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Good evening ladies, you all look beautiful tonight. Gentlemen...not so much.

I’d like to begin by thanking Tom Pratt for giving me the opportunity to speak tonight. Pratt and I haven’t been on good terms ever since his actions during the 2013 fall athletic banquet. He sent Coach Carroll a text saying I was first in line for dessert, when I was literally one of the last guys to get a slice. Despite this controversial topic I believe he might deserve a round of applause.

I’m actually going to do all shout-outs now to get it out of the way. This may seem unorthodox, but bear with me. Thanks to the gods and goddesses of the universe that create the powers of love and chaos. This produces different adventures for us all, and fortunately our adventures have brought us together tonight to dwell as brothers and sisters. Thank you to my family for all the sacrifices they’ve made, giving me greater opportunities. Shout out Jesse Shapiro, Claude Anderson, Coach Carroll, Velma, Vollinger, Pete Sully, Cecile, Grant Gonzalez, and Bob Cooley. Special shout-out to Sheila Heffernon who has become my mother on campus. Thanks to all my current and former teammates who pushed me into working on my craft. Lastly shout out to NMH hockey: a team filled with dudes who believe in my basketball abilities more than anyone else on campus since my freshman year. I would name more people but this guy Pratt is running me on a tight schedule. Can I please get another round applause for everyone who was and was not mentioned? You all deserve some love and it will energize the room before I tell my story.

Though my five-year journey of high school is not complete, my experiences through basketball have shaped who I am becoming in the universe. The journey started in an upper-middle class Italian neighborhood in Queens, NY. I attended Christ the King Regional High School, a national powerhouse, home to former NBA champions Lamar Odom and Speedy Claxton. At this high school, the boys' basketball teams were treated like gods. All teams got love except the Varsity B team. The Varsity B games were the only games that did not get a packed house and they were the only team that did not reap the benefits of the Nike LeBron James sponsorship the program had. I was fortunate enough not be on the Varsity B and got to enjoy extraordinary treatment. Females would buy my lunch daily, and surprise me with clothing and sneakers as gifts occasionally. My chemistry teacher even boosted my grade from a 76 to a 93% in respect of my hard work on the court. I was living the dream and I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why’d you leave, Jah?” A question I asked myself almost everyday as a freshman at NMH. My first year in an NMH jersey I had the mindset that not only was I the best on the team but the best player in New England Prep. (Keep in mind that the NEPSAC AAA is the best league in the nation and I was only 15 years old.)  I also believed I was the best-looking player in the league, but we can save that story for another time.

I reclassified and became one of only two freshmen in the league, as well as the shortest player in league history. I needed my confidence to be sky-high in order for me to compete. I started in a few games that year. Most notably our first home game against KUA, when I sparked our energy with some trash talk to the opponents and hit a floater on two defenders. I received the “He’s a freshman” chant started by former hockey player Will Blazer. During three-on-three basketball intramurals, that coach Carroll banned us from playing in; I lead C1 to a victory and hit a couple half-court shots while doing so. Conor O’Brien applauded my efforts and told me I was "the greatest little guard to ever do it." Carroll was upset when I justified going against his words by telling him, “I do it for the fans!” 

With my confidence and hockey brothers convincing me I’m the greatest and coach Carroll telling me my confidence is arrogance I was confused at a young age. My answer was not to change; rather it was to find out how I could get back to Christ the King. This NMH community was not what I was used to. A place where guys in the choir get as much respect and love as the athletes? This can’t be the real world, I thought. Clap if you’ve ever felt this way so I know I’m not alone.

I did the most growing my sophomore year -- obviously not in height, but in understanding. My trip to South Africa enabled me to understand I don’t know it all. Also seeing the positivity of the impoverished allowed me to appreciate the opportunities at NMH that the South Africans would kill for. This may sound like BS to those of you who received a strike last night over absolutely nothing, did not get the grade you worked for on a paper, or just hate the cold as much as I do, so I won’t dive into my appreciation just yet.

My sophomore season was filled with ups and downs. I went from starting almost half of the season to watching my team win a national championship from the bench. This is the year I realized Carroll is insane. He would call team meetings every other day and give us lectures. His lectures would consist of telling us to be filled with humility and learn from our opponents. Then, during the same meeting, the message would be switched to learn nothing from your opponents, they shouldn’t be teaching you if you are destroying them. Instead of letting the message go through one ear and out the other, I caught myself battling with the contradictory words of a mad man.

I went into my junior year still unsure how to deal with my coach. I lost the love of the game. I went from being a former top 100 ranked kid to wanting to call basketball quits because of one man. I relied on Blake food as comfort for the hard times I was going through. The chicken finger wrap never gets old, am I right?

During the summer before my senior year I realized I would have to understand the crazy guy in order to make the most of possibly my last year playing basketball. JC understands that success has many different paths. What makes him appear to be insane is his obsession with winning. His different methods and messages are designed to challenge our mental toughness in order for us to succeed on and off the court. Humility, arrogance, confidence, trash talk, comfort, criticism, and serenity are all necessary for the team's growth. His work shows as he coached NMH basketball to its first New England and National Championship in back-to-back seasons.

Playing under Carroll has prepared me for adulthood. I learned how to keep calm during times of confusion and chaos in order to prevent an overflow of emotions, and create an ideal environment for learning from all experiences. My senior campaign is almost over. I am the winningest athlete in the history of the school, New England and National Champ, McDonald's All-American Nominee, and Former Top 100 ranked player in the nation.

However, through the adventure of high school athletics, I’ve learned more from the difficult times than the good ones. As Tom Cruise had once explained, “Without the bitterness, the sweet just isn’t as sweet.” Adjusting to the NMH culture and playing basketball here has developed me into the calm pharaoh standing in front of you all today. Though I have been working on my humility I still believe I am the best player in the league, and the best looking. My confidence is something I cannot lose! It’s a New York Thing. Thanks for listening to my story and I encourage you all to make the most of the several blueprints of success NMH has here for us all. Yours Truly, Jahshanti Allen.


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