boys' basketball, there comes a player with incredible talent and skill. He and his team become the focus of a lot of media attention. That player becomes one of the most talked about high school athletes in the nation.


Recruiters from the big-time colleges across the country come to the games just to watch the young man play. They begin to envision him playing for their school of higher learning and how he can help their school win a national championship. Those recruiters have a term for high school players with this kind of potential -- "Can't miss." He's referred to by this term because any school who signs this prospect "can't miss" having a superstar on their team. However, not every player who is labeled as "can't miss" seems to avoid missing.


That's what happened to a young man named Ronnie Fields. Maybe you've heard of him. Ronnie played for Farragut Academy in Chicago. Not only was Ronnie considered a "can't miss" prospect but he had a "can't miss" teammate named Kevin Garnett. They took Farragut to the high school state tournament in 1995.


Garnett was a senior and turned pro right after graduating from high school. Fields was only a junior that year. But the next year, his senior year, Fields -- a 6'3" guard -- averaged 33 points and 12 rebounds a game. He was named Illinois' Mr. Basketball for 1996.


Fans and media alike were enamored with Fields. Some even said that he would become the next Michael Jordan because of the way he could seemingly defy gravity and float effortlessly through the air. He accepted a scholarship from DePaul University, and seemed to be heading for stardom.


But then life fell apart for Ronnie Fields. In February of that same year, a serious car accident left him with a fractured vertebrae in his neck. In July, DePaul withdrew its scholarship offer when Fields failed to qualify academically. In September, Fields pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse and was sentenced to 2 years probation and counseling.


Then in December of '96 Fields became a benchwarmer for the Rockford Lightning, a professional team that was part of the CBA, a far cry from the National Basketball Association where the real stars play and where his high school teammate, Kevin Garnett in October of that year signed a $123 million contract, the richest in the history of sports at that time.


Was Ronnie Fields the "can't miss" prospect that so many felt he was? No. In fact it's fair to say that his post-high school career was pretty disappointing. It's difficult to live up to expectations of absolute greatness. So many things can go wrong along the way.


(From a sermon by Michael Luke, Great Expectations, 4/16/2011)

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