Small Sized - Big Hearted

January 10, 2012
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“Thud, Thud, Thud… Swish. Thud, Thud, Thud… Swish.” These are the sounds in the South Central recreational gym in Kentland, Indiana every morning between 5-7 am before school starts for Jimmy King. The gym had always been a home to Jimmy since he moved to Kentland. Jimmy comes here every morning before classes start by sneaking in the back window that the recreation director leaves open for him. Jimmy is a 17 year-old boy who is 5 foot 9, slim build with short, brown hair. Jimmy is a fairly quiet kid but has a lot of friends. He attends Kentland High School, which has a historic high school basketball program but have gone through a ten-year drought without winning a state title. Its Jimmy’s senior year of high school and he is looking to be recruited to a division 1 school to play basketball. The state semi-final game of the state tournament and his senior season was that afternoon, so he was a little nervous but he had never been a kid who got a lot of butterflies. He did however know that every game, every play, could make or break his chances at playing D1 ball.
Before class Jimmy was heading toward his locker, when he was slammed into the lockers to the side of him. “What the…” Jimmy says but stops halfway through his sentence because he sees his friend Ash standing there with a big grin. “Did I hurt you? I am so sorry. Should I get the nurse?" Ash says sarcastically. Ash had been Jimmy’s best friend since Jimmy had moved to Kentland in 3rd grade he played small forward for the team and was real good not as good as Jimmy but still good, he had a great shot and played decent defense. Everyone in school knew him as a joker, but Jimmy knew him more as a great friend than anything. “You ready for the game tonight?” Ash asked. “ Course” Jimmy said. “I got class on the 4th floor so I gotta go, but I’ll see you on the bus, kay?” Ash said while walking away. “Ya seeya then.” Jimmy replied. Jimmy went through the day but his mind wasn’t on school. On game days Jimmy could never think of anything but the game, he plans what he’s going to do in the game like a writer whose preplanning his next poem or novel.
After school ended at the end of the day, Jimmy went to the library to do some homework before he had to get on the bus to go to the game at their rivals from the next town over Kirkland High. Kirkland has knocked Jimmy’s school out of the playoffs 2 out of the last 3 years. During the bus ride, Jimmy fell asleep and flashbacked to the last seconds of the game last year in the semi’s versus Kirkland, when he went up for the game winning shot and was blocked by their star player Junior Silverio and they lost by a basket.
The Kentland team got off the bus and changed for the game, when they got out on the court, Jimmy felt the rush he always did when he stepped on the court, like nothing else mattered except basketball. Jimmy went through layup lines the way he usually did, without missing a shot. Jimmy was always the smallest guy on the court, which was the main reason that he didn’t already have a scholarship to a D-1 school. He had never let his size slow him down, he was a great shooter, passer, and he used his quickness to get open. D-1 scouts would be at the game tonight and the championship game next week, because if you could play against the best players in Indiana then you could play D-1 basketball.
The first half went by without a single basket by Jimmy it was easily his worst half of the season, the other team had locked him down on defense and were not even letting him catch the ball and when he finally would get it they would double team him with their biggest players so he couldn’t even get a good shot off. “And what the heck are you doing out there Jimmy, you gotta score some buckets out there for us.” Coach said at halftime to Jimmy in the lockeroom. In the second half Jimmy fouled out with four points and his team down 8 with 7 minutes left, Tom Rixen, our team’s shooting guard, hit 3 big three pointers and some other teammates made clutch free throws and we pulled out a victory by 4. “No thanks to me,” Jimmy thought to himself on the bus ride home. He sat alone in the back, “The team is in the championship, which should make me happy right. “ Jimmy said to himself. But he knew he couldn’t be happy after a performance like that, which might have just ended his chances at making it to play D-1. Ash came and sat down with Jimmy at the back of the bus. “Nice game man” Jimmy said, he tried to say it nicely but it came out kind of dull. “I know you’re bummed about tonight but on Saturday, at the championship, we are going to win, you’ll have a great game and their will be twice the college scouts at that one.” Ash told Jimmy. “I hope so.” Jimmy replied. “ And hey, if things don’t work out you can be my agent when I play in the NBA.” Ash said. “ You wish.” Jimmy said laughing.
The next couple of days went by really slow for Jimmy. Its like when you are bored out of your mind In a class and the clock is just laughing at you because you want time to speed up, but it feels like it’s not moving. Jimmy knew that his chances of making it to the NBA were almost impossible, but he knew that if he got a scholarship to play basketball at a good academic school he could make something of himself. Which made this Saturday probably one of the most important days of his life.
The game that night was against the undefeated Landes Tigers. They had won every game that season by at least 10 points including beating Kirkland at the beginning of the season by 18, which made Kentland a 14 point underdog in the newspaper. On the bus ride over Jimmy fell asleep in the back of the bus like usual and flashbacked to the same game last year where he missed the game winning shot and his team was knocked out of the playoffs, this time though the dream was exactly the same except for the ending where the ball went in and they win the game just when he starts to celebrate with his team, Ash wakes him up. “It’s time,” Ash told him as they pull in to the Indiana Hoosiers basketball stadium where all the Indiana High School Championships are played. The team got dressed in the locker room and when they went onto the court they were greeted by what seemed like the entire town of Kentland in the stands, Jimmy knew that the game had sold about 14,000 tickets and it looked as if 13,000 of them were Kentland fans.
The game started with Landes taking a ten point lead but three straight times when they pulled the lead to fifteen Jimmy would hit a big three and make a small comeback for his team. At halftime the score was Landes 47 Kentland 39. Jimmy was playing pretty great other than a few turnovers, he had 13 points and 4 assists at halftime. Ash however was doing badly, he was forced to play the best scorer in the state, maybe the country, Jason Siggs who had already scored 18 and was a high recruit going to Duke university the next year. Ash also missed all 4 of the three-pointers he took and he was benched with 4 minutes left in the half.
The second half started with Jimmy making a layup off of a fast break and a great assist to a teammate who made the basket. With just 2 minutes left in the game Jimmy had been a one-man show making defensive plays and scoring baskets for his team, keeping them within 5 points. Landes scored a quick two, but a Kentland forward scored a basket and got fouled. After he made the free throw coach called timeout we got in the huddle. “Okay, boys its their ball and their up four. We have 50 seconds left. Now we worked all year for this moment and we can pull it off, We’re gonna press them until we get a steal if we steal it and make the basket your gonna foul them, lets do it boys. Win on three.” Coach said “One… Two… Three…. WIN!”
The Landes player passed the ball in and Jimmy tipped it into the air and a Kentland teammate caught it, he made a quick pass back to Jimmy who scored the deuce. Kentland was down just 2 points. Ash checked back into the game to cover Siggs, and when Landes passed the ball in we fouled their worst free throw shooter. When he was at the free throw line for the 1 and 1 free throw, the Kentland fans were chanting “Lets go Kentland, Clap Clap Clap-Clap-Clap.” Which even though there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on it, it made me feel good, and it made me feel like everyone was backing me for the first time since I missed that game winning shot last year. When the Landes shooter missed the free throw, our center jumped in the air and snatched the rebound, there was 15 seconds left and Kentland had no timeouts, Jimmy sprinted the ball down the court, 10 seconds now. Jimmy did a crossover dribble on his defender, 6 seconds. He Jumped in the air, but Jason Siggs was right in his face, 4 seconds. Jimmy spun in mid air and threw a pass to the corner, where Ash was standing. Wide open because Jason Siggs had come over to double team Jimmy. 2 seconds, 1, Ash shot it from the corner, and as the ball was floating through the air 14,000 fans went dead quiet waiting, watching, hoping for either a miss or a make. “Swish” it was usually a subtle sound but today it wanted to be loud and Jimmy didn’t mind. The three-pointer is good and Kentland wins it by one! Our team charged the court and piled on Ash in the corner who had an expression of awe on his face. Soon after the fans rushed the court and Ash was lifted up, the celebration went on and the trophy was handed out. And Jimmy won Championship game MVP with 27 points and 11 assists. As Ash and the rest of the team finally started heading toward the locker room, I was grabbed on the shoulder by an man, who slipped me a card into my hand I didn’t look at it then because of all the celebration the man just said “Great game” and walked away. When Jimmy got home he reached into his pocket for his cell phone and pulled out the card that he got on the court. When he read it, it said. “Josh Halton – Director of Athletic recruitment for the University of Indiana – cell = 874-493-4478.” And on the flip side it said. “Hey Jimmy, I’d like to discuss with you, your possible future as an Indiana Hoosier.”





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