Senior learns lessons through adversity
The cross-shaped tattoo on his shoulder says it all: "Only the strong survive."
For senior basketball player Aaron Ray, that tattoo serves as a motto. It is a summary of his life to date, from his troubled early teen years to getting back on track with the help of basketball.
"I could've chosen to take different paths and continued to make bad choices, but I decided I didn't want to do that," said Ray, whose rocky path began at Olathe East three years ago when, he now admits ,he was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
As a result, he found himself in some tough positions.
"When you're friends with someone, you can't just drop them and I did something that got me into trouble with the law and that made me spend some time locked up," Ray said.
It forced Ray to makes some changes in his life.
"I realized I had a lot more going for me," he said. "A lot of those kids had grown up around that stuff and didn't have much of a chance to get out. For me, though, I had basketball and school."
With the help of Turning Point, an alternative education program offered by the DeSoto School District to troubled middle and high school students, Ray found a way to turn his life around. Ray spent a semester at Turning Point before being mainstreamed into DeSoto High last fall.
"Turning Point helped me get caught up on all the credits I missed while I was in juvenile detention," Ray said.
Basketball has proven to be a blessing for Ray. It has helped him to keep focused. His parents also played a key role in him getting his grades and his life back in the right direction.
"I learned I need to listen to my heart and not the voices of others," Ray said.
Ray's tale is a success story, says coach Sean Reilly.
"Many people who make poor decisions in life never learn, but Aaron has matured," Reilly said. "He's not making the same decisions he made before and that's truly inspirational.
Joining the team this year has taught Ray the importance of teamwork.
"I'm learning how to work as a team as well as getting to know all the guys better," Ray said.
The Wildcats travel to Topeka Thursday for the Kansas Class 5A sub-state semifinals against Topeka-Seaman. A win in that game would put DeSoto (7-13) one win away from an invitation to the state tournament.
For Ray, who will likely play basketball next year at Cowley County Community College, getting to the state tournament is the No. 1 goal.
"We just need to finish strong as a team and make the best run for state that we can," Ray said.