Double duty on the basketball court

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pressure on a basketball court usually involves guarding the other side’s top scorer or standing, in silence or chaos — it’s actually hard to say which builds more tension for a shooter — at the free throw line in the final few seconds, with the game in the balance.

At some Lakeland home games, before the opening tipoff even takes place, there’s one pressure-filled moment that everyone in the gym gets to see and hear.

Before the tipoff, even before he’s announced as the Cavaliers’ starting guard, Lakeland’s Samson Worrell does something more singular, lonely and more prone to embarrassing mistakes than standing at the free throw line with the game in the balance and only a second left on the clock.

Email newsletter signup

Worrell sings the National Anthem before his own varsity basketball games at Lakeland High School. It’s an unforgiving assignment that has wound up in embarrassment and defeat for many musicians. And it’s one that raises the blood pressure and heart rates of nearly everyone called to complete it.

But for Worrell, the embarrassment and possibility of stage fright don’t seem to apply at all.

Worrell does an outstanding job, with a deep and steady voice. I apologize for not being artistic or knowledgeable enough to go into more description. The bottom line, though, is he’s really good.

I do know that the crowd in the gym gives him a long, loud and appreciative ovation each time.

As he walks back from the scorer’s table to the Cavaliers’ bench to be introduced as part of Lakeland’s starting five — the real reason he’s at the game — Worrell remains modest. By his expression, the extra duty appears to be no big deal.

All the Cavalier coaches and teammates have the opposite reaction. They’re happy for Worrell. They pull for him through the whole anthem. There are more congratulations and backslaps for Worrell — and it’s all very genuine, without snickering or sarcasm — than if he had just hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

Having Worrell’s athletic ability and artistic talent make for a unique combination. To then have the confidence to display that ability and talent under the Lakeland High School spotlight — even if there is no literal spotlight in the Lakeland gym.

Lakeland has home basketball games Thursday and Friday evenings. I don’t know if Worrell sings the National Anthem every game so keep that in mind if you go there to see him.

But thanks to Worrell, being a basketball fan or even a Cavalier fan isn’t necessary to make the few bucks for a ticket to a Lakeland game worth the investment. It’s easy to go to a Lakeland basketball game and come away impressed, no matter who wins the game.