By SHIVAM SUDAME
450 million. That is the estimated number of people who play the game of basketball in the world. That number would replace the US as the third most populous country on the globe. And that number is one testament to basketball’s popularity everywhere.
We all played basketball, may it be from kindergarten or from last week. We all cheered for basketball stars; some of us wished to be them. A select few individuals are gifted with the ability to put the ball in the basket.
I had the chance to watch some of these players practice, and even challenged a few to a halfcourt, two-on-two matchup.
To set the scene, basketball was created in Springfield, Massachusetts of 1891 by a Canadian PE teacher, James Naismith. He created it to have a) a sport that was less injury prone, and b) a way to condition students during the winter time indoors.
At first, dribbling wasn’t allowed. Players had to stop moving as soon as the ball was caught, similar to the modern-day sport of ultimate frisbee. But the ever-evolving game has adapted into the style we enjoy watching today.
As I mentioned earlier, I was given the opportunity to observe the Boys Varsity Basketball team. The team is coached by Coach Mike Dinneen (Social Science Dept.). His strategy seemed pretty clear: have as many possessions as possible.
That means the team is looking for a hard full-court press on defense, and quick drive-and-kicks on offense. He especially emphasized taking shots beyond the arc. Their drills were intricate, yet simple.
They started with a simple three-man weave, passing the ball up the court and ending with a layup. Then Coach Dinneen held up 4 fingers, meaning that the team could use only 4 passes to make their way all the way down the court. Then 3 fingers; at this point, the players were practically leading their target forward, the way a quarterback leads a receiver down the field.
The team then shifted into a transition drill, as blues, whites, and skins battled to get to 15 points. If you score, you keep possession. If you don’t, wait until your chance to play D.
Unfortunately, I had to leave in the middle of this drill, but I hadn’t yet quenched my thirst. I wanted more. I wanted to be on the court, playing.
So, naturally, I did. I, along with fellow journalist Albert Li (Jr.), set out to play against two guys on the Varsity team to put ourselves to the test. We had the great opportunity to match up against Kevin Yahampath (Jr.) and Bryan Nguyen (Jr.).
Due to self-preservation, I won’t put the score in. Let’s just say that we got clobbered. Bad. Really bad. They just had the team chemistry, knowing where each other’s hot-spots are and playing off of each other perfectly. They were, as they said, the “Dynamic Duo.”
Due to time-constraints and scheduling conflicts, Kevin had to leave early, but to take his spot was Austin Wu (Jr.). He may not have made the team, but he was definitely a couple calibers ahead of Albert and I.
We then split up into more even teams, with Bryan and me against Albert and Austin. If there was a stat sheet, it would have seemed as if I was the varsity player, not Bryan. But the real reason I had so many rebounds, points, and assists, was that Bryan backpacked me. Hard.
If I passed him the ball, either he scored, giving me an assist, got fouled (we obviously called no fouls), missed, and gave me a rebound, or got double-teamed, in which case I stood under the basket and scored my points.
So we won. And I learned something through it. Bryan taught me that there’s more to playing the game than skill. It also requires superior teammates.
Don’t worry. I’m kidding.
What I actually learned is that the team is more important than the individual. As cliché as it may sound, it’s true. His passes, shot selection, drives, help D, all of it. He wasn’t doing it in order to score, or pad his stats in any way. He played to win. He passed when he was doubled. He shot when he had the mismatch.
He gave up shots he could have made to give it to me, because my shot was more efficient. I don’t have Bryan’s quick thinking. Or his athleticism. Or his touch. Or anything else he has that makes him as good as he is.
So in the meantime, I’ll work on my skills for next time. Until then, I’ll stick to writing.