Bobby Chuey will be at the Northern Virginia Regional basketball tournament this week. But Chuey, Hayfield High School's talented 6-foot-3 shooting guard, won't be playing. He'll be sitting with his teammates in the stands, watching.
Abruptly and unexpectedly, Chuey's splendid high school career, and Hayfield's season, came to an end eight days ago when Lee upset the Hawks, 56-40, in the semifinals of the Gunston District tournament.
So despite finishing with a regular-season record of 17-5, and despite finishing tied for first place in the regular season with Mount Vernon in the district at 9-1, and despite Chuey scoring more points than anyone else in Northern Virginia (461 points in 21 games for a 22.3 average), he has to watch the regional tournament from the sidelines.
Sense Chuey's dissapointment. "It's the one goal I really wanted;" Chuey said, a day after the loss. "I never did get to play in the regionals. Last year the team went but I broke my ankle at the end of the season and didn't play.
"Making the regionals was the team's No. 1 goal to begin with. It was the team's No. 1 goal ever since we began to think it was realistic."
And when did Hayfield begin to think it was realistic?
"We thought it was realistic after the first two weeks of practice," Chuey said. "After the first couple of games I thought we were better than I had anticipated. Then when we beat Springfield and Robinson . . . "
Even in last week's loss to Lee, a team Hayfield had beaten twice during the regular season, there was a feeling that the Hawks were in control, that they would pull it out if Chuey could just get hot for a few minutes.
Hayfield was down by three at the half, 29-26, and down by only six, 36-30, after three quarters. And Chuey hadn't been in the flow of the game.
A Hayfield offensive foul and a basket by Lee's Mike James made things dim but not dark. Chuey's next jumper, shot with his characteristic soft touch, went in, popped out and sat on the rim before falling out of the basket.
A Lee free throw made it 39-30. Next time down the court, Chuey shot an air ball.
Still, with five minutes remaining, there was the feeling that if Chuey could hit a few jumpers, it would be Hayfield's game; perhaps it had just been the darkness before the dawn.
But suddenly Chuey picked up his fourth foul and although he forced a back court violation on Lee's next possession, he picked up his fifth foul trying to draw a charge with 4:05 remaining.
Chuey sat at half court of the Mount Vernon gymnasium, staring at the floor between his legs. Three years of varsity basketball, three years of scoring in double figures, had ended ignobly.
"I never thought I'd be in that situation," said Chuey, who had trouble remembering when, if ever, he had last been in foul trouble. "Even then I thought maybe the other guys will pull it out."
Chuey's basketball career is not over. Undoubtedly, he could play for a Division I basketball team. But he is most interested in the Division II and NAIA schools -- Randolph-Macon, Shepherd and West Liberty College in West Virginia -- that are recruiting him. West Liberty, where Bobby's father, Robert Chuey, who coached him at Hayfield, was once the head coach, seems to be a favorite.
"I wouldn't want to become a guy who sat on the bench," Chuey said. "I'd have more fun playing for a Division II school than sitting for a Division I. I'm not losing anything by playing Division II."
Indeed, Chuey can't get enough basketball. Even on the day after his team lost -- when most people wouldn't want to see a basketball -- Chuey was wondering what to do with the time he usually spent each afternoon playing basketball. "I was bored. I was going to go down to the elementary school and shoot around for 15 minutes."
This spring Chuey will have to decide whether he wants to play on the postseason circuit of all-star games or pitch and play infield for the Hayfield baseball team, something he has done for the last three years. Because of a Virginia high school rule, he cannot do both.