By Tim Chambers
You won’t find his name in a box score or listed on the players’ roster but nobody is more valuable to Johnson County basketball that what Wesley Darnell is.
He carries the title of team manager but the coaches and players joke around and refer to him as the assistant athletic director. A more fitting title could be student athletic director.
Wesley always has a smile for everyone and he grinned when I asked him what his primary role was to the team.
“I keep the book or run the clock when they need me to,” said Darnell. “I help Coach Austin Atwood with all the home and away game duties. I make sure officials and working people have places to park. Whatever needs to be done I try and do it. I love being around both basketball teams.”
Wesley has a full plate and then some. He’s not your average high school junior. He touched on a few of his weekend duties.
“I am a member of the Johnson County EMS and the 2nd District Volunteer Fire Department. I help them out a lot. I carry a pager for them so that keeps me busy going on calls. I just want to stay active and keep doing things. I also love my Lord because he’s first in my life.”
Wesley participated in sports up to his seventh grade year but a serious illness ended his playing days. He’s not bitter because of it but chose to find another way to be around the game.
“I’ve always had a love for sports but had to quit playing due to my health condition, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve played ball with a lot of these guys up until junior high. I can do this and stay around the game so that’s the next best thing. I hope to get a degree one day in sports management or sports medicine of some sort. I want to stay close to the sidelines.”
Wesley said the arthritis affects his lower back and knees. Still he keeps on trucking like the Energizer Bunny.
”I love working in the gym and being around all my buddies. I enjoy watching all of them play and see how they have progressed from a lower lever to where they are at now.”
Head boys basketball coach and athletic director Austin Atwood knows Darnell’s worth. He praised him for all the things he provides for the team.
“You couldn’t find a better young man anywhere,” said Atwood. “I’ve had two great managers since I’ve been here and he’s one of them. He does things for us behind the scenes that nobody ever sees but us. He’s a huge part of both basketball teams. The kids all love him to death.”
Wesley has been given a couple of nicknames. Many refer to him as Little Austin (Austin Atwood) or Little Lester (Lester Dunn).
I’m always doing something for both of them,” added Darnell. I love working with Coach Atwood, Coach Leon Tolley, Coach Kechia Eller, Coach David Arnold and Coach Garry Smith. They all respect me highly and they make me feel like I’m part of the team. That means the world to me. And Lester has treated me good ever since I came up here.”
Wesley is the son of Heather Man and Travis Darnell.
“Mom is my role model and my dad lives in another county. He’s good to me too when I get to see him.”
Wesley couldn’t define one special moment that he has had as a manager.
“Every day I get out of bed and come to school
is special. Every day I get to be at practice or the games are special too. I enjoy life and I try and live it to the fullest. My biggest love is being a Longhorn. This school means the world to me.”