A Basketball Journey – University of Street Basketball
The basketball journey for our little journeyman was filled not just with school, it has alot of learning from the streets as well. Our little journeyman (Clifford), played at the basketball court near his house more than anywhere else. It is till now, his holy ground. He would lie on it on days he feel lost, and recover from all that is around.
When he started playing ball at the court (BLK714), he made lots of friends, fellow basketball enthusiast. One of them became his childhood mate, and undoubtedly his best friend till now. He also met alot of gangsters and people who wanted to sway him to the gang. But there was plenty of gentleman who would teach and guide him. All of them play a big part in his perspective of basketball and value of life.
There were times when the game at the courts will be interrupted by gang fights of like 20 over people. And everyone will have to dock behind the blocks or run back home. It was a frightful scene for a young 11 year old. Clifford never really felt comfortable with it, but he still made friends with those who would play basketball there.
Being a boy with immensely thick skin, Clifford always ask to join the older boys and adults in their 5 v 5 games. Most of the time, they are kind enough to allow it, but they would never, I mean never, pass the ball to him (Considering the age difference 11 v 30). The level of skill, ability and physical size are vastly different. Clifford learnt basketball the hard way on the streets. He got beat down alot by them. He had to earn his right to play with the rest. He had to play harder defense, just to be able to steal the ball. That is his only chance to touch the ball in the game, unless some really nice gentleman were to pass him the ball out of kindness. Clifford knew these, but he just love the challenge of competing with older boys.
On a humid and hot Friday night, Clifford got the chance to play with a group of regular players at the court. There was a new guy who came that day. Clifford and the dude played in the same team. On one of the play, their team got the rebound, Clifford dash off ahead for a fast break. The dude threw a long pass. Clifford ran with all his might while eye-hawking at the ball, but the dude just had a thunderous pass, it flew 4 metres away from where Clifford was. The dude, hurled a variety of vulgarities at Clifford, calling him slow and shit for not catching the ball. In our world now, that would probably receive stomp worthy news, but in those days they have to earn it. So Clifford put his head down, and was more determined to become better player. Challenge is what he felt.
“Bang” Straight to the chest and groin. Clifford fell under the rim. Wincing in pain from the knock from the opposing player. He stood up, and much like the same boy who wanted to play so badly in his first real match, Clifford trudge back into the game, shrugging the pain off temporarily. Moments ago, Clifford had just defended the same opponent aggressively, as the way he knew, which apprently wasnt “right” on that court. The payback, was an elbow to the chest and knee to the groin, by a running 30 year old body laying up towards the rim. This lesson brought Clifford to tears when he walked back home after the games. He felt a deep sense of misery, like he was being bullied. He told his mum about the incident when he went back. Mummy being protective told Clifford, dont go play with them then, stick to playing with your peers and friends. Well, we need not tell you what was Clifford’s reply. Challenge accepted, he continued.
Throughout the years playing in the streets, Clifford seen many friends went from being a talented star player to joining the gang, and abandoning their dream of basketball. He also saw how some average chap on the court stayed with the game for 20 years, being supported by those gentleman who Clifford call as Basketball Social Worker. Decent people who work in the market or in the factory, who loves the game as much as they hope to help kids stay off the gangs. These are the stories that will stay with Clifford through his journey in the game and in life.
The young boy time in the hood, was well spent. He truely attended the University of the Streets from those time, though not fully involve.
And in these episode, Clifford brought with him the kind of determination and positive attitude that will define his basketball game in secondary school and junior college.