Although I live in Boston, Massachusetts and was born here, I spent my first seven years in Wilmington, North Carolina. In addition, my father is originally from North Carolina and most of his family still live there. As a result I have been a UNC Tarheel basketball fan for as long as I can remember.
When I decided to attend Coach Dean Smith's Basketball School in Chapel Hill last summer, I expected to visit my relatives, meet some new friends, and see the campus. The brochures had already prepared me for the grueling schedule. Each day began at 7: 00 a.m. and included practice sessions, clinics, seminars, and scrimmages. When "lights out" sounded at 10: 00 p.m., I was always ready for bed!
Attending the basketball school was a great opportunity to learn new skills, improve my game, and showcase my talents on the court in front of college coaches. The other players included young men from all over the United States (as well as several foreign countries). It was amazing to watch the different playing styles, ability levels and individual commitments from various players.
But the highlight of my stay at UNC was playing at the "Dean Dome." I got to practice and play actual games on the same court that was used by the University of North Carolina basketball team. I met several members of the team including Rasheed Wallace. He was a down-to-earth guy who spent time just shooting around with me and other players. In addition to the college players, there were several professional players. George Lynch, Rick Fox and Matt Winstrom presented lectures and joined in several scrimmages with the players. Even though their individual talent and ability levels exceeded ours, these pros were serious from the moment they stepped on the court, and always gave 100%, no special consideration because we were younger and smaller. It was a thrilling experience to scrimmage against a player from the NBA, even if most of my shots missed the basket. Coach Smith was present every day and I often wondered just who he was watching!
It is very difficult to describe the excitement I felt when I stepped on the court at the "Dean Dome." I can only tell you that the experience has been an inspiration for me, personally. I am determined to work harder and improve my basketball skills. I hope to play college basketball. Sometimes, I even allow myself to dream that someday I might play on this same basketball court. L
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.