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“Come on kid, show me what you got.”
Another day at the park, and another disbeliever to prove something to. Will thought that by now people would quit acting so surprised, but every time he beat one of them they still looked at him in awe, as if they doubted what they had seen was possible.
As always, once he set foot on the court all the kids would crowd around to watch. Today, his opponent was Anthony, a backup guard on the local community college team. Will knew he wouldn’t have any problems with him. He was only giving up a few inches and maybe twenty pounds, which was a lot less than usual. The older boy checked the ball to Will and took up his defensive stance. Will smiled down at the ball in his hands for a moment before bringing his eyes back up to his opponent. He had his game face on now, and was ready to put on a show.
The game was almost over before it started. Without taking a single dribble, Will rose up and drained a long jump shot. The ball was out of his hands so fast Anthony didn’t even have enough time to try and block it. Anthony muttered to himself, “Damn, his release is quick.” Some of his teammates had gone one on one with Will before, and had warned him about his skills, but he didn’t understand the extent of Will’s talent until it was too late.
Now it was his turn to try and score. He tried to drive with his best move. He crossed over from his left to his right, then spun back to his left. Usually at worst he could shoot a fade away from here, but as he finished his spin he realized he no longer had the ball. Will was already waiting for him at the top of the key, calmly dribbling the ball, waiting for him to catch up. It didn’t matter. Anthony closed in on him, respecting his range, but Will easily slipped by him and casually laid the ball in.
Soon the score was 10 to 0, and Anthony was shaken. Not only was Will beating him, but he had yet to score a single bucket. Will had barely broken a sweat. After his first two baskets, he had made nine lay ups in a row. Anthony just couldn’t stay with him. What frustrated him the most was that unlike other games, Will was beating him solely by driving to the basket, and he wasn’t dunking. Usually Will showed off his entire repertoire, but not today. Anthony wasn’t good enough to show his entire game to, and now he knew it. A few minutes later, the dejected older boy walked off the court, his tail between his legs.
Will watched him leave with a blank expression on his face. He took no pleasure in beating a guy like Anthony. It never did anything for his ego, and always did horrible things to his opponent’s. He knew the look of defeat well; he’d been seeing it since he was six years old.
Will was now eighteen, but he had been coming to the park since he could remember. The park wasn’t much different from any other park in town. Will just happened to frequent this one because it was close to his house…and because it had a basketball court. Since he had been old enough to dribble a ball, he had spent his every spare moment playing ball. His happiest memories were of the times when his dad had brought him to the court to teach him how to play. Back then, the court was often deserted, giving them hours and hours to play horse or work on his skills. Will’s father was never a basketball expert, or even much of a player, but he knew his son loved it more than anything in the world, so he came to love it as well. It was his way of being close with his son, and Will loved him for it. Will’s room was covered in basketball posters and filled with his trophies and jerseys. If basketball were a food group, Will would eat it for every meal.
As much as Will loved the game, it always made him feel empty after playing. More than anything, he wished his father could see him play one more time. God, it still hurt every time he remembered he was gone. Basketball always reminded him of his father, which made him immensely happy and a little sad at the same time. It was a very bittersweet feeling, which often made Will a very melancholy young man. Often his mind would drift off and he would find himself wondering how long he had spaced out for.
This was one of those times. He found that he had no idea how long he had been shooting by himself. Much of the crowd had left, leaving a hand full of onlookers hoping for another glimpse of brilliance. Just then a voice brought him out of his reverie.
“Hey, you ever plan on missing one?”
It was Johnny, one of his teammates and closest friends. Will liked Johnny because he was always quick with a joke and a smile, but most importantly because he knew when to put his carefree attitude in check and be a true friend, someone who would stand by you during the tough times. Johnny knew Will well enough to know when he was thinking about his dad, and as long as he wasn’t in too poor a condition the best thing to do was generally to make him laugh and forget about it.
Johnny knew exactly what Will was going to say before the words were uttered. It was a part of their ritual antalya escort greeting when they met at the park.
“I don’t know how to miss,” he replied in a seemingly flat tone, but his face could not hide the fact he was glad to see his buddy.
“Yeah, well just watch me for a few minutes, it’s amazing how much you might learn,” he said with a chuckle. On the contrary, Johnny was a pretty descent player, but he knew that he wasn’t really in Will’s league. On the court, he thought of Will as Batman, and himself as Robin; a 6 ft 8 in shot-blocking Robin.
“Whatever. Maybe if I threw you a descent pass you’d score once in awhile.”
“Nah, scoring isn’t my job. Normally my job would be to rebound, but if you keep shooting like that Coach won’t have any use for me at all.”
That brought a laugh out of Will. His face was completely different when he would laugh and smile, so different that some people almost didn’t recognize him when he did.
“No, you should know you’re real job is to stand in the paint and look intimidating in case the other team decides to kick my skinny ass.” In reality, Will wasn’t all that skinny, but next to Johnny he looked like it.
“Spoken like a true point guard: sucking up all the glory and letting his center do the dirty work.”
“That’s a center’s job, to do the dirty work.”
“Only when you have a team with a lousy center like me and an all-state point guard like you.”
“Someone has to do the dirty work, and if you don’t then I won’t be able to suck up all the glory, so I guess I better keep you around.”
“For someone who sucks up all the glory, you never act like it. Any other person with your skills would be fucking half the cheerleaders every night of the week and twice on game days.”
Johnny was right. Will never flaunted his talent the way other great players do. He was never arrogant, never made anyone think less of themselves. He never even talked trash on the court. Instead, he kept his mouth shut, his game face on, and dominated. He felt that not playing the game the way his father taught him to would be the same thing as disrespecting his father’s memory, and that is something he would not do. All Johnny really wanted was for Will to live a little. He knew Will had never had a girlfriend, and he knew why. Will was never truly happy, not in his heart, because part of him had died with his father. The trouble with pure, unrestrained love was how it left a rift in its absence. Johnny understood this, and had spent their childhood trying to snap Will out of the gloomy mindscape he was often in.
“Why don’t I fuck the rest of the cheerleaders while I’m at it?”
“Cause only half the cheerleaders are cute.”
They both had a good laugh over that one and for a moment Will forgot all about his troubles.
“You are aware that you could have any one of them, aren’t you?”
“If that’s what I wanted…”
“Why don’t you?”
“Because they only want me because I can ball.”
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“For most people, nothing is wrong with that.”
“But it doesn’t work for you?”
“Not for me.”
“Well that’s a shame, because I’ll never fuck half the cheerleaders, not even the ugly half. I was hoping you would, because then at least I could ask you what it was like.”
“Guess you’re shit out of luck, my man.”
They both looked at each other a moment, and laughed an easy laugh. No matter what, they’d always be friends.
“Hey, I’m starving. Why don’t you come back to my place. My Mom will be home soon and you know how much she likes to feed us.”
“Sounds good to me, I’ll race ya there.”
It was all a game to them, since Johnny knew he could never outrun Will. It was one of their many childhood rituals that they never gave up. It always made Will feel like they were still six years old, back when nothing bad could ever happen. Will’s mother, Donna, always loved to have Johnny over. They had always been friends, but after Will Sr. passed away they had become more like brothers. Donna knew Johnny was a good kid, and that he always looked out for Will. Johnny knew he always had a standing invitation at their house, so it was never in question as to whether it would be alright if he stayed for supper.
That summer Will started to let go of the past. He met Johnny at the park practically every day with the guys from the team. They were hoping that this fall Will would lead them to a state championship. They had lost in the final the year before to St. Matthews, a local school which had become the rival of Stanton High. They practiced constantly, and became something of a fixture at the park. Eventually the city even put bleachers next to the court, which only brought more people to watch the boys of Stanton High play. Most days there was a constant crowd on hand, but most people were really there to watch the local prodigy: Will. Most of the guys on the team knew that the only reason a lot of them came to watch was because of Will, but they kepez escort didn’t mind. Will was a nice guy and a great teammate, and they knew he’d been through a lot. Plus, during the summer lots of cute girls were in the crowd which always made things a little more interesting.
Today was a scorcher in the park. The team had worked their ass off during the morning when it was cooler, and now decided they deserved to kick back and have an inter-squad scrimmage. Will and Johnny headed one side, while the other starters, Lucas, Andre, and Malcolm led the other. It seemed the best way to split the starters up since Will and Johnny always played together, and Andre and Malcolm were identical twins, so naturally they were inseparable. In fact, when they weren’t wearing jerseys, none of the others could tell them apart. It didn’t really matter; being twins they even played exactly alike. Sometimes it was almost scary how they worked together, as if they always knew what the other was thinking. As good as Will was, Andre and Malcolm (Dre and Mal to the team) were not the kind of players you could take lightly in a five on five game. They also talked a lot of trash on the court, but with the team it was always more like friendly ribbing.
“Yo Will, me and Dre gonna school you today,” said Malcolm. Will knew he was going to have to get his A game working today. In a five on five game, three starters against two almost always had the advantage, and Dre had a hot hand that day. He’d hit several long shots already, and Will knew he would have to shut him down. Johnny could hold his own in the paint, but the others couldn’t cover Mal and Dre. When Will slowed down Dre, Mal would get open. To make matters worse, after playing awhile Will wasn’t even sure who was Mal and who was Dre. I bet they wore identical black shorts on purpose, just to make life harder on him he thought.
The game was winding down, and the score was tight. Will faked a shot from the top of the key. Lucas bit on the fake, and Will drove to the whole looking for a score. Mal and Dre closed in on him in a double team. Will knew he couldn’t shoot over both of them, so he stopped short, spun 180 degrees and threw a no-look alley-oop over his head to Johnny. That brought the game to twenty a piece, next point would win it. Mal was getting frustrated. He was tired of always losing to Will, mostly because you couldn’t talk as much game when you lost.
“Afraid to put up the shot Will? Gotta have Johnny finish the play for ya? Next time you take it to the goal you betta come strong.”
Will knew Mal was trying to get inside his head and make him do something he wouldn’t normally do. Most of the time he would ignore that kind of comment, but today wasn’t a real game, it was just practice. As Lucas brought the ball up court Will lost his game face for a second and smiled. He was feeling feisty today and wanted to finish the game with a splash, and at Mal’s expense if he could help it.
Will shouted to Mal, “Twenty bucks and a round of sodas says I score the last bucket of the game dunking over you.”
Knowing Will was the shortest guy on the team, Mal couldn’t pass up that bet. Will might score the winning bucket, but on a dunk? Mal knew he could, but Will hardly ever dunked during games.
“Now you talkin boy, but you got the skills to back yo play?”
Will shot back, “let me show you.”
Before Mal could say anything else, Will sprang into action. He slapped the ball away from Lucas and took off towards the other end of the court. He beat Dre to the ball and sprinted to the basket. Mal was the only one left who could catch him. Knowing that Will would go up for the dunk, Mal sprang into the air to block his shot. Will jumped from the left side of the basket and saw Mal flying towards him. He knew Mal was bigger and could out jump him, so he would have no chance going directly at the basket. Will changed directions in midair, twisting his body and ducking under Mal’s outstretched arms as he flew under the basket and threw in a reverse on the right side of the hoop.
“Hoooolllly shit!” exclaimed Lucas. He was used to seeing Will do amazing things with the ball, but never had he seen him do something that acrobatic in the air. Mal and the others stood staring in disbelief as Will hung from the hoop with a silly grin on his face. The people watching from the stands weren’t quite so tongue tied. In fact, they were going nuts. Amongst them were some girls from the neighborhood that also went to Stanton. One of them was Luke’s sister, Rachel. Usually she came to watch her brother play, but lately she found herself watching Will more than him. She had also brought her friends Carrie, Stephanie, and Emma along to keep her company. They weren’t just there to keep her company though. Lucas had always had a thing for Emma, so being a good sister Rachel made sure to bring her. Carrie and Steph were on the girl’s team and hung out with the guys team all the time. On game nights they would usually head over to manavgat escort the diner together and relax after their games. They were all hoping that tonight would be like one of those nights.
Will finally dropped from the rim and said, “hurry back from 7/11, I’m thirsty.”
Mal could only shake his head. “That’s cool. The show was worth twenty bucks even if it was a little short.”
The guys all laughed at Mal’s good nature and gave Will a pat on the back. Dre went with Mal to grab the drinks and gave Will a knowing look as he followed his brother. Will wasn’t quite sure what that was all about until he felt a tap on his bare shoulder.
“Hey Will, you looked terrific out there.” It was Rachel of course. As confident as Will was on the court, he always froze up around girls and Rachel in particular. He never knew what to say around her. They had known each other ever since they were kids. Back then she was just Luke’s annoying older sister, but now she was 5 ft 7 of gorgeous legs, wavy blond hair, and penetrating bright blue eyes. Any of the other guys would kill to be in Will’s position, having Rachel vying for his attention, but more often than not he was oblivious.
“Uh, thanks Rach. I guess all the practice is paying off.”
“I know, I come to watch you guys play like practically every day.”
“Uh, yeah, you haven’t noticed the cute blonde sitting in the bleachers?”
“I meant me dumbass!”
Rachel wasn’t mad, she was just teasing him. Sometimes Will was so slow to pick things up it frustrated her so much she thought she’d have to throw herself at him to get his attention.
“Right, sorry,” he said with a nervous laugh.
“Hey, the girls and I were thinking of heading over to the diner later tonight. Why don’t you tell the guys to go home and get cleaned up and meet us over there, say around seven?”
“I don’t know Rachel, I’m kind of beat, it’s been so hot out today.”
“Oh come on, it’ll be fun, I promise. I’ll wear something skimpy and you can buy me a milkshake and pretend to be my boyfriend, to keep all the other guys from getting any ideas.”
“Yeah, as long as we’re only pretending, because you know how mad Luke would be if we weren’t.”
She knew he was right, but she didn’t care anymore. Lucas was a good brother, but sometimes he got so protective of her it drove her crazy. She had to keep things with Will under control to give Lucas some time to get used to the idea. Otherwise, things might get really complicated in a hurry.
“Don’t you worry about my brother. I’ll take care of him. Besides, we’re only pretending, remember?”
“Why do I have this feeling you’re going to get me in trouble?”
“Because you have good instincts, and I’m the best kind of trouble you could get yourself into.”
Now Rachel was really turning on her charms. She held his hands in hers and looked up at him, bringing her face almost close enough to kiss him before whispering, “Don’t keep me waiting, k?”
“Yeah, sure, I’ll see you there at seven.”
Will wasn’t sure when Mal and Dre had gotten back, or how much they had seen, but from the look on Dre’s face, they had seen more than enough to give him a hard time.
“Man, when are you going to take her out? You know she’s waiting for you right?”
Will looked past Dre and could see Lucas giving him a dirty look. He knew this was not the time or the place, so he chose his words carefully.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Dre.”
Mal joined in. “I think you know exactly what my bro is talkin bout, and he’s right dog. Why else would someone that hot not have a boyfriend?”
“You’re guess is as good as mine guys. Listen, I’ll see all of you at the diner tonight, right?”
They all agreed. Will left with Johnny, but today they took a leisurely stroll back to Johnny’s place. They were too tired to run, and the sun was still high enough to make the air seem stifling. Will was lost in his own thoughts, as usual. They walked for a good ten minutes before Johnny couldn’t stand it any longer, he just had to know.
“You know Mal and Dre are right Will. Rachel’s been after you for awhile now.”
“You think so?”
“Will, I know so, everybody does. When are you going to join the club and wake up?”
“I don’t know Johnny…”
“Look Will, remember when we were talking about the cheerleaders?”
“Haha, yeah, what’s your point?”
“Well, we always joke about the cheerleaders and stuff, but Rachel’s different. I mean, I know she’s hot, you can’t help but notice that. But Rachel is a really nice girl too. Is there some reason I don’t know about that you won’t date her?”
“Come on Johnny, it’s just weird since we’ve known each other since we were kids. Plus, you know Luke would kill me.”
“Screw Lucas man. I know he’s our two guard and all, but she’s going to date someone sooner or later, and I’m thinking it may as well be you. Think of it this way, would you rather it be you, or that dick from St Matthews?”
“You mean Scott Hansen?”
“You know the Hansens are friends with their family, and Scott makes it a point to talk to her every Sunday after mass. You also know it doesn’t hurt that he’s got some game.”
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