Some players grow up destined for greatness, their places on the varsity team solidified long before they even set foot on campus.
Then there’s Jack Palms. He wasn’t supposed to be playing varsity basketball as a senior at Highland Park High School. But the more he was told he couldn’t, the more determined he became.
Palms spent his seventh- and eighth-grade seasons as a team manager after being cut from the school ’s A, B, and C teams both years. As a freshman, he made the B team. And a year later, he was on the sophomore squad, which is for those who didn’t make the junior varsity.
None of those turns of events suggested that Palms would eventually wear a varsity uniform, or certainly that he would contribute valuable minutes for a defending district champion.
“I was working hard, but I didn’t have it,” said Palms, who attended youth camps at HP. “Basketball was my life. I wasn’t blessed with a lot of athletic ability. I had to learn to overcome that.”
Palms became more optimistic when he earned a spot on the JV team last season and eventually became a starter, which put the 6-foot-3 forward in line for the varsity squad as a senior.
“It was a long journey,” he said. “There were definitely some times of doubt, and long summers of hard work. It’s really paid off.”
Palms can’t point to one period of sudden improvement or one instance of good fortune that resurrected his hopes of fulfilling his varsity dream. However, he began working out in earnest with a private trainer during the summer prior to his freshman year on skills and conditioning. Still, all that time and effort came with no guarantees.
“I put in all those hours not knowing what the outcome was going to be,” said Palms, who admits he pondered other sports or extracurricular activities. His older brother, Madison, played lacrosse at Boston University. “It really becomes a battle.”
Palms said it was “a special moment” when he made his varsity debut during the season opener against South Oak Cliff in November. Since then, he’s become more valuable off the bench on a roster thinned by early-season injuries.
“When his number is called, he’s always ready,” HP head coach David Piehler said. “He’s been beneficial to our team with his work ethic, whether he plays or he doesn’t. He’s got a great attitude and great character.”
There were 140 boys in Palms’ seventh-grade class at Highland Park Middle School who tried out with him. Today, there are eight seniors on the varsity team who are still standing.
“I didn’t want to let all that work be put to waste. I kept going hard. This is an opportunity I’ve been given. It’s a privilege I’ve earned,” Palms said. “There were people who doubted me. That’s what kept me going. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.”