Home > Uncategorized > The HAC Basketball Diaries, Volume 1

The HAC Basketball Diaries, Volume 1

My old high school JV basketball coach just showed up on facebook. Boy does that bring back memories! For those of you that didn’t know me in high school, you might be thinking to yourself: Phil played basketball? Yes, indeed, I did play basketball. Despite being 5 ft 4, and despite being, at the time, somewhat “hefty,” I indeed played on the junior varsity basketball team.

How is this possible, you might ask? Simple: my tiny private school required that you play a sport. There were also no cuts in any of the sports whatsoever, so I was guaranteed to make the team. As a result of this policy, the JV team (which actually combined players from two different school, Harley and Allendale Columbia) had, I think, close to 25 players. This was a pretty ridiculous spectacle, especially at away games. They would always have to bring out extra chairs for us. We played in the absolute worst division, division “double D” or something like that. We’d have to drive hours to get to some of our games–those teams were usually in some small town where the local high school sports were actually a big deal. All of the teams we played absolutely hated us: we were the “rich kids” (never mind that I wasn’t rich) from the private school out of town, and we certainly didn’t take things seriously enough. We were an undignified squadron, with our bloated 25 man roster and our bad attitudes. Our team didn’t even have cheerleaders; at home games, the other team would bring their cheerleaders to our court, along with half of the town, so it was basically like a home game for them.

I should mention something which should come as no surprise at this point: we were absolutely terrible at basketball. We had some talented players, but we were basically hopeless…no one expected us to ever win. We’d go into games and literally get blown out by 50 points. Sometimes our score was in the single digits well into the second half. This, by the way, generated considerable playing time for myself. Though I was, by nature, a career bench warmer, often the game was effectively over before the second half even started. The second and third tier players would get their time in the third quarter, and sometimes I’d get to play for nearly the entire fourth quarter.

My career statistics included 0 points, several rebounds, 1 assist (I remember this one because I threw the ball to a guy who was wide open, and got complimented by his father for it afterwords), several fouls, and 1 delay of game warning. Near the end of my “career,” I took on a sort of mascot status, and it became a great hope among both the JV and varsity players that I would score before my time was up. To this end, whenever I found myself in a game (which was becoming a less and less frequent occurrence), there would be a huge push to get me the ball. Whenever I had the ball, I would be expected to shoot. The varsity coach was not pleased with this whole ordeal. In what might have been my last game, I took one particularly ill-advised heave from near half court, which, if I remember correctly, glanced off the side of the backboard. In the locker room afterwords, I remember him confronting me: “Do you think you’re funny, Phil Williams?” I suppose he thought my stunts were making a mockery of the game–this was true, I admit. In my defense, however, I’d like to point out that my very presence on the team had been making a mockery of the game for the last two years, and no one had really complained about it until quite recently.

I remember that there were only a couple of teams in the league that we actually felt we had a shot of beating. One was this tiny Christian school–their team only had five players, and so they played the same five players entire game. In spite of this, we managed to lose to them. There was another game where the team we were playing seemed to be missing just as many shots as us. I think the game was basically tied going into half-time. At that point it began to dawn on me that we were matched up with a team that was nearly as bad as ourselves. Our coach, coach Stevens, then had a simple half-time message for us: “They suck. They suck! We can beat them.” This was true–nevertheless, we lost that game as well. Coach Stevens certainly did have some great locker room speeches in some of those games. After one particularly pathetic performance, he opened with the lines, “Lackadaisical is one way to describe that effort. Piss poor is another.”

The closest we ever came to a win in any of the games that I was actually present at was a home game. I’m not sure what the team that we were playing was…it might have been that school that only played five players. Anyway, we managed to play a close game the whole way through, and found ourselves up by 2 points, with almost no time left. The other team had the ball. We were due for a win, provided we simply let them inbound the ball, and nothing miraculous happened. That’s basically what happened–the ball was passed in, and time quickly expired without them managing to score. I remember the feeling of shock and excitement that came over me–we actually won a game! I didn’t think this was possible. The whole team rushed off the bench, and we were yelling and cheering at mid-court.

It was then that the news was broken to us: the game isn’t over. What? Why not? There was a foul, before the inbounds pass. The refs called a foul on our best player, a late call regarding something that supposedly took place before the ball was even on the court. I certainly didn’t see a foul; the guy they called it on (whom, by the way, I’ve just been texting about this game), has always insisted that there was no foul. Nevertheless, the refs called it. This gave the other team two free throws, which they (to their credit) managed to make, sending the game into overtime. We lost in overtime.

In my two years of basketball, the team went 0 and 20 the first year, and 2 and 18 the second year. And I managed to miss the only two games that we actually won! Looking back on it, perhaps I was something of a curse on that team; or, more charitably, perhaps I was simply the embodied image of our hopelessness. In spite of this sad status, I have many fond memories of my basketball years.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I won an MVP award for that 0-20 season. . . and believe it or not, I sometimes have to re-tell the story of my flagrant-technical-ejection to this day.

  2. July 29, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I think that was the previous season you got that ejection, because I wasn’t there when that happened. I wish I’d have seen that–I’ve heard the story so many times, I practically feel like I have.

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