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Team Play
Andre Eaton
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Being on the basketball team at my boarding school, Cambridge School of Weston (CSW) was challenging at first. It was different from how I used to play the game in middle school in New York City.

In middle school, there was no team. Basketball was just an activity in gym class and more for fun then for competition or even improvement. Friends of mine would focus on winning games every now and then, but there was no goal or reward for gaining victory. We wouldn’t travel to play against other schools, just scrimmage among ourselves. Once in a while there would be drills focused on dribbling, but aside from that everything was just for play.

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When I entered the Cambridge School of Weston (CSW), I joined an actual team. There were tryouts for both varsity and junior varsity, and I made the JV team. In practice, I learned a lot of rules I’d never known, for example, the 3-second rule. I had no idea standing still behind the foul line on defense would be called as a foul. I learned to move around a lot under the baskets.

My teammates and coaches were competitive. They knew about every rule and regulation, and had a lot of knowledge about NBA players. Our JV basketball team was decent although we only had eight players.

The Giants of Gann

For the first game, we traveled to play an all- Jewish school named Gann Academy. I had heard from my coach that their team was one of the best in our league. It would be a tough first game, and I was starting as center even though I preferred to be a shooting guard.

When we entered the gym, which was a lot bigger than the one at CSW, I saw how small we were compared to them. Most of Gann Academy’s team was white, but they were all tall and muscular. We only had one or two big guys on our team.

I went onto the court in my yellow “away” jersey along with my teammates: Elias, Chris, Issac, and Ion. I felt nervous—my first high school game. The coach had chosen me to do the opening jump ball.

My opponent was taller and won the tip. The guy he tipped to passed it right back to him and he ran downcourt. I raced to catch up with him, but he was much faster and laid up the ball before I could get in position to defend. I felt upset, but I needed to transition into offense as quickly as possible.

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Our coach had taught us a play called 5-up which had me running up and down the baseline so someone could pass to me for a lay-up. Ion, our point guard, passed the ball to Chris and he quickly passed to me, as planned. But Gann’s center, who was at least six inches taller than me, blocked my shot and quickly passed to his teammate, who raced down the court and scored. Four-nothing, Gann. This was going to be a long game.

Our team struggled to keep up the whole game. Elias managed to put some points on the board, as did Isaac, our main 3-point shooter. At the end of the first half though, Gann was up by 12, and I hadn’t scored at all.

As the second half of the game began, I wanted to redeem myself. Since I wasn’t scoring, I concentrated on defense. We switched from a zone defense to man-to-man, which I prefer. When my opponent got the ball, I stayed close to him. He would try to cross me up or move past me, but I stayed on him, using my body as a barrier as he dribbled. As he went to shoot the ball, I swiped it right out of his hands—the first block of my high school career.

I passed to Isaac, who shot a three pointer and cut Gann’s lead to eight. Toward the end of the game, Elias trudged through and laid up the ball. We were down by 6, but there were only 20 seconds left on the clock. We had to foul, but the player we fouled made both his free throws. Time had unfortunately run out. We had lost our first game at Gann Academy.

Discipline, Teamwork

Coach told us what we needed to work on. We went back to our drills during practice to help function better as a team. We started every practice by running around the court to build our stamina. Then on to the drills: “Suicides” are laps across the court in which players lean down to touch certain points on the floor. Then we had to run to the hoop to touch the backboard about 10 times, then push-ups and sit ups. Coach had us stand against the wall and jump continuously for about a minute, trying to touch the highest point we could. There were crossover dribbling drills and passing drills. We split into teams of three and two and ran fast-break plays. There were lay-up drills, and then we’d run the various plays the coach had assigned to us.

Looking back, I believe the passing drills really got us working as a team. A lot of us started out as ball-hogs and that hurt us in games. I think we finally incorporated our drills into game play against Boston Trinity Academy toward the end of the season. We didn’t win, but I believe we functioned better as a team. We passed a lot more, and our transition back into defense was a lot better.

We communicated as teammates better too. Chris yelled my name as he passed me the ball, and I made a lay-up to cut Boston Trinity’s lead to only eight points. The final score was 40-36, which was closer than usual, and I think it was due to team play and communication. I felt accomplished and happy that I overcame some of the obstacles we had in some past games. I felt closer to some of the other guys during the game and afterwards on the bus back to boarding school.

I won the award for most improved player that year. I think I improved on my communication skills as a teammate and my work ethic as an athlete as well as my skills. I tried to learn from the teammates I was playing with, and I started to understand the game from a new perspective. The coach said I was a pretty good defender and that it had an impact on the overall performance of the team.

In the beginning of the season some people only cared how many points they scored. Once the season started to progress, I believe we started to cooperate more. We stayed disciplined despite losing more than we won. Cooperation helped us understand each other better. I like how basketball gave a lot of people from different backgrounds a shared language and goals.

(WEB-2017-03-23)