“What is this ‘my fault’ stuff??!??! We KNOW it’s your fault! Everybody in the daggone GYM knows it’s your fault!!” – Coach Charlie Brown, HSES
(My full basketball story from it’s beginnings thru college — is covered in my first book “Buy A Game”)
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Let’s start in high school. Well, actually, starting is something I rarely experienced until college. I started playing basketball at the age of 14, which overlapped my 8th grade and 9th grade years of schooling. I proceeded to try out for my high school bball team, and got cut, the first cuts, as a freshman. And again as a sophomore. And again as a junior (the details of that day can be rehashed here). I made the team as a senior, and played about 3 minutes per game, averaging about 2 points per game.
I did manage, however, to play for my neighborhood basketball team at Finley Playground during my 11th grade year. A dude named Baron was coaching, and he gave me my first real chance to be a difference- making player on a basketball team. I was either the first or second- leading scorer on the squad. Our team was pretty good- we made it to the finals of our league, a game in which I scored the first basket… and did not record another point. I bounced back from that, though, as I needed to do from a lot of hardwood setbacks over the years.
Finally making the team at E&S High School was big for me- it gave me some validation for all the work I had put in to become an at least respectable ballplayer. Even though I didn’t play much, having practice every day, one- on- one games with teammates, and observing the games from closeup were valuable experiences that would shape my future as a player.
Being a part of the team was fun. We cracked jokes on each other daily- before, during, and after practice, even during the games- and everybody came to respect everyone else’s contributions and abilities, to a point. There was occasional joking about who played how many minutes– i had to come up with good ammunition to retort those ones– but I was glad to finally be on the team after 3 years, so it didn’t bother me none.
As my senior year came to a close, I found my way onto a Sonny Hill League team that featured the best collection of talent that I have ever been a part of, by far. Dam near the entire Philadelphia All-City team was on the roster (there were so many good players that there were actually two teams, and we practiced together). I didn’t get much run in the games- I vividly recall scoring a total of 4 points in the games I played- but the practices were pivotal for me. By this time in my life, I knew I had the skills and talent to play on the same floor with the best payers my age, which was exactly what this was. I more than proved that to myself in the practice sessions, in which many times I could say I was the only player in the gym that everyone else in the gym didn’t know who he was. I could literally tell you the full name and school of every other guy in there, and I was holding my own, though far from being a star in that setting (I told you I only had 4 points).
Despite the fact that I hadn’t played many minutes for E&S and even fewer for Sonny Hill (I got into a game in the SH league once- at McGonigle Hall on Temple’s campus- while the other team was shooting free throws, and ended up on the low block to box out. The guy I was supposed to box out beat me for the offensive rebound and laid the ball in the basket. 10 seconds later, the coach– this guy– subbed me right back out of the game, which I did not re-enter. The crowd behind our bench had a ball with that one. The coach even took the time to trash my rebounding “efforts” in the locker room. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I knew I’d be playing college ball wherever I ended up matriculating. I had no evidence or reason to believe it, but there was no doubt in my mind.
Music of the Moment:
Figgaz 4 Life, Major Figgaz
Finally being on the damned team! The endless joke-telling on each other- in practices, on bus trips, before games, after games. The most I laughed in all 4 yeahs of high school was the 4 months of basketball season.
Being a senior and playing less than damn near everybody. Not that I would’ve contributed anything if I had got in.