Thursday, June 27, 2013

And the Crowd Goes Wild!

Today, I started my Wellfit Infury Prevention Program, a sort of post-physical therapy supervised workout program that is a lot easier on the wallet than continued PT. ($45/month rather than a $50/session copay).  That's another post in and of itself.  But, because my therapist shares a name with an NBA Hall-of-Famer, I'm inspired to do what I like to do best on this blog:  tell long, rambling, pointless stories.

I was not a terrible basketball player in my youth.  At least, that's what I told myself.  I had a 3-year career as a shooting guard and small forward in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade at St. John.  I wasn't a good scorer.  I think I scored a total of 19 points in those 3 years, but I was good passer and rebounder, and I really did work hard in practice. In 5th and 6th grade, I played on the Jr. Boys team and in 7th grade moved up to Sr. Boys.  We played the local public schools and got routinely annihilated, going winless in my 5th and 6th grade years.  

In 7th grade, the shrinking parochial school only had one team for 5th through 8th graders (there were no 8th graders on the team, so my 7th-grade friends and I were the veteran leadership of the team.  Ha!)  We also bumped down a league, so we were playing the bigger public schools' "B teams".  We still lost more than we won that year, but we were competitive and it was a lot more fun than getting destroyed game after game.  I still remember our first close game.  We pulled out a nice lead against one of the local Catholic middle schools (their "A" team, too, I think), when our coach put the 5th-graders in to get them some playing time.  And they blew the game!  I understand that in youth sports it should be more about participation than winning, but most of us hadn't won a game our whole careers!

After 7th grade, I switched schools to a larger (graduated with a class of...65!) christian school.  I went out for the basketball team in 8th grade, got cut, and didn't try out in 9th grade, but I continued to ball with my neighborhood and school friends.

Meanwhile, in 10th grade I was in a sports club that would go over once a week to play basketball, touch football, or soccer at the local park.  I stuck to hoops, and playing among my friends I did very, very well in all phases of the game.  Indeed, often the court was covered in goose crap, meaning there were like 100 extra defenders on the court, and I'd still play very well.

With encouragement from my friends, I got the idea to try out for the JV team.  Luckily for me, there were few enough returners from the previous year that they really weren't making cuts.  So, my career was resurrected.  I worked my butt off in practice, and I think I genuinely improved a lot. One time, I even think I scraped the bottom most molecules of the rim with my fingertips.  

I liked being on the team, enjoying the early dismissals for road games and the camaraderie as we rode the team bus to opposing schools, blasting hair metal or 90s rap music to inspire us, and watching most of the game from the bench.   I didn't get a lot of playing time, but I don't think I embarrassed myself or the school when I was in there.  I was realistic, knowing I was one of the last two guys off the bench, but only once did my lack of playing time really, really bother me...

We were down at least 40 points late in the 4th quarter at Littlestown, a public school in Adams County, but I had still not gotten in the game.  With about 5 minutes left, our coach stormed off the bench to go help the varsity coach, his brother, prepare his guys for their game.  The assistant coach called me over at the next time out and says "Brian and (other last guy off the bench), I don't care what happens, just go out there and try your best."  I always appreciated that.  I quickly got the ball and got fouled.  I was only about a 60% free-throw shooter, if that even, and I missed my 1 and 1.

But I got another chance on the next possession. I grabbed a long rebound and had an open jumper just inside the corner of the foul line.  I released the ball, and to this day I can still picture the perfect arc and see the rotation of the ball... it soared completely over the backboard for a very embarrassing air-ball.  With only a few minutes left in the game, the gym was filling up for the varsity, and so quite a big crowd had a great laugh at my expense.  I was not so amused, but I did follow it up with another rebound and a made shot from the same place on a later possession.  When the coach heard that I got two rebounds and scored, he seemed pretty impressed.  I belive the final score was 60-12, so I was by default one of the leading scorers.

I didn't play the next year, when I probably would have been warming the JV bench again as a Junior. However, I think I still continued to get better playing against other JV and varsity guys at weekly church youth group meetings  through the rest of high school, and I even played pretty well in intramurals my freshman year of college. After that my mad skills started to decline via rust, but I'll always have that memory of the ball soaring over the backboard.  

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