[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I had finally made my high school basketball team as a senior, a welcomed payoff for all the time I’d invested in working on my game the previous 4 years. Our season started with several road games; our home opener game was against Philadelphia power Simon Gratz High School.
Gratz, at least back then, was the most known and revered high school basketball program in the Philadelphia Public League. Gratz was coached by the late Bill Ellerbee, a city legend who’d sent several players to D1 schools and the NBA (Aaron McKie and Rasheed Wallace [pictured] are two of note).
Gratz has always been really good throughout the 90s, even when they didn’t have a superstar headliner player like Sheed. I’d heard that Coach Ellerbee ran basketball tryouts by making all the prospective players do nothing but conditioning drills — sprints, suicides — for a whole week before the basketballs would come out. Most team-hopeful players would voluntarily cut themselves as a result; the basketball team pretty much became those who remained. I wasn’t there to see it, but I believe it: Gratz players were always tough and well-conditioned. They never seemed to get tired.
I remembered seeing Gratz teams play in summer leagues at my local playground gym. Summer league games aren’t as serious as scholastic games; the leagues were treated more as a method for improvement than a championship to win. We played in t-shirt jerseys, of full uniforms. There was one thing about Gratz in those summer leagues, though, that stood out to me: They always had their t-shirts tucked in.
Back at my high school’s home gym senior year, Gratz came in there and beat us rather easily. They just had a better overall team. My 1-minute stint in the game saw me attempt one shot, which was blocked.
The interesting thing about that Gratz team was that they didn’t have a super-standout player. None of their guys had jump-off-the-page talent like Montrezl from a couple days ago. But dammit, all of those boys could play. As I watched the final minutes of the game tick away from my seat on the bench, I came to two conclusions:
- I had just as much game, skill, as anyone on that Gratz roster. Time would prove me correct.
- All their players had at least 10x my experience in playing basketball games. And that’s why I, with all my supposed skill, was riding the bench on the less-talented team.
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