Nearly a week ago, I was sitting anxiously on wooden bleachers inside a park gymnasium while waiting for my friend to arrive. Despite being there early, I was uneasy. Not because I had been waiting or worried about him showing, but because it was time to give it another go, and clearly I knew I was not ready. It’s hard to come back to something you once loved. But when it’s basketball, the love is still there.
However it is something I forget sometimes because for the past two years I have dedicated myself to playing football at La Verne. Yet with every chance I had between the times I was training for football or working out, I would try to run in a couple pick up games at local fitness clubs or parks. I knew my skills were not the same as they were before and I had to become a different player than I was before, but it didn’t matter. I just loved to be out there playing, even though it was not always that simple.
Basketball used to be my life growing up. That is all I ever wanted to do from grade school all the way to high school. I would eat, sleep and dream basketball as cheesy as that sounds. My father pushed me to be the best player I could possibly be and I pushed myself even harder.
Playing ball during the fall, winter and summer became ordinary and routine. I stayed up late out by my backyard basket breathing hard while finishing my goal of hitting 300 jump shots before I called it a night. In between those times, I was playing in two to three leagues at a time, ranging from local NJB leagues to community church organizations.
I had become a good player heading into high school even though I fractured my wrist before my freshman year. From there, I went on to lead my freshman team in scoring, blocks and field goal percentage while winning the team’s most valuable player award. It was then that I felt I was playing the best basketball of my young career. The following season changed for the worst though. I moved up to the junior varsity squad as a sophomore but I didn’t anticipate that a change in the coaching staff would affect my game so much.
First I made the mistake of adding more muscle and weight to my frame to play against bigger opponents, and it negatively affected my agility and speed. Then after having a poor season back on the junior varsity team as a junior and having differences with the coaching staff, I decided to quit basketball before my senior year. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. For a game I loved so much, it was difficult to leave but it was harder to stay when being disrespected and treated unfairly.
I resorted to playing other sports the rest of my high school career, including volleyball and tennis, but I never felt the way I did with a basketball in my hand. Even as I started loving football, I still would not rescind my passion for hoops. To this day, I find myself trying to play against athletic and highly talented players. I find it a challenge since I know that I still have the basketball IQ but not the greatest talents athletically anymore.
Flashback to last weekend, where I found myself on the court again after a long lay-off and hoping I could regain some of the skills I had. I know I cannot play this game forever. I already see it through my friend who plays non-stop recreation leagues and pick up games. The wear and tear on your knees does not get any better when you get older, it just gets worse. But until that day where my knees won’t hold up any longer, I intend to keep playing. Mostly because I still feel that intimacy for the game in my bones every time I take the floor whether it’s at a gym or a ragged concrete court. And I don’t ever expect that to change no matter how old I get.
Galo Pesantes, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.