While the game of basketball may at times seem difficult, three guests at Woodland High practice Tuesday made a contrasting case.
As former Wildcat player Emmanuel Holloway, as well as Chris Ellis and Lloyd Phillips, spoke to the Woodland teenagers before their afternoon session, the trio of professional players -- all who play overseas -- said the game might require hard work, but it is easy if the effort is there.
"It's as easy as you make it," said Ellis, a former Marietta High and Wake Forest player who played in China last summer. "The work that you put in will get you to the next level."
"You sacrifice now, you can party for the rest of your life," added the 6-foot-9 son of former NBA marksman Dale Ellis.
Holloway, who spent last season playing in the Czech Republic, advised the players to have an undeniable love for the game.
"Whether I was off the court or on the court ... I was always thinking about basketball," the Woodland and Illinois State graduate said.
He cautioned, though, that players have to take care of business away from the court if they hope to spend time on it.
"If you're ever going to play basketball outside of high school, you have to have good grades," Holloway acknowledged.
"A college team can't even touch you if you don't have good grades," Chris Ellis said. "Make the grades and push yourself to be great."
Even as great as a player may be in high school, the step up to college truly tests a player's mettle.
"The game is a lot more mental when you get to college," said Lloyd Phillips, who played last season in Germany and was a teammate of Holloway's at Illinois State. "You definitely have to be more disciplined on and off the court. ... It's a step up in everything -- the schoolwork, what they expect out of you, your day. [In] high school, you get to come to school, you go to classes and you go to practice.
"In college, [you're] gonna be working out, [you're] gonna have weightlifting times, [you're] gonna have study hall times, schoolwork is gonna be harder. It's gonna be more difficult to focus. [They're] gonna expect more of you on the court."
"It's the same game, everybody can play and it's about details. [They're] working on closeouts and stuff right there," he continued, pointing at the Woodland players. "You may do that for an hour [in college]. It was days we didn't even touch a basketball. The little things are a lot bigger the higher you go."
Afterward, Holloway spoke of his initial road from Woodland to Illinois State, from high school to college.
"Out of [high school], I went to Mercer University. That didn't work out -- transferred to junior college. Then I end up going to Illinois State but the thing that stood out for me, what got me to where I was, is that I had a good mentality and I was a good kid," he said. "I wasn't always getting in trouble so people would always [refer] me to other people. I know I wasn't the greatest talent in the world, but I worked hard and the word got out -- spread. All it takes is one coach, it [does not] take everybody -- one coach, one person to say something, one coach to believe in you -- and that's just how I got around. ... It's not you falling down, it's how you get back up.
"I thought my world had ended when it didn't work out at Mercer University, but I came back and I have a good family and my faith in God. ... They [were] telling me, 'Just keep working, things will work out -- keep working.' At the end of the day, if you do fall, you gonna just lay down? You lay down, you're not gonna get anywhere so I just kept working and it ended up working out, and I just appreciate it so much."
As Woodland boys basketball coach Mike Tobin mentioned when introducing Holloway -- whom he called the best player to come through the school -- and Ellis and Phillips, the players did not meet with success accidentally.
"None of these guys that played college ball were lazy guys," Tobin said to his 20 Wildcat players. "There's no real secret to their success -- it's hard work."