…among other things, she introduced me to weekday basketball at the local PCYC (Police Community Youth Clubs).
‘You should join and make new friends,’ she offered. So she brought me to the gym, before talking with a teenager.
‘We shoot some hoops, and just play.’
‘You see, Oka? You really must fill out that form.’ So I did, paying the $20 registration fee and was issued a membership card.
That year, 20xx, was the golden year for me, basketball-wise. I’ve never seen more ball time than during that span. I wasn’t special on any facet on the court: I was never an above average scorer or even a locked in defender. You simply wouldn’t catch me going bananas on offence, or sucking the air out of opponents on D. Seeing me sink a one legged fadeaway from the baseline was as likely as the mamba, Kobe Bryant, rocking up at our club and giving us one on one tutorials. However, I did okay in most areas while not being marvellous in any of them. I couldn’t jump, I had a weak handle, but I had a useful pull up. Being also a catch and shoot kind of guy, I’d run in the half court, spot up from the outside before drilling the jumper. I’d likewise do the occasional stop and pop at the elbow. My high school classmate called me the ‘silent killer’ with good reason. I could also play defence, when I wanted to. Even though I can’t jump, with cockroach timing and cheetah-like anticipation, I could swat shots. Sent back!
Most of the boys were high school students, with a few whites and even some Middle Eastern types. Jack was no doubt the best player. He could score; he could pass, had a great handle and was an ace ball hawker. He fooled me many times with his quick hands, and his offence rivals the best in the area. His forays to the hoop, and his deft outside touch – extending beyond the three-point line, made him deadly. If you left him open, best believe you’re doomed.
Playing with ‘crocodiles’
Even with his killer instinct on the court, Jack had a soft side. On Friday afternoons while playing five-on-five, he noticed that other boys were hogging the ball.
‘He’s on your team too,’ he would tell the ‘crocodile’. The croc would then pass me the leather. After this, it gets funny. Whenever I touched the Spalding, I’ll try to score in a jiffy. It doesn’t matter if I’m near half-court, or if my four teammates were ahead, I’ll just let it fly.
One of the Arab-looking dudes would panic. ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’ he’ll say later. He had a point: I quite remember as he unleashed that good-looking turnaround over two defenders. Swish!
The concern didn’t end with Friday hoops; Jack would call out ball hogs even on other days. So how would I repay his generosity? Why, I’ll play defence of course. He was doing one of those patented drives through the lane, when I had a good angle and rejected his layup. One of my teammates was begging for the ball, saying ‘Oz, I’m bloody WIDE-OPEN!’ Indeed he was right underneath the basket. I had other ideas though. I cleared the ball to the three-point line, before launching an ill-advised triple. As I leaped, I messed up my release and was self-conscious of the ugly looking form when holy moly it went in. My neglected teammate was celebrating while the ball was in the air. ‘Yes!’
Aside from Jack, there was Som. They attended the same school. Som had one go-to move: he’ll do a pump fake before hurtling to the rim. Oftentimes he wouldn’t dupe anyone with his banal play, but there’s always an exception. Once we were playing pickup when he ran off three straight scores, prompting Sonny – another Asian player – to remark, ‘Som is seriously…on fire.’ Upon seeing this development, Jack got out: he didn’t want a lesser athlete upstaging him. Jack and Som had a one-sided rivalry. Once Som was guarding my teammate when Jack, who wasn’t even playing, said, ‘shoot a three pointer in his face.’ My teammate obliged the first time, and Jack exclaimed, ‘in your face!’ His taunt would be a bit premature though as my teammate put up a brick or three. With the ball finally dropping after six misses, Jack’s voice was hoarse from too much ‘in your face’. Even so, Jack would love a take two, but my teammate chose to drive it to the hole instead.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays we played three on three. There was a bigger pool on Friday so we did full court five on five, which sometimes ballooned to six on six. Yet despite all those young men balling, Kevin was closest to me. He was the guy shouting for the ball, the laddie who slighted Som, and was the first gent I played against upon signing up in the gym. He told me he was from China, and came to Australia in year 8. He had an accent, and was a wee bit shy given he was new in town. He was doing Year 9 then, heading to the PCYC after class. You could see that he loved practicing his dribble; he’d fool me with his incessant bouncing before charging to the hoop once I couldn’t stay with him.
His outside game was the facet where he needed improvement. He could drive with ease given his handle, but his perimeter shot was shaky at best. He’s the classic streaky shooter: he could make them in bunches, but equally clang them in succession. Once we played 21; he sank all foul shots without breaking a sweat; another time I kept feeding him the ball. ‘I’m not very accurate Oscar,’ he’d confess while misfiring on a stare-down jumper. I took some photos of Kevin, a few times before we took the court early in winter that year. You only appreciate some things though when they’re gone. He hung out with his compatriots, and they talked in Chinese. Never once did I think of asking his number to keep in touch. I’ve had a few friends since, but he was the mate that got away. When you’re young you devalue a lot of stuff, and realise later on that some things are more precious than others. Too bad, he seemed like a real decent fellow.
#basketball #copypaste #life