MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- Whether it be the American Dream or the Mount Carmel Dream, I'm not sure if many people better exemplify putting in the work and reaping the benefits than Mount Carmel senior Luke Gould.
"It's a perfect illustration of putting the time in and doing the work," Mount Carmel head coach Tyler Buss said. "Obviously we'd all love to be handed a starting job as a freshman or sophomore, but those are few and far between. They've happened a little more lately as our enrollment's dropped a little bit, but again, he did it the old fashion way where he's just going to come to practice everyday, come to work everyday and if you continue to trust the process, develop, trust your coaches, and put the fundamental work in that we work on all of the time, by the time you're an upperclassmen into your senior year you can be a varsity starter and contributor.
Gould entered the year as a three-year basketball player at Mount Carmel while also playing wide receiver on the football team, yet hadn't seen varsity minutes in basketball leading up to this season. His parents, Pat and Tamara, attribute much of that to the growth spurt that Gould experienced his junior year of high school, though their son has a tremendous work ethic as well.
Suddenly the 5-foot-3 point guard had grown 10 inches and stood 6-foot-1. Not only did it allow Gould to start and provide big minutes on JV last year, but it also established the younger Gould's presence in the house versus his older sister, Eryn (who plays softball at the University of Evansville). His days of being pushed around by his big sister were over.
"Eryn, obviously she's older, girls grow faster than boys do," Tamara Gould explained. "When they're younger, you're the little guy and the older one always tries to push you around so it was pretty funny when that growth spurt occurred and he was the bigger kid. All he has to do is look at her, we don't have that wrestling around like we used to. She pretty much knows who can handle who now at this point. Kind of funny to watch that transition occur with the kids."
"We did try to tell her not to do it as he got bigger." Luke's father Pat added.
Now, as a 6-foot-1 senior wing who's tasked with guarding the opposition's best player and boasting a smooth 3-point shot, Gould contributes major minutes for the Aces and is frequently harped as a major key for the Aces by coach Buss. Countless times coach Buss has echoed the same statement, "When he's knocking down shots for us it changes the whole dynamic of hows teams have to play and guard us." Gould sits as a major X-factor for a team with postseason aspirations.
"I've always looked to shoot around the perimeter, lately I've tried to do the little things," Gould said. "Get inside, block people out, play as hard as I can, work hard. I just try to do the little things."
Even more impressive is Gould's character off the court. When you talk to him he's well spoken, confident, yet is pretty level. You don't sense any arrogance with him, and coach Buss and his parents both harped on Gould's willingness to help others. Whether it be running errands for coach Buss or helping out family, friends, or just anyone that needs it.
"Luke's a very kind-hearted kid," Tamara Gould said. "He's very close with -- our daughter was too -- but our kids are very close with their grandparents, have always spent a lot of time with their grandparents. He also is willing to help out with people I work with. For example, my boss just retired, he's been to known to go help him and his wife out, help them move things around, just stepping up and doing things for other people. Definitely kind-hearted."
"I had somebody stop me after the basketball game and they just said it perfect. Luke, he's a special kid. He's committed obviously and he's dependable, but he's got such a great temperament. He doesn't get worked up about things easily, not that we don't all have those moments, but I wish I had a little of that in me because he has a way to control his temperament. He can still be passionate about things though and is passionate about things, so Luke's definitely an incredibly special kid. I'm not saying it just because he's mine, I'm saying it because I've seen it and people come up and tell me that."
Tamara recollected on a favorite memory she had of Luke -- and it goes back quite some time, but illustrates what kind of person he is.
"I think one of my most proud moments I've ever had and I don't know if Pat even remembers, but when Luke was in kindergarten there was a kid who was not verbal and maybe had some things going on," Tamara Gould spoke of her son. "Luke and him connected and his teacher was so proud of him because this kid all of the sudden opened up and started talking to Luke when he wouldn't talk to anyone else. Just easily making friends is something Luke's always does very well. He's very smart, I can't say enough about how smart he is. Sometimes I think he doesn't give himself enough credit because he doesn't brag on himself at all."
In his free time Luke hunts with his dad, plays video games and likes to play basketball with his friends and teammates. When asked for any stories from the hunting trips, Pat Gould laughingly commented, "What happens in camp stays in camp."
The Gould's have played as hosts of many of the pickup games that happen outside of school, as they have a goal in their driveway. Pat and Tamara never minded having a driveway full of kids, noting that they at least know all the kids are there and enjoying themselves.
"For the last several years it was almost a nightly basis that on the weekends and in the summer on almost every night we'd have a driveway full of boys that were coming out to play basketball and having a great time," Tamara Gould said. "Which was great, we knew where they were, they were being good and just having a good time."
Upon graduation, Gould plans on attending Wabash Valley College for two years prior to pursuing a pharmacy program. With high school nearing its end, it's a surreal feeling for Gould.
"Everyone always says high school's the quickest four years of your life," Gould said. "You never really think about it and then your senior year's started and you're like, well. It's definitely a surreal experience and has you thinking about being an adult. It's kind of scary, start thinking about the real world."
His parents fully support his plans and are proud of his fearlessness in pursuit of the next step.
"Whatever he does I'll back him 100 percent," Pat Gould spoke of his son. "Hopefully he does something that makes him happy. Pharmacy is a good profession to be in but if it makes him happy, that's all that matters."
Sports can be a phenomenal microcosm of your abilities and capabilities. You don't think of improvement as a shooter in basketball, or an improvement as a wide receiver in football serving as tools that can translate to life after sports -- but they certainly can.
Many athletes develop a tremendous work ethic in their sporting careers and it can just as easy translate to their pursuits outside of sports. Gould's the latest example of such. With the correct application, the same drive can propel the senior to a successful career as a pharmacist.
"I think I've really learned if you do work, you can get what you want," Gould said. "Basketball's really shown me that and football as well. Freshman year football was rough and I didn't play sophomore year, but junior, senior year I came back and got to play receiver. So I think I've shown myself I can do things I just have to work for it."
His parents, Pat and Tamara, are already starting to experience the empty nest effect with Luke and Eryn becoming independent, leaving the house and driving on their own. As Mount Carmel natives themselves, they hope their kids will decide to stay close. If not, they might find their parents close on their tail.
"I really don't want them to go too far, I'll be honest." Tamara Gould said. "We may follow them." Pat Gould interjected laughingly.
With the remaining season, however, Gould is hopeful it can continue and conclude on a high note for this group of seniors. Gould is likely to play a major factor in how successful this team can be down the stretch and he's optimistic about their potential.
"I think if we keep playing and keep forming anything's possible," Gould said. "We can work our way there. We'll just have to keep working and grinding and hope we can get there."
If you're out there doubting your chances of being able to do something, think you're too short, not talented enough, whatever the reason may be, Gould is a great example of not giving up and being resilient. He had a message for those who might be having doubts.
"Definitely just keep working because I never thought I'd be here so," Gould said. "The spots will open up, you'll get your chance."
You can see Gould and his senior teammates for one final time on Friday (Feb. 15) in Mount Carmel's Senior Night game against Washington and the festivities prior to the game. The festivities will likely commence around 6:30 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.