Kroner: After overcoming leukemia, Roux has winning attitude
LINCOLN — Winning and losing, it seems, is the all-consuming passion in sports. It's what matters most to those who play the games and to those who watch the games.
That covers most of the folks who care.
People won't ask, "How did Champaign Central play in its sectional title game Friday night against the state's top-ranked Class 3A boys' basketball team?"
They will want to know, "Did the Maroons win?"
Yes or no. End of conversation. It's rarely that simple. The season ended for Central at Lincoln's Roy Anderson Gymnasium with an 88-62 loss to the top-rated Springfield Lanphier Lions.
Life goes on.
That's a topic Central's Alex Roux can address from personal experience.
The Maroons' fourth-leading scorer and second-leading three-point marksman is able to view winning from a different perspective than many of his peers.
It's the one gained from dealing with leukemia as a third-grader. Roux has been in remission for close to nine years. That's a significant win for anyone with a scorecard.
"I was young (when diagnosed). That took a lot of the seriousness away," he said. "I didn't understand the magnitude of what was happening."
He understands now that he's among the lucky ones. He's free of complications, free from worry about his health and able to enjoy his teenage years playing a game he loves.
"There are other people less fortunate than I am," he said. "I haven't had any problems."
The Central senior has done more than overcome a potentially life-threatening childhood disease. He has worked to make himself a valuable member of a 19-win team that concludes the season as one of the 16 best in Class 3A.
It wasn't always that way. Roux wasn't the superstar middle school player. He wasn't the one anointed as the next can't-miss prospect.
"I didn't play much in middle school," Roux said. "I wasn't as successful as I've been in high school (when he had a 17-point half as a junior against Centennial)."
Hard work rewarded
He also didn't get discouraged. He took a path less traveled by high schoolers of this era than in past generations. Roux worked diligently to be in position to contribute.
"I've been coming to open gyms for four years, working to make myself a presence," Roux said.
Others have taken notice.
"He spends countless hours in the gym," Central coach Scott Davis said. "He has worked and worked and worked. He's a good role model who won't let what others think about his limitations stop him."
Roux's reward is that he was one of the first subs called upon when Davis went to the bench. He might be summoned in the opening minute or he might have to wait his turn until the second half.
"It's like being a pinch hitter in baseball," Davis said. "You're cold off the bench and have to deliver."
In 29 of 30 games, Roux got his chance at some point and was prepared for the moment. To be ready, he said, "I try to get a lot of shots up before the game. I take a lot of game-situation shots."
Roux, one of 32 Class 3A state qualifiers in the three-point shooting competition, is not one to dwell on his illness and what he has overcome.
"When I met him, and for the first few years I knew him, I had no idea it had occurred," Davis said. "He's a fighter and has handled it well."
Though he started one game — the Maroons' regional opener — the 6-foot Roux preferred the reserve role.
"There's more pressure starting than coming off the bench," he said, "because that's what I'm used to."
He avoids the added pressure of thinking missed shots could result in an invitation to sit back down on the bench.
"I try to focus on each opportunity I have," he said, "and not worry about what'll happen later in the game."
Roux is uncertain whether he will continue playing basketball at a Division III university or at a junior college, or step aside as an athlete to attend the University of Illinois and pursue his intended major: sports journalism.
Whatever his path, he's not likely to take for granted the chance to be a key member of Central's highly successful boys' basketball program.
"I'm thankful to have this opportunity to be here and play a game that means a lot to a lot of people," Roux said. "It means a lot to me."
In the bigger picture, perhaps Roux's biggest contribution is the winning attitude he possesses. The season has ended, but that trait endures.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column throughout the school year. He can be reached by phone at 217-351-5232, by fax at 217-373-7401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.