Chapter 15:

The Park

Would You Paint My Dunk


Outside the park, I saw Brandon dribble a few times before shooting an open three. The ball went through the hoop, making a loud swish sound.

Thinking that this is merely a hallucination, I wiped my eyes in disbelief. However, it turns out that I wasn’t hallucinating. Brandon was there, wearing a blue tank top and blue shorts.

Heh, it’s really him. I guess I’m just gonna go and greet him now.

Deciding to greet him, I walked toward him as he wiped the sweat on his neck with a towel.

“Hey, Brandon!”

Brandon turned his head to look at me.

“Oh! Look who it is. It’s my favorite junior.”

“Senior, I thought that we were supposed to meet at ten. Am I wrong?”

“Ah, yes, we are supposed to meet at ten. Sean is quite busy, and Tony won’t be able to wake up early on the weekends. Besides, the courts have a first-come, first-served basis. policy. That’s why I came here early to book this court.”

Huh? First come, first served? I never heard about that. I guess I should ask him about that.

“Brandon, what do you mean by first-come, first-served basis? It’s a public park, right? I don’t think there’s a rule for that for courts in a public park.”

“No, there’s an unwritten rule about it. Usually, two teams face each other on the court, the winner stays while the loser gets replaced with another group. You know about that, right?”

“Yes, I know about that. But I don’t know what you mean by first come first served...”

“Keith, you remember that we are coming here to train you guys, not to play some basketball matches, right?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Keith, the thing is, you need to hog the field for yourself if you want to train. For example, if you shoot threes and miss, we can stop to give you pointers. That’s not the case in matches. You can’t stop an ongoing match just to teach someone.” Brandon chuckled.

“Oh, I see…” I nodded.

“So, what we’re gonna do is to occupy the field early. If there’s someone who wants to play, we can accept their challenge for the court, and tell them to scram off if they lose. That way, we can keep the field to train you guys.”

I was surprised when I heard him.

“Wait, Brandon, is that even allowed? Can we really shoo them away like that?”

“Yes! Unless a group is good enough to win against us, we have the authority of the court until we leave it. There’s the second court as well, they could go there for matches. Getting to the court early means you have the right over it. As they said, ‘early bird gets the worm’, you get it?”

“I see… Senior, thank you for the explanation, I understand now.”

“Anyway Keith, since we arrived early, how about I train you early? Are you up for it?” Brandon smiled at me.

“Sure, I’m in your care, captain.”

With that, we walked toward the middle of the court to practice. As soon as we arrived, Brandon tapped my shoulder.

“My junior, I know that you are originally a Power Forward, that’s why your style is the classic ‘drive and dunks’. The thing is, you are not tall enough for that position, and that’s one of the reasons the coach made you a Small Forward.”

“Yeah, I realized I’m not that tall compared to Jamal or even Sean. I can’t dunk against taller defenders that well…”

Brandon shook his head. He looked at me directly into my eyes.

“Keith, I know you can’t do anything about your height, and I understand that you couldn’t win a contact dunk against a taller defender most of the time. But again, just because you are moved to another position, it doesn’t mean that you are inferior.”

“Hmm…”

“You know, Small Forward has its own playstyle and charms. Unlike Power Forward which fights it out close to the rim, Small Forward actually prefers versatility.”

“Versatility?” I got confused.

“Sigh…” Brandon exhaled his breath. “You know Kevin Durant?”

“Of course, he is a famous Small Forward player, why?”

“You know that he excels at many scoring options? He made twos, threes, dunks, layups, and free throws. His shooting rate was good too, half of his shots made their way to the net.”

Hmm… I remember that he is a player with explosive dunks, but to know that he can also shoot well… I see, I guess he is not a star player without a reason. I finally get what Brandon is pointing out here.

“Again, Small Forward is the most versatile and adaptable position out there, and the trickiest opponent to handle. Having multiple options to score, you can make your enemy guess what you would do next, confusing them. And that’s what we are going to learn today. First, we are going to learn about pump fakes.”

“Pump fakes?”

“Yes, pump fakes. You put yourself into a shooting motion and stop it halfway. Instead of continuing the motion to jump, you crouch down, then drive the ball forward for a dunk or a layup.” Brandon told me while demonstrating the move in front of me, ending with a successful layup.

“It sounds simple.”

Brandon looked at me, carrying the ball in his hand.

“It may sound simple, but you need to trick your opponent in order for it to work. And for this to be effective, you need to mix it up with actual shots that made its way into the rim. No one would try to block your shots if you can’t shoot properly.”

“I see. But I can’t shoot a ball that well…”

“Keith, no one is good at the beginning. Practice makes perfect. And speaking of practice, you better start now.” Brandon threw the ball at me.

As soon as I received the ball, I started to practice the move he told me about. I fake a shooting motion before ducking, rushing forward, then slamming the ball into the rim.

“That’s it, Keith! It’s a little stiff but you got this! Just practice that a little bit and you should be able to do it well.”

“Thank you, Brandon.”

Repeating the drill, I practiced pump fakes for a while. After I had a bunch of successful ones, Brandon signaled me to stop with his hand.

“Okay, now let’s learn about some fake driving techniques. It’s quite simple to learn if you already mastered drives. Watch me.”

Again, the captain demonstrated the move in front of me.

“You take a big step forward and lean toward it, just like if you wanna rush into the rim. But, as you lean forward, swiftly retract your body and foot back where it was. As soon as you gain footing, stabilize yourself and jump for a shot.”

Brandon shot the ball and it went in. He took the ball, carrying it on his right arm as he looked at me.

“Do you understand, Keith?”

It looks difficult, but I think I’m gonna try anyway.

“I think? I’ll try, captain.”

And so, I tried imitating the move he just did, but I failed repeatedly. Either I lost the ball, lost my balance, or even stumbled. I don’t think I have a knack for this.

“Don’t give up Keith, you are getting better!”

With his motivation, I keep practicing. Not only that, but Brandon also taught me some other moves like crossovers and pass-fakes for me to practice. I spent a lot of time practicing the move he showed me.

After a while, I started to feel thirsty. Trying to stay dehydrated, I took my water bottle out of my backpack and started drinking. The water in the bottle gushed through my throat like a river stream, quenching my thirst. A sound of relief escaped my lips as I closed the bottle’s lid.

Ahh! I felt alive!

Swiping my mouth with my right-hand wrist, I was curious to know the current time of day. Putting my water bottle back into my backpack, I pulled out my smartphone to see the current time, and the screen showed 9:53 AM.

Almost two hours had elapsed since I arrived at the park, and I started to wonder if everyone else would arrive soon.

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