Do you have the heart of champions? -coach eric taylor
it’s been ten hours since the final buzzer sounded.and now we are one step away, one win away from winning our division title and moving on to the second division. But it’s 4am and i’m still watching the scouting tapes on our next opponent who have gone undefeated. it’s 4am and i’m still replaying this last win in my head, looking for holes in the defense and chinks in our offense. i’ve never wanted to win anything this badly, even as if we win, it will really be a victory for my players. i just want this for them so much.
when i inherited this team last year, if i had a gun i’d have shoot myself in the head and be done with it. this used to be a group of kids, not even a team, who played with no confidence, always shooting jump shots, no hustle, and no heart. everyone pegged them as losers. and to be blunt about it. last year, they were. not because they kept losing by pretty big margins but because they played with no heart.
Then this year happened. some players moved up because of age and were no longer eligible to play cadet. some players were cut, and new blood joined the team. a trio of fleet footed guards. my own version of Ginebra’s the fast the furious and the fearless to complement my core players. suddenly, things were looking up. not to say that training camp was a cakewalk, though. there were times i’d get angry messages from my center who wanted to keep shooting the three ball because he can shoot, while all i wanted him to do was learn to take the ball inside and post up. sometimes i’d get complaints in the local tongue whenever i make them run drills, again and again and again. they said they were bored of shooting free throws, and lay ups, not seeing the increase in their shooting percentages. i’d stress the importance of a trap defense, of learning different defensive sets while mastering an offensive system and they just wanted to be kids and play scrimmages where they’d just run and gun it.
they were stubborn, but then again so was I. joe still shoots up to 3 3point shots a game and makes about 33 percent, but he has a wicked inside game now that he goes to more often, aside from an increasing repertoire of dunks. Jerome still has an unorthodox shot, which i wont even try to correct, but he now gets most of his points off a lot of offensive rebounds due to his improving positioning. Adrian is gaining back his confidence one game at a time, and Pol is learning fast. Orhan used to be scared to mix it up inside but now he’s hauling down rebounds on both ends, his free throw shooting has improved from 20 percent to 70, and is now learning to harness his explosiveness in going to the hoop. Ben is an offensive explosion waiting to happen, plus he really improved his defense to the point where he can shut down an opponent 5 inches taller with relative ease. Enes used to play scared and deferred to his older teammates, but now, he’s playing more like the leader who will take over this team when Jerome and Joe can no longer play cadet next year.
Then there are the three guards who joined us this year. My team’s version of Ginebra’s the fast the furious and the fearless. Christoph, a pint sized point guard with a very high basketball IQ, a court general who can take over any game. then there ‘s the half pinoy brother tandem of Mike and Gilles, a speedy steals machine on the defensive end, and showtime on offense. people get up on their feet when they attack the basket, knowing they might just see something magical.
Reading back those last two paragraphs, i sound like a proud dad with 9 kids. but how can i not be proud at how far they’ve come? only one win away and my target for this season is completed halfway through. to climb out of the doldrums and barge into the 2nd division. after that, we train our sights on getting to the premier division, others may scoff at it, but no one even expected us to get this far.
after the game, a parent approached me and said she loved how the kids looked like they enjoyed every minute out there. i told her it was a joy to coach them. she asked me what my plans were for next year, since after this 180 degrees turnaround, other teams might be looking to poach me. i told her everything was still up in the air, we never know what the future holds, i told her, so lets just enjoy watching your kids out there. she said she he hopes i’ll stay on. whatever happens, this has been a magical season, and i’ve loved every moment so far.
PS before i forget, we won the game today, 103- 54. nuff said.