- Chapter 1-
I sat on the rolled up red foam-wrestling mat. I stared ahead at the poster stuck to the wall crookedly. The poster encouraged you to donate money to the basketball organization. It listed the various helpful items that you would be supplying with your contributions. It was very colorful and my eyes were attracted towards the price of ice packs for one team. That would be what benefited me the most, I would use all of them relatively fast. I'm known for being a klutz and I lose most fights against inanimate objects. Surprisingly, I never bump into people and dodging is what I do to survive the halls of middle school. But throw anything that doesn't move on its own at me, and I guarantee that my brain shuts off and lets it hit me. Sometimes I'm fast enough and I can catch it. If I do chances are I'm playing a sport that you're not supposed to catch it. Except for basketball. I was sitting in the hall that led to Central's gym. Central was a rival middle school and I was waiting for my brother to finish his evaluations for our town's local competitive basketball league. It was mainly all guys but there usually were one or two girls in each league. (The town's lame attempt at co-ed) The whole group was divided into grade level sections. There are going to be 12 teams in my brother's section. In my section, that's not really mine because I don't play in this league, there are 8 teams. The coaches were evaluating the basic skills for basketball. They had to run 3 suicide drills before they started. I overheard the coaches saying that it was so they could see how they performed like after they had played a quarter in a game. I never even considered the thought of even closely getting to play with guys in any sport. I just wondered who I would know that was going to be in my section. Just guessing from the basketball shoes that they wore to school every single day I instantly had about fifteen of my guy friends. A thought came to my head. It was one of those far-fetched ones that you shun away at first but it keeps bopping you in the head until you accept it. Why don't I try out? I could stay fit in the winter, stay buff for spring; play against and with guys I could be life-long friends with. I hadn't played basketball in over 5 years so I decided that now wouldn't be the best time to start. Anyway, once that thought absorbed and started dominating my mind I knew there was no going back. I went home got changed because I had an hour until my sections' evaluations. I tried to remember all I had done during those kiddy-clinics in 2nd grade. I shot the ball at the frozen hoop. My breath formed into crystals in front of my eyes. I breathed out again. The crystals formed. I kept breathing out and forgot to breath in so when I did breath in It was sharp and cold and felt like knives running down the inside of my neck. It was brutal for those moments and I wished I didn't make a complete fool of myself.
Later on it was time to get evaluated. I walked through the door marked 7th grade. I instantly bumped into someone like the klutz I am. Apologizing quietly I stood in the back of the line waiting for it to be over. The butterflies in my stomach were multiplying rapidly and they kept me on my toes. I saw some people I knew make shots that I never thought were even possible. My heart thumped rapidly as they told me to shoot a left hand lay-up. I was confused so I just tried to do what the guy before me did. I did this twice then was instructed to shoot a right hand lay-up. I was ushered to the next station. So far, so good I thought. The boys in front of me were putting the ball close to the rim. I felt really un-talented until the guy in front of me missed every one of his shots. I made one out of however many there were. I was just watching the other people be amazing I didn't realize I had to play 3 on 3. I got stuck playing against a team with my schools jerk and his best friend. The schools jerk's name was Brandon and he was a really badly behaved person and really cruel to a lot of dorky kids in our school. I was on a team with a brunette who hogged the ball and an almost bald kid. He just had a very thin amount of hair like a buzz cut gone bad. We played like a bunch of rocks trying to move even though rocks can't move on their own. As our time finished we lost by a ton of points. The only upside that I could think of is that I would be on a team with a ton of good players because they tried to balance all the teams out with the equal amount of good and bad players. The bad side to that is that I would be the worst player on the team. I went home reeking of sweat so my dad opened the window even though it was 40 degrees outside. The cool air rattled my bones.
The first practice arrived sooner than a blink. I walked into Central's gymnasium alone not knowing who was on my basketball team, though I had an idea of one person. I knew my coaches name was Jones and there is only one Jones in my whole school. Steven Jones was a pleasantly plump kid with a buzz cut that was in my homeroom at school. I walked over and introduced myself to the coach. He was a wide-eyed man with a loud voice like the NFL football coaches have. The rest of the guys arrived (8 not including me) and I only knew two others. One of the ones I knew is Sam Trendes, another plump kid that could shoot till the end of time. He was in my gym class. Mike Bewan was also on my team. He was very short and his hair smelled like cottage cheese. Years of standing behind him in line at the snack bar at our club are how I am unfortunate enough to know this. The rest of the guys I assumed went to CMS. CMS was a rival middle school in our town.
There are 3 public middle schools in our town. There is Eastern Middle School where I go and it's the prepster and athletic school. Central is in the heart of town and is the preppiest and has the very wealthy people and normal kids. Western is on the border of a city and another state and is where all of the gangsters go. There are some good people there too. Central and Eastern are the best in sports and Eastern is best also in academics.
coach motioned for us to sit down against the wall. I listened as we
went down the line saying our names. I memorized them all very fast.
I was good at names on a team so small.
"Matthew Smith is missing," our coach told us.
I laughed out loud. Matt, as I called him, was a violist like me that was obviously crushing on me. What a thrill it would be for him to find out that his crush was on his basketball team. I couldn't wait for him to walk through the door and then have a double take. Like the predictable Matt I know he is, he walked in and had a double take. "Matthew how kind of you to join us," coach said. "You are 3 minutes late and that means you owe me 6 laps."
Matthew groaned but started running. I gave him a smirk and he gave me an evil eye. We did basic passing and shooting and assigned approximate positions. I didn't really understand exactly what we were doing so I watched and made mental notes to myself to look things up on-line later. Matthew and Henry were the tallest guys on our team. They would be the ones playing center. Center is the tallest person on a basketball team. (Yes I looked that up) Our coach then lined us on a wall in order of height. Henry was taller than Matthew and then it was John. Coach then thought Sam was next in line but as he lined me back to back with Sam and I was taller. I felt tall, which was a nice feeling considering I'm only average on any other scale.
The first real game was on us faster than we expected. At least now we all knew each other's names (well most of us at least). But there was still a fine line separating the people from different schools on account of our school's fierce rivalries. The coach called the starting line-up.
" John, Henry, Sam, Dom, and Liz," his deep Italian voice called out.
My heart pounded loud and clear. I was going to be a starter. Fortunately we weren't blocking out good talent by me going in because some of our guys were missing. I was going to play forward which means that I'm supposed to shoot. I can't shoot very well so I just passed it once it got into my area to shoot. Henry was getting agitated because he kept trying to pass me the ball and I wouldn't grab it soon enough so the other team stole it from me. Finally I got the ball near the foul line. Henry yelled shoot very loud so I shot the basketball straight up after I faked out my defender. It hit the backboard and then went through that orange rim for two points. That was when all the moms in the crowd cheered. My teammates on the bench went wild and my coach was psyched. One of the moms in the crowd yelled out female power. I was grinning ear-to-ear yet only one of my teammates held out his hand so I could give them a high-five. Now I had my work cut out for me I had to make baskets to gain my teams trust and friendship. I watched my other teammates as they shot and tried to copy their form but I couldn't do it quite right. Henry had this head nod he could do with his shaggy hair. When he did this side-to-side nod the shot always went in. It was a voodoo of some sort. So now whenever I'm going to take a foul shot, which is highly unlikely because I shoot once every game or less, I try to imitate Henry's headshake. He's real tall so he can push through guys real well too. The whistle blew and I sat on the bench for the next two eighths and then played an eighth with the weakest people on my team who happened to be the shortest. Coach put me in center because I was tallest. John, the only other guy who was talented and playing, kept messing up the plays. I was supposed to get the ball and then bounce pass it to him but no, he just had to screw it up and miss the shot. I was tired so I didn't have the energy to tell him he was messing up. We won the game by 3 points it felt good to be a winner. Our coach called us to our little corner and he highlighted the goods, bads, and uglies of the game. He talked about the goods last so once he finished up the bads he started off by saying who scored today? It was my first time being able to raise my hand and say that I did. My coach pointed at me.
"Guess who scored today guys," Coach asked.
"Liz did," they responded.
"And guess who is going to score more often?" coach questioned.
"Liz is," They replied.
"And who's the best girl on our team?" He asked jokingly.
"Bill..I mean Liz is," John said jokingly.
The team smiled as Billy turned a crimson red. We dispersed and the next two teams started warming up. We were undefeated so far. We were going to be number one in the league. I was determined I wouldn't be the one to let my teams' dream fail.