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Hard Knocks - Gillette News Record: Sports

Hard Knocks

Gillette guard Logan Wasson overcame plenty to fulfill his basketball dream

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Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Tue Nov 5, 2013.

It's Saturday afternoon and the Camels are in a dog fight with Laramie.

Although both Gillette and the Plainsmen already have qualified for the Class 4A state tournament and there's really not much left to play for, the game is hotly contested. Pride and the East Regional title are on the line.

The crowd is large but unusually quiet as the two teams battle for the region's top seed. With just a few minutes left in the game, Gillette's Logan Wasson leaves his feet to battle for a ball and comes down hard. He lands face down as a huge smack echoes through the gym.

The first person on his feet is Logan's father, Kirk Wasson, followed quickly by his mother, Laurie. These are the moments they dread and fear the most - not knowing if their son may have ended his basketball career and possibly, a normal way of life.

"I was up and almost on the floor," Kirk said. "You never know what may have happened."

That thought goes through their minds every time he hits the deck hard. But then, they are used to it.

They've felt the shock of that hard impact before.

A broken back is not to be taken lightly.

But in Logan's case, his 18-year-old back has suffered two different breaks within the span of months, putting his dream of one day playing college basketball in jeopardy.

But then, most dreams come with a cost.

***

No one knows the highs and lows of state tournament basketball better than Logan Wasson.

Now a senior, he was a member of the 2011 Gillette team that won a title and was a key part of the team that fell short last year, losing by a single point. He gets his third run at a championship beginning Thursday as the Camels open state tournament play at 9 p.m. against Rock Springs at Casper College.

But the fact that Wasson has played in any state event, let alone a single basketball game on the high school level is, in itself, amazing. It's a testament to who he is.

It was during a physical education class his freshman year that Wasson first broke his back. At the time he had no idea what he had done to himself.

"It hurt really bad but I thought I could play through it," he recalled.

And he did.

He played basketball for about a week, dealing with the pain, and had one of his best games of the year against Sheridan. He doesn't remember how many points he scored, but does remember asking to be taken out of the game because of the pain in his back.

After seeing a doctor, Wasson was diagnosed with two broken bones in his vertebrate and was forced to wear a back brace for four months.

"I was devastated," Wasson said. "It was over the summer and I can't do anything. I can't workout or play basketball. It was horrible because I didn't know what I was going to do."

With the brace on all the time -he took it off only to sleep - Wasson was limited in what he could do. No summer swimming or fishing at the lake, no swinging a golf club with his father, and no real shooting of a basketball. He could take set shots, but to a kid with a sweet jump shot, set shots are boring at best and at worst, worthless.

Once the brace came off, he worked hard to get back into basketball shape and then promptly broke two different bones in his back while taking a charge in a summer tournament game in Phoenix. That meant five more months in a brace, an even tougher fate than the first four.

"It was the worst year of my life," Wasson said. "But the second time, I took my time. I didn't rush it. like I did the first time."

Every doctor Wasson saw told him basketball was pretty much out of the equation. It would be unlikely that he could ever play much, let alone play well enough to get a college offer to play ball.

But he wasn't going to let anyone mess with his dream.

"There was no way I was going to give up," Wasson said. "This has been my dream ever since I could walk, to play college basketball or do anything."

His parents, to their credit, felt the same way. Throughout the whole process, they had his back, so to speak.

"If it had been life threatening, we wouldn't have let him play," Kirk said. "But they said if he could live with the pain, he could play. So we said, 'play.'"

***

Wasson hasn't missed a game in his high school career. He made the Camels varsity as a sophomore and saw his share of playing time.

His minutes on the floor went up dramatically his junior year and he has started every game as a senior. The numbers he has put up this season would be the envy of any player in the state: Entering the state playoffs, Wasson is averaging 12 points a game and ranks fourth in the state's Class 4A in assists and eighth in steals.

"Not many kids could do that," Gillette coach Mike Curry said. "He's a competitive kid and he's playing through pain periodically, and he's not going to tell you when it hurts. That's a tribute to him."

Wasson, Curry said, has that unique ability to work on his own. Where many kids will gladly show up for open gym workouts with teammates, Wasson was showing up at 6 every single morning to work on shots by himself.

It was that kind of dedication, the work ethic a son learned from his PGA golf professional father, which allowed him to overcome everything.

That, and the support he got at home.

"My parents have basically left it up to me," Logan said. "They have been very supportive. I don't know how many physical therapies that I've been through that they have paid for. But I've told them 'this is what I want.' … They have definitely been my biggest supporters through all of it."

While it can be tough sometimes to watch, his parents are always there, cheering him on from sidelines. They too, have not missed a game.

"I've never told him to quit," Laurie said. "I've told him to enjoy life."

But there are constant reminders that this is not over. It's a situation the family will deal with as long as Wasson plays basketball and maybe many years after.

Every time he hits the floor, his parents hold their breath. Logan does too.

The back issues have definitely altered the way he plays the game and he thinks about that each night on the court.

He'd love to drive inside and draw a crowd, bang around with some of the big guys and throw up crazy shots in traffic like teammate Cody Kelley does on a regular basis. But he knows he can't take the risk.

So he picks his spots to go inside. But he's also comfortable outside, knocking down 3-pointers or handing out assists.

And the Camels would love to see him do a lot of that this weekend in Casper as Gillette vies for yet another state title.

No matter what happens in Casper, though, Wasson is at peace with himself and his back issues.

Earlier in the season, he signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Jamestown College in North Dakota, fulfilling his life-long dream.

"That's all I ever wanted to do," Wasson said. "I know that I'm not going to play pro ball, so playing college basketball has always been my dream. And I'm going to get to do that now. And I love that."

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