The kid was gassed. No question. Mondoville plays a frantic, high-pressure brand of basketball, sending in waves of substitutes, and like the rest of his visiting teammates, the kid was worn out, and the fatigue had taken his toll. That happens a lot — it’s one of the things we count on, and as the game was winding down, the signs were evident. The visitors’ shots were flat and falling short, and the kids were grabbing their shorts at every break. Their coach was conceding the rebounds on foul shots so his players wouldn’t have to run back on defense. And this kid was the biggest guy on the court, and may still have had a little bit of baby fat on him. As I said, gassed.
Besides, the game was well in hand; Mondoville was up 20, and there were less than two minutes left to go. So it was what we normally call garbage time, just before the benches get emptied and everyone just goes through the motions until the buzzer sounds. Mondoville ran its offense, but the ball was poked loose, and the typical scramble ensued.
And the kid hit the floor in a full-length, full-on dive for the loose ball. He hit the floor hard — I could hear the smack from my position at second row, midcourt across the gym. But he snagged the ball. He tossed it to a teammate, and the play headed back toward their goal. And the kid slowly dragged himself up and made his way back to the flow of the game.
I may never see that kid again, and I don’t really know anything about him, other than what I saw for that two hours last night. But when he begins his life’s work, if he can take it with the same determination, the same intensity? I’d be willing to bet he gets somewhere.
After the game, I saw his family making their way down from the stands — I knew that was who it was, because I had heard them (Mondoville has a small gym). I called up to them: “Hey, [Player] family!” They looked at me warily.
I said, “Respect for your kid. Diving for a loose ball at that point in the game? That’s hustle.” They smiled and nodded, and we went our separate ways.