The directness dispels all delusion. Players trudge to the bus that shuttles us back to the hotel.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Freshly showered, Jerome Jackson is waiting for a friend to drive him to the airport. Simply put, he carried our ragtag team all weekend with his play.
An assistant varsity coach at Clarksville (Tenn.) Academy, he also teaches classes in the agricultural field in which he got his college degree.
Unlike the old magazine, that degree is a possession he proudly carries to Lake Providence during his five or six annual trips home.
"Every time I go home I try to talk to the kids and give them hope," Jackson says. "The kids grow up and they have nobody to look up to. They all know me as one of the only kids from my high school to get a scholarship and finish all four years. Most people get one and then quit and go back to Lake Providence and do nothing.
"That's why I take film from these camps and show kids that there may be somebody bigger than me, there may be somebody quicker than me, but they're not going to outwork me. I run up against people all the time where I know they're better than me. But they won't outwork me. I tell kids: Always try to do your best no matter what you're doing."
Jackson looks away, adjusts his glasses.
"If I were to make it, it would do so much for our community," he says. "And that's why I keep trying."
A reporter can dream, too, and have it be nothing about cracking a professional basketball league while nearing 40.
When you cover sports for a living, sometimes the passion and commitment and majesty of athletes can get lost in the police-blotter silliness and million-dollar holdouts.
Then a weekend like this takes place, and those flush feelings of sport for sport's sake come flooding back: players pushing themselves to beat long odds, chase lofty goals.
So at least one dream is realized: Cynicism and jadedness are nowhere to be found.
Back at the hotel, phone numbers and e-mail addresses and hugs and hand slaps are exchanged. Goodbyes are said. The trip to the airport is quick. On board, a beer is poured, impossibly cold and refreshing.
The glass gets raised to dreamers everywhere.