When Courage Corrupts

February 28, 2012
I was dribbling the ball. I could feel the sweat dripping down my arm. I saw two defenders coming my way, and I simply crossed over and went up for the dunk. My team was ecstatic! Next thing I knew I had to stop, my phone was ringing. I answer. It’s my mother. She asks, “Honey, where have you been?”
I respond, “Just at the YMCA shooting hoops. Why? What’s up?”

“Come home now!” she exclaimed. When my mom says something like this, I don’t ask questions.

I un-lace my pair of Jordan 21’s with Italian Suede leather, varsity red with metallic silver-black trimming, and only 11.2 ounces. There were only 445 real ones made. I was a lucky man! I drove home, parked my car in the garage, took the key out of the ignition, and put my keys in the door. When I walked in the door my mom announced, “We’ve made a decision…”
“A decision for what?” I asked.
“Your dad and I are planning on sending you to Denby for next year.”
“What? Are you kidding me? Everything I ever had with friends, basketball, everything is gone! What do you expect me to do?”
This would never work. I wanted to stay at Northcott. The fact that their basketball team was top caliber in the state meant possibly more scholarships.
“Well we were thinking if your grades are good for the first semester we would transfer you back to Northcott for the second,” exclaimed his mother.
“And you expect me to be able to play ball for Denby?”
“You won’t have to. You already have a scholarship” his dad piped in.
Dad didn’t want me to leave everything behind. He wanted me to go to Denby. He knew it would prepare me way more than Northcott.
I threw away everything I ever had from Denby and got in my 86’ Mustang. Even my Mustang seemed sad, its front bumper bent in sorrow, the wheels flat with de-contamination, the radio fuzzy with confusion.

I wasn’t sure where I was going but all I knew was I wanted to get out of this town to clear my mind. I had an aunt who lived in Emmet, Michigan, and I thought that would be a good place to crash for the night. Emmet was six hours away and I wanted to get there by nine at night. So I would have to drive as fast as a cheetah sprinting for its prey. On my way there, I stopped in Otsego for some gas. I had to drive fast if I wanted to make it by nine, I thought. So I leave the gas station. As I pulled out, a Dodge Ram was flying at me like a jet.

I wake up. I can’t see, but I could faintly hear the sound of a girl. I can’t process the words that she said but I know she was talking to me. My vision starts to come back, little by little. It’s starting to look like my own mother? I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know what I was wearing. I didn’t even know anything until the lady said, “Scottie! Scottie can you hear me?”
I nodded my head yes without saying a word; I didn’t have enough energy to speak. I was fighting to keep my eyes open, I feel as tired as a Sloth. My body is feeling completely different. I drift soundly back to sleep.
“How are you feeling Scottie?” a young, beautiful, blonde nurse asked me, as I woke up a second time. “I’ve got heartbreaking news for you, Scottie. Three nights ago, you were in Otsego at a gas station. When you pulled out onto the highway, a drunk driver hit you.” she said.
“Your car flipped over and you were trapped. You will be paralyzed, unfortunately,” The nurse said.
Three months after the accident, I was in a wheelchair. Every time I tried to stand up, I fell. I was determined. I wanted to stand up by the end of the month.

Every day in the morning, I would attempt to stand up. I noticed I made progress. By the 28th day I could successfully stand up on both legs, but I couldn’t remember how to walk.

I suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and pure sorrow. I didn’t want to see a therapist, didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. My mom and dad worried about me. That night while I was on my night walk, my parents chatted.
“It’s not the accident that is worrying him, it’s the game. All he wants to do is to be able to play,” Ann said.
“Well, we could talk to Denby’s coach; maybe he would let Scottie help out with the team. I’m sure Scottie would love that,” His father answered.
“I’ll email him tomorrow in the morning.” assured his mother.

My mother contacted Northwestern and Denby High when she got up that morning. My mother told Northwestern about the incident. Also, she told them that I was able to walk when the chances were very slim. She emailed Coach McRoberts, Denby High’s Basketball coach.

Later, as I left the house to go on my walk, Ann checked her e-mail.
Coach McRoberts replied…
Hey! I would love for Scottie to help out with the team! We practice every day after school at 5:45. The practice usually goes until 7:45. I hope to see him today! I’m sure my team will be delighted to hear the news!
Coach McRoberts.
While my dad finished reading the e-mail, I walked in the door.
“Scottie, come over here! I’ve got great news for you. Coach McRoberts invites you to help out the Denby team and be the assistant coach.” Ann said.
I read through the e-mail and thought it was the perfect opportunity.

In the meantime, I just sat down and watched some College Basketball. The matchups were Villanova vs. Vanderbilt, and UConn vs. Syracuse. Of course coach e-mailed my mom right when the game got interesting. Coach said practice was in nine minutes!! I grabbed my Jordan’s, some shorts and got in my car; I was off to Denby…

As I walked in the school, I was welcomed by Coach McRoberts.
As I walked in the gym I saw the team. Instantly I was worried. I didn’t know how this team was going to succeed that year but they had potential. Potential meant a lot of work.
Coach introduced me to all the players and walked out of the gym. What did he expect me to do? Maybe he was testing me to see if I had what it took to be the Assistant Coach.
“Get in five lines with three of you in each line. Five man weave. GO!” I yell. I wanted the team to know I meant business!
As I watched the team weave through each other I saw it. This team had what it took. They were a terrible shooting team but very deadly inside; perfect for the “25” offense.

Coach still wasn’t back! The team recuperated after drink time. This team was as bad as the 93 bucks that had a record of 20-71, but we’re going to succeed, I said to myself.
“Line up on the baseline, five sprints,” I addressed to the team. Just as I finished saying that the junior guard interrupted me.
“Are you kidding me? You’re the same age as us, and you’re acting like your some big man on campus! I’m not running!”

“Alrighty team, since we have a cocky guard who thinks he can do what he wants, you got 10 suicides, 50 pushups and 100 sit ups. I’m doing this for your own good; there was no discipline in this program. This will be a physically and mentally tough season, but I will promise you conference champs. Either you can quit now and walk out of this gym with no regrets or you can strive for your best and make this season enjoyable and successful. Your choice” To my surprise no players walked out. I need you guys to give me one hundred percent every practice because people like me didn’t get the chance to try again.”
As the last player finishes his free throws I headed home. Today went okay except for the fact that coach wasn’t there.
Right when I went to bed I checked my phone. There was a text message from Coach McRoberts that read:
Sorry I didn’t inform you, from now on I want you to lead the practices and get them going. Once a week I will come and watch practice. Oh yeah, you will be coaching the first game on the 29th.

This isn’t what I signed up for, and worse yet I only had 18 days to prepare the Denby team!
After 17 days of practice, the team was developed well, they ran the offense spectacular and their shots were improved. It has been somewhat miserable. It was our last practice before the big day.
13 boys were in their shoes, practice jerseys, and were ready to work! Practice went by quick.

When I got home, I was exhausted! I woke up the next morning a nervous wreck. All I could think about was losing and that’s not how I wanted to start off the season. I had my mom make her “breakfast of champions” as she calls it which consisted of bacon, eggs, sausage and toast, all indescribably delicious. I wanted people to think that I wasn’t afraid of anything and I was up for a challenge, but I knew I was scared deep down. Around four I headed to Denby
I called my team to the locker room; discussed pre-game warm ups and headed out to the court. The crowd was roaring and bumping. They wanted an exciting game and that’s what I was ready to give them. After warm-ups, I waved the boys over.
“Settle down boys. You may be nervous for the first couple shots, but after that, stay relaxed and remember to have fun!” I screamed.
The whistle blew game on…

We lost the tip-off but our defense was very aggressive, slowing the opposing team down. They had a very quick point guard and I had no choice but to take a timeout.

“Guys the scores only 10-9 so were in this. Keep your head up and no regrets. We’re going to drop back into a “2-3” to try and slow him down, Team on 3. 1, 2, 3, TEAM!” I yelled ecstatically.
The game was going fast and the 2-3 stopped the opposing team dramatically. The first quarter ended and we were up by four points.
“Guys this is a small lead, we can’t get comfortable. Let’s try to capitalize now and not let up to show everyone that this year we meant business,” I told my team.

To my surprise I must have influenced them enough to make a difference because instantly they came out with a spark. The next thing I knew, it was the fourth quarter and we’re up by 26. The game ends and my feelings were unexplainable.

Life has been excellent for me ever since my first game. Denby’s record is 6-3 and they were tied for Conference champs. There next game would decide who wins the conference. Coach McRoberts hasn’t been there for the team at all and Denby was thinking about firing him within the next year.

I arrived at the gym and was ready to win, I had everything set up and my team was waiting for their “pre-game speech”. After everything was said and done the team headed out of the locker room to a sold out crowd and that’s when they’re blood started pumping…

The game wasn’t very interesting until the fourth quarter with 30 seconds to go. It was the opposing team’s ball, and it was tied up. Their point guard was dribbling down. He crossed over to the left, and the junior point guard ripped him and went the other way for a lay- up. The other coach instantly called a time-out with nine seconds left.
“Guys, they’re drawing up a play right now. We are going to go into a full court man to man. Faceguard your man and don’t let him get the ball.”

They in-bounded it to the point guard, who bounced passed to the center. As the center got the ball, the shooting guard diagonally cut to the ball and got it. At that point there was three seconds left and the shooting guard took one dribble and shot the ball. It went in the hoop and the crowd went wild. Little did anyone know that the referee blew the whistle because it was a shooting foul. The other team made the basket and got to shoot a free throw to win the game.
Their coach called a timeout and all I told my team was, “Guys, very good effort. If they win this game, don’t hang your heads.”

Number 21 on the opposing team stepped up to the line, and shot the ball. Of course it was nothing but net. The crowd was extremely obnoxious and completely ridiculous so I hurried my team to the locker room as soon as I could. I congratulated the team on their success and let them go.

As for me, I feel completely satisfied about the past season with Denby. Even though we didn’t win the conference, the Denby team was a unity of brothers. They weren’t the fastest, weren’t the strongest, and definitely not the best but they had fun and played with heart. So now I challenge players to have fun and enjoy sports, because some people don’t get the chance to play, and many reminisce about the good times they had playing.

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