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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Bug's movie quotes are in red.

Chapter 3 (v.2) - Put me in coach

Submitted: April 24, 2019

Reads: 201

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 24, 2019



Chapter 3

Put me in coach

Brian closed his locker and headed down the hall.

“Hey, wait up.” It was Bug calling after him, but Brian didn’t slow down, so she jogged to catch up.  “What’s the hurry, dude?” 

“I have to go talk to Mr. Miller about trying out for the basketball team.”

“What are you crazy? The basketball team?” Bug said, stopping in her tracks.

“Be quiet and come here. Here, feel this lump on my head?’

“Oh, ok that explains the crazy talk. You bumped your head when you fell yesterday.”

“No, I hit my head on the ceiling of my room last night.”

“Doing what?”

“Bug, I found the formula last night that proved my muscle theory.”

“So? Brian what did you do?”

“I had the computer calculate, then create, the mixture my formula called for. Don’t worry, it’s completely odorless, tasteless and harmless.”

“I bet. So, since it’s harmless you tested it under laboratory conditions, with a control group, using a rabbit or something, right?”

“Not exactly.”

“Oh, Brian, you didn’t.”

“It works Bug. That’s how I got this bump. Right after I took the formula, I tested it by jumping up in my room. I guess I underestimated the increased vertical gains because I hit my head pretty hard against the ceiling and it knocked me unconscious.”

“Well, either way. Still, we should get you looked at.”

“I’m fine Bug. I am not experiencing any of the common symptoms of a concussion.”

“Except that you want to try out for the basketball team.”

“I can jump really high now, Bug.”

“How high?”

“After I came to, I went outside into our backyard. I know it is exactly 15 feet from the ground to the bottom of our old tree house. I remember measuring it as a kid when my dad and uncle were building it. I jumped up and touched the bottom of the treehouse. Easily.”

“Wow, 15 feet that is unbelievable.”

“I did it a bunch of times before I saw my neighbor walking his dog, so I stopped. And you know what? I wasn’t the least bit tired when I was done.”

“So, you decided between then and now to join the basketball team. That is what you are going to do with an obviously life-changing discovery with global implications. Use it to impress a girl by playing basketball?”

“I’ve already gone over all the pro’s and con’s, Bug. A typical high school basketball season lasts from October to March. That’s counting playoffs. Six months. In 6 months, I can study and test my formula, then prepare and submit a scientific paper with my findings.”

“And in the meantime, Brian Ferco becomes a basketball star, not by his own skill and talent mind you, and then what? Doris is so shallow she’ll drop Kirk Harden and come running into your arms?”

“Bug. I am not taking steroids and I didn’t artificially enhance my body. My leg muscles are still the exact same as they were yesterday, they just use calcium proteins better than other people. Listen, I understand what you are saying, and we can debate this more later, I just have to get someplace right now.”


I have to go see Mr. Miller about joining the basketball team.”

“Can’t you just try out like everyone else?”

“No, turns out you need a permission slip signed by a parent and the only place to get one is from the coach…so…I have to figure out what to say to him.”

“Don’t you wanna hear my excuse? I’m thinking of trying out for a scholarship.”

“I’m not sure Mr. Miller has much of a sense of humor, Bug.”

“So, what are you worried about? He’s gotta let you try out right, I mean, it’s like a rule or something, right?”

“I guess.”

“Then just show him how high you can jump, and problem solved.”

“I can’t just walk up to Mr. Miller and say “hey, look at me. Look how high I can jump.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not normal.”

“Do I look normal to you?”

“He’ll think I’m up to something.”

“But you are up to something.”

“You know what I mean. I must try out for the team like any other student and I need to do it now the first day of practice is today

“That’s not even half the picture Brian.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come on, let me show you something.”

“What do you want to show me?”

“I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented” was her only reply.

Brian looked at her puzzled, but she reached out her hand to him, and he reluctantly took it.  “Let’s take a walk to the gym, I want to show you something” she continued, pulling Brian along. Instead of going to the main gym door entrance, however, she walked around to the back-side doors of the gym.

“What are we doing?”

“Shhhhh” Bug replied. “Basketball practices are closed, Brian, no spectators, so we have to be really quiet.”

Brian nodded his head as Bug cracked open the door at the rear of the gym.

“You gotta remember, Brian, these guys finished in second place last year out of every team in our state.” 

It was the first day of basketball practice, but Brian couldn’t tell that from what he was seeing in front of him. Running a layup drill, the Greenville Dragon’s basketball team didn’t look like a bunch of high school kids. Tall, muscular, athletic; they seemingly moved as one unit, each player taking a crisp, hard pass from a teammate, then breaking toward the basket to either lay the ball in or, stopping after a few bounces and hitting a smooth jump shot. Brian saw Kirk Harden with the ball, dribbling behind his back and then repeatedly between his legs several times before hitting a nothing-but-net shot. It seemed like every shot they took went in. It was hard for Brian to believe these were the same kids he sat next to in class.

“That’s the team?” Brian asked, shocked at what he was seeing.

“You’ve never been to a Greenville Dragon’s basketball game.”

“You have?”

“Oh yeah, working in the snack bar. It gets pretty intense.”

“Second place, huh.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

“Who beat these guys?”

Suddenly one of the players, Ed Gilmore, broke toward the basket and, quickly rising, slammed the ball down through it, hanging onto the break-away rim and causing it to give way, before letting go, allowing the rim to snap back into place with a loud clang. Brian and Bug each looked at each other.

“Do you think you could do that?” Bug asked.

“I know I can jump high enough to. All I have to do is shove the ball through the basket, right?”

“Well, yes. But do you think you could even get near the basket to try it?”

Brian turned back toward the players. “They are really fast…you know…quick.”

Suddenly coach Miller blew his whistle. “Let’s go,” he yelled. “Harden, Gilmore, Eyre, Bear and Simmons on offense. McCabe, Adams, Timmons, Reardon and Taylor on Defense.”

The players moved into their positions. “Let’s go ladies, sometime today” coach Miller continued yelling. The coach tossed the ball to Kirk, who instantly started dribbling it before snapping off a pass to Billy Eyre. The two teams moved in, out and around each other with remarkable precision, occasionally banging into each other with loud thuds followed by grunts and shoves. Brand new sneakers squeaked noisily on the freshly buffed floor, and after several passes Woody Bear took a quick shot and scored. The two teams changed sides, but as Dino Adams broke toward the basket, Woody quickly cut him off and Dino, slipping from Woody’s nudge, slammed to the floor with the ugly sound of skin and bone on wood.  Dino let out a small cry of pain. The coach blew his whistle again. “What the hell, Adams, did you forget how to walk” he bellowed, ignoring Woody Bear’s obvious foul.

“No coach.” Dino answered back, jumping to his feet and taking his position on defense.

“I didn’t know it was so…physical.” Brian confessed to Bug as she slowly closed the gym door.

“And this is only practice” Bug explained. “The first day of practice. And these guys are teammates, you know, they supposedly like each other, so this is nothing. You should see how physical it gets when they play other schools, and especially rival schools. There used to even be fights. At least, that is what I heard.”

Brian stared at the glass display cases lining the opposite wall, each filled with the trophies of past victories. “I’m going to work in the lab until practice is over” he said, finally.

“Okay, good luck” Bug said as she took off.

Brian tinkered in the school lab waiting for basketball practice, which was from 3:00 to 5:00, to end, then waited some more to make sure all the players were gone and, hopefully, only Mr. Miller would be in the locker room. He was only going through the motions in the lab though, as his mind raced, anxious of the conversation he was about to have with the basketball coach. Convinced he had waited long enough, Brian made his way to the locker room. He walked past the rows of green and yellow lockers and past the “No ‘I’ in Team type posters. Football ruled here at Greenville and the head football coach, Coach Shuster, was also the Athletic Director. The Greenville Dragons’ football team was coming off a State Title winning season with Kirk Harden as the MVP, and Brian knew that Kirk was also a star of the basketball team, playing point guard at an All-State level. Sauce for the goose, he thought. Doris was sure to be at the basketball games, disinterested or not, since Kirk would be playing. Highschool girlfriend obligation and all.

 The basketball coach, Coach Miller, had the smaller office at the back of the locker room and Brian could see his door was wide open so he poked his head in, purposely making some noise to announce his presence. Coach Miller had a laptop open on his desk and was staring at a basketball game. Brian could see what he was watching. The game was in black and white and there was no sound.

“Yeah?” Coach Miller grunted without looking up. Brian glanced around the office. He took a deep breath and inhaled the rich smell of leather basketballs. Trophies, plaques and various signed balls dominated the office. Brian imagined the balls held various degrees of importance to coach Miller as some balls, though signed and dated with game information, were lying about on the floor while others were proudly displayed on stands, one, Greenville High State Champs, was under glass, displayed on a shelf next to the door with a small light illuminating it. It was 10 years ago. Brian couldn’t help but notice the coach’s grey hair and crow’s feet. He was obviously a much younger man when he won that State Title. Brian lit up with an idea. He would help Greenville High win another State Championship. The silence made the coach look up. He quickly looked down again. “You’re on the wrong side of the building Ferco, chemistry lab is at the other end.”

“No, Mr. Miller, I want to talk to you.”

“Well, speed it up, I’m a busy man. And it’s Coach or Coach Miller, not Mr. Miller.”

“I want to try out for the basketball team this year.”

Coach Miller looked up and paused. A slight grin came across his face. “No” he said and looked back down at his computer.

“Umm, coach, can’t anyone try out for the team?”

“Look Ferco, I don’t know what dream you feel you have to chase or what missing piece of your life you’re trying to fill in but don’t bring it here ok. This is a tight knit group of guys and we finished second last year to City.  Most of the team is back and we’re picked as favorites to return to the Championship so the last thing I need, or this team needs, is a distraction and believe me, you going out for this basketball team would be one of the biggest distractions ever. So, the answer is no.”

This was unexpected. Brian knew a visit to the principal’s office and a complaint about unfair treatment would quickly remedy the situation, but thought it was best not to alienate himself from the coach on the first meeting.

He changed strategies. Time to use what the coach already thought about him.

“Coach I’ve been practicing, honest, and speaking scientifically, I deduced I could assist this team in the quest for that State Championship.”

Coach Miller could not help but look back up. He removed his reading glasses and stared at Brian, looking for some sign of flippantness. “Ok Ferco, where and with who have you been practicing with enclosing the word practicing with air quotes. Brian thought about the kids, teens and seemingly every age of adult on the playgrounds playing basketball when he walked home from school.

“On the playground” Brian quickly offered, “with the neighborhood kids.”

“On the playground with the neighborhood kids?” coach Miller replied with skepticism.

“Mr. Miller...Coach Miller, Brian corrected himself. To score a basket in basketball the player must shoot the ball with a launch angle of 52 degrees with three revolutions per second of backspin, and aim for a spot 7 centimeters, 2.8 inches, back from the center of the basket, toward the back of the rim. With backspin, if the ball hits the rim or backboard, the contact deadens the ball and that means it comes off slower, stays closer to the basket and is more likely to fall in."

The coach’s mouth was half open as he stared at Brian. “Is that all Ferco?”

“No sir,” Brian continued. “The 52-degree launch angle is optimal for players with a height of six feet, 1 inch, that’s the average height of the players on your team, or should I say the players who will be in your team, calculating who I think will make the basketball team based on a number of factors, factored into a very practical algorithm. The final list includes me.”

Brian caught himself, but too late and he almost cringed when the coach didn’t change expression.

“What ‘factors’ did you factor in if I may be so bold to ask?”

“Well,” Brian started. “Of course, height, weight, athletic ability based on participation in organized, school sponsored sports, but just as important, intangibles.”

“Oh please, continue.” Coach Miller encouraged. “What intangibles?”

“Well, desire, determination, tenacity, grit and heart.”

“Grit?” the coach finally changed expression with a wry smile. What do you know about grit?”

“I’ve studied several athletes who exhibit exceptional athletic ability, but I discovered that at a certain level they all have exceptional athletic ability. But then I noticed a small group of individuals who seemed to possess something else, something more.”

“The intangibles?” Coach Miller prodded.

“Yes” Brian continued. “Desire was best exhibited by Michael Jordan, who burned for it and won 6 NBA championships, some say should have been 8 but he played baseball for a couple of years, not very successfully I might add, which also helped me understand that desire works best in the sport you are best at. Tenacity is best demonstrated by a basketball player named Steve Nash. Determination by a football player named Lawrence Taylor who was apparently relentless in his pursuit of opposing quarterbacks, though he had some legal issues. Grit by a baseball player named Kirk Gibson who hit a game winning home run in the World Series despite barely being able to walk, and heart by a football player named Rudy Ruettiger who, despite being only 5 foot nothing and weighing 100 and nothing, managed to make the Notre Dame football team. Best known as Rudy.”

“Rudy Ruettiger? Ferco, I have to say that’s quite a list. And between you and me those “athletes,” as you call them, do exhibit those very qualities just as you describe. But there is more to playing high school basketball then launch angle and back spin. And what makes you think you have either athletic ability or any of those ‘intangibles’ you mentioned.”

“As important as scoring is in basketball that is not the area I can assist you in. My attribute is rebounding the basketball.”

“Rebounding you have to be kidding me Ferco. How tall are you five nine?”

“Five ten coach.”

“Five ten and you plan to help us with rebounding?”

“Rebounding mostly, but also the occasional put back basket which actually does lead to scoring. Rebounding mostly and put back baskets.”

“Put back baskets” the coach repeated. “Is that what you call them on the playground?”

“No, they just call them baskets” Brian answered.

The coach looked Brian up and down. “We play a very physical game, Ferco, and this is a very physical league. But, knowing you, if I say no, you’re just gonna run to the school board or the supreme court or something, so, to save myself all that trouble.” Coach Miller reached into his desk and pulled out a permission slip and handed it toward Brian. “Have a parent sign this and bring it with you tomorrow.” Brian reached out and took the paper from the coach’s hand. “Practice starts promptly at 3:00 and I mean 3:00 sharp. Understood? You’ve already missed one practice, Ferco, so you have exactly this much time to impress the hell out of me.” Coach Miller held up his hand with his thumb and index finger barely apart.

All Brian could think of to say was “thank you sir.”



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