Glenwood basketball player James Beck was unaware of how close he was to a milestone in the Gators’ game against Springwood on Jan. 17. Of course, that sort of oversight happens when you’re chasing bigger objectives.
Beck scored the 1,000th point of his career in the second quarter of the 69-50 victory. Beck began the play by accidentally dribbling the ball off the defender’s foot, which sent it rolling toward teammate Chad Dykes. With the seconds ticking down before halftime, Dykes fired the ball back to Beck, who released the 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded.
“I had no idea that I was even near 1,000 points,” Beck said. “I started running back to the bench, and as I’m running, Chad tackles me and says, ‘You did it.’ I was like, ‘I know it went in. Are you saying they didn’t wave it off?’ I didn’t even think I got the shot off in time.”
Beck was surprised to then find head coach Dusty Perdue holding a microphone and a commemorative ball to celebrate the achievement.
The moment speaks to Beck not spending much time studying the stats, instead focusing more on making plays and helping the Gators win games. But it’s also a product of his drive to finish what he and his teammates started, which in his mind is a march to a Class AAA state title in the Alabama Independent School Association playoffs.
“The 1,000th point, at the end of the day, I’d trade one million times over for a state championship,” Beck said.
The next in line
Basketball runs in the Beck family. James’ father, Vance, was on the first Glenwood basketball team to win a state title in 1985. Vance’s sister, Beth Adams, played for a state title at Glenwood and played collegiately at Concourse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. James’ older brother, Trey, added to the family hardware by winning a state title in 2013.
During their youth, Beck, Trey and their cousin Nick Adams spent a lot of their free time playing basketball. Vance helped with the Upward basketball program at a local church, which gave the kids the chance to get on the court on a regular basis.
Early on, Beck showed an innate ability to play the sport.
“When he was in kindergarten, if there were kids missing on a third-grade team and they needed somebody to play, he could go out there and play and be right in there with them,” Vance said.
Beck reached the high school varsity team just one year after his brother’s title, and the transition wasn’t the smoothest. As an undersized, young guard, Beck spent most of his freshman season on the bench, sporadically coming in when the game was out of reach for some experience.
There was also the burden of following his brother, though the two couldn’t have been more different on the court. At 6-foot-2, Trey played forward and was more concerned with grabbing rebounds and playing tight defense than delivering assists and piling up points.
“He won’t admit it, but I think he has had a lot of pressure on him,” Trey said. “It took him awhile to really accept and realize me and him are different players. Ever since he realized that, he really has come into his own.”
That maturity and level headedness helped Beck establish himself as he got older. He said he took it upon himself to refine his game before his junior year, which Perdue pointed at being when he improved the most.
Beck filled role of the team’s second scorer behind Trip Day, which forced opposing teams to find a way to shut both players down in order to win. That hasn’t happened much, as Glenwood has won 43 games in that time frame.
Beck said he hasn’t put up the point totals in his senior season as he hoped, but then again, the points don’t matter. The Gators sit at 19-3 on the season with an unblemished region record before the regional tournament begins on Friday. Three days after the region tournament ends comes the start of the state tournament.
The goal for everyone is to walk off the court for the last time as winners, but for Beck, it’s extremely personal.
Vance wore No. 11 and took home the state title as a senior. Trey wore No. 11 and won it all in his final season as well. Enter Beck, whose jersey number and senior status fit the mold that proved just right for his father and brother before him.
“In my mind, it falls in line,” Beck said.
Making it happen
The storybook ending of Glenwood winning the title is the easiest to write. Making it happen in reality, however, is far from simple.
The Gators have had three shots at the state title in Beck’s first three years and were topped by Tuscaloosa Academy all three times. As a freshman, Beck was a deer in the headlights, getting meaningful minutes in a three-point loss to Tuscaloosa in the championship game. The next two seasons the two teams met in the semifinals, with the Knights winning both showdowns.
There could very well be another rematch between the two teams, but Trey knows from experience that it’s about the next game on the schedule. His Gators thought they would quickly take care of business during his junior season en route to a state title. Instead, they were bounced out of the first round it what he deemed a “terrible, terrible performance.”
That upset loss infuriated Trey and the other rising seniors so much that they refused to buy senior class rings. That finger, they reasoned, would be for the state title ring.
It’s a mentality not unlike Beck and his fellow seniors this year. They’ve come so close to winning a championship only to be left wanting. The fact that every starter from last season only emphasizes the drive to not only match what they did before, but top it.
For Beck, reaching that 1,000-point mark was a worthwhile achievement, but in the end, he has a team goal in mind. And that goal ends with a victory on AISA’s biggest stage.
“I’d put our team over anyone,” Beck said. “Most of us have been on this team for at least three years. All of us have come up short three times. We all know the feeling. Yeah, I wish we would have won all of those, but it’s made us a lot closer as far as a family sort of aspect.”