Dan Plutchak/The Week
(Published March 16, 2007, 11:14 a.m.)
Retiring a player's jersey is among the highest honors a team can bestow on its former players. In most cases, it's a rare milestone most only dream about.
But in the case of two teammates who played basketball for Mt. Zion Christian School in Lake Geneva, it's an honor that everyone who knew them would gladly decline just to have them back.
Taylor Scott, 12, of Burlington, and Shane Potter, 14, of Genoa City, died Feb. 3 when the van they were riding in was involved in a crash in McHenry County, Ill. They were returning from a basketball tournament in Sycamore, Ill.
Their jerseys and numbers were retired a week ago Friday during a tearful ceremony before the boys' annual alumni game.
More than 100 friends, family members and classmates packed the small gym as Taylor's and Shane's teammates presented their framed jerseys.
The two boys were remembered as the glue that held the team together. "They never lost hope, even in the hardest games," said teammate David Martin as the jerseys were unveiled.
Principal Dan Clement said the year has been different since the accident. "The mood has been somber," he said. "Some of the students have been struggling."
In a small school like this, the kids are as much family as they are classmates.
Richard Dombrowski has known Taylor since they were in preschool. Taylor's dad, John Scott, sat with Dombrowski and consoled him during the ceremony.
"It has really affected a lot of people," said Clement who also coaches the basketball team.
"We've been trying to find ways to remember the boys in a positive light," he said. The jersey retirement ceremony was one way of honoring them.
At their funerals a month ago, the major milestones and accomplishments in the life of each boy were celebrated.
In the crowded gym Friday night, however, it seemed like the little things were what people were missing the most.
Taylor, a seventh grader, and one of his best friends, Tim Peterson, were known around the school by their nicknames, Chuck and Chip, respectively.
Although Peterson transferred out of Mt. Zion before the current school year, he returned Friday to play in Taylor's place. "I just wish Chuck wasn't gone," Peterson said while holding back tears, "I miss going to his house and staying up late."
"He was a friend to everybody. He wasn't a picker and a chooser," said his mom, Cathy Scott.
"Taylor is a sensitive boy, trustful, loves sports-basketball in particular," Cathy remembered. "His number was No. 23-Michael Jordan's number, and I just found out Taylor share's Michael Jordan's birth date."
Although he loved sports, his mom says, there was much more to him.
Knowing her son's deep devotion to his faith has helped Taylor's mom through the difficult days following the accident.
"I think his greatest impact is his writing in school about coming to know Christ," she said. "We talked about the Lord, but it was after he died that I found all of his writing." Some of them were read at his funeral, where they preached a message that would bring people to know their savior."
Shane, an eighth grader at the school was a friend to everyone as well, his mom, Lasandra Potter, remembered.
"He was good to seniors in particular," she said. There was one woman who would attend the basketball games. As most of the boys would run by her, Shane would pause and give her a hug. Then he'd turn and give her his mischievous grin.
That grin and his green and yellow green eyes are just two of the things that people remembered about Shane.
Shane's dad, LeRoy Potter, echoed the things that people remembered about his son. "Shane had a passion for everything he did," he said.
"He was a leader in every sport he was in," LeRoy said. "My wife is a firm believer in keeping the kids busy, so he was in every sport. Sometimes he'd start the next sport before the current season was even over."
So it was fitting that the ceremony to honor them was held in the gym where they spent so much of their time.
"The most important thing is that it's such a tribute to the boys," Cathy Scott said. "They meant so much to everyone at the school."