SHAD3 by Dexter Alvaro
(Chapter 2) “Backcourt Violation”
Tracy “Trey” Park:
There is something about music that takes me to a special place. It brings me to a place where I don’t have to think about the sins of the past, the hurt of the present and the absurdity of tomorrow.
I mean, like right now, I wear my wireless headphones as I listen to 80s British Alternative Rock while I jog with my basketball coach. We both wear a gray hooded sweater and black jogging pants and our sponsor running sneakers. We’re twinsies much like that Schwarzenegger and DeVito movie.
I love jogging around Nob Hill every morning. People smile at me all the time, and yell, “Good game, Trey.”
I’m a living embodiment of that 80s Sitcom (Cheers) theme song, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”
Though I am not famous, at least not yet, it warms my heart knowing that I can literally pound the pavement of Frisco and at the same time get my daily exercise.
My friend Cello tells me that it’s going to be challenging to enjoy jogging outside especially if play AAU ball. He says that it is hard to escape people when you go out for a run in the morning. It’s crazy to think that high school hoopers get the notoriety from playing AAU ball.
As I look at my pint size and pudgy fifty-year-old Coach, I realize that he’s not digging my daily routine. Coach Perez is already huffing and puffing, and we have yet reached the uphill concrete jogging path.
I love being Nob Hill High’s starting shooting guard. Being six-foot-six, it would be great if I were a point guard because I could at least control my destiny.
There are times I don’t get enough touches when our point guard feels I’ve reached my 20 point average. If I were a point guard, I’d probably average around 30 or 35 points a game, easily.
My coach taps my back. He stops to jog, but I jog in place. I’m impressed with my coach’s stamina. He made it to fifteen minutes of jogging nonstop. I let him catch his breath.
As I remember discussing with Cello the idea of being a ranked high school hooper I courageously ask Coach Perez, “Coach. What do you think about me playing for an AAU team?”
He narrows his eyes, and in his playoff game voice he asks, “Who’s in your ear, son?”
BASKETBALL COURT (FLASHBACK)
A game is in progress.
University of San Francisco Men’s basketball team plays an invitational match with UCLA (University of California Los Angeles).
My friend, Cello, plays for USF Dons. He’s their starting point guard. We get along well because we’re both biracial.
Marcello Dassler is a twenty-one-year-old proud Brazilian with German and Portuguese heritage. He’s like a male version of Gisele Bündchen, only 3 inches taller.
I, on the other hand, am half-Black and half-Korean. My mother tells me that I’m like a seventeen-year-old skinny version of former NFL player – Will Demps.
I don’t know who my father is, but my proud Korean mother from Seoul, Roxanne Park raised me. Though she prefers to be called “Roxy.”
Well, I do have a Caucasian stepfather. He’s Liam O’Day. My mother said that her family disowned her when I was born.
Even though Liam and my mother are legally married, we are not using his last name because my mother thinks that there is still a chance her parents will forgive her if she keeps her family name.
It’s cool with Liam, but I don’t care. And my grandparents haven’t forgiven my mother for giving birth to a colored son, and truthfully I don’t give a damn.
I sit on the USF Dons bench next to their cheerleaders. Unbeknownst to me, two gorgeous cheerleaders approach me from behind; I did not want to take my eyes off Cello.
“Wanna play after the game, Trey?” asks a beautiful young Halle Berry lookalike. “A lil’ two on one?” asks a Jessica Alba doppelgänger.
However, without batting an eyelash, I respond, “Sorry, ladies. Perhaps next time. I have music lessons tonight.”
STREET (NOB HILL)
I notice that he’s upset, so I smile as I say, “My stepdad’s planning to manage an AAU team. My friend, Cello. He tells me that if I play AAU ball, I could control my future. What’s your take on it, Coach?”
He sighs heavily, then jabs his temple repeatedly, “Think, Trey. You ain’t God. You control nothing.” And with his pointer and middle finger he makes a “V” shape and gestures to his eyes, “Eyes on the prize, alright?”
I place my hand on his shoulder to let him know that I mean business. “AAU ranking. They matter I know it.”
He swipes my hand away, and with authority, he scolds me, “AAU ball’s not your meal ticket, kid. Prep school is. Focus.” He looks away, sighs. “I don’t wanna do this to you, Tracy. You seem to be in a good mood. You gotta transfer. Nob Hill won’t renew your scholarship.”
I’m speechless. My eyes are bigger, unlike my Asian heritage. My mouth is dry. I say to myself, “Shoot! Nob Hill doesn’t want me.” I am numb. My coach just killed my vibe. For at least twenty seconds I stare at him, then I ask, “Why?”
With a straight face, he responds, “Nob Hill High’s board voted to eliminate basketball scholarships. Some crap about shifting funds to techie kids. I don’t know. I’m confused myself.”
As much as I don’t want to believe what he’s saying, he has yet to steer me in the wrong direction.
Coach Perez has been my surrogate father. I know he has my best interest at heart. He undoubtedly wouldn’t lead me to a perilous path.
I feel the waterworks coming; my eyelids are getting heavy, the dam is about to break. I repeatedly blink to fight it. With my voice breaking, I inquire, “What…how’s that…what am I gonna do now, Coach?”
He pats my chest and with his morale-boosting voice, “You’re a good kid. D1 College is your way out. Don’t screw it up by thinking AAU is your meal ticket.”
And as much as I know for sure that I am T-Mac 2.0 with a better shooting form and percentage, albeit two inches shorter, which is why Coach grooms me as a shooting guard instead of a small forward like Tracy McGrady.
It’s incredible how brainwashed I was to believe that I am the second-coming of T-Mac because of my Irish stepfather. I remember growing up thinking I could be just like McGrady because of my scoring prowess and sick-slashing-skills to the basket, smooth and explosive.
So, I stare at him and say, “I am just like Tracy McGrady, Coach. I am the meal. Colleges and universities need me to pack their courts.”
He shoots me a blank stare. Which is quite unusual, knowing that Coach Perez is quick-witted and sharp, he had emptied his clip.
He thought that the last bullet would penetrate deep inside my soul and cause me to have a change of heart, but no. My mind is made up. I believe in my heart that Cello is right.
AAU ranking will fast track my road to the NBA.
Coach’s phone rings and he answers. “Yeah. Uh-huh. I’m actually with Tracy Park right now. Yes. He’s got no choice. Talk to you later.”
“What the hell, coach?! Who was that?” I bark at him.
“Who else would it be, Trey? Coach Dub.”
I ball up my fists, close my eyes, take a deep breath. I swallow hard. My heart is racing, and I find it hard to breathe. I think I’m having an anxiety attack.
“Talk to me, Trey. Please.”
I open my eyes, and tears freely flow down my face. Coach gently pats my arm, consoling me.
With my voice-breaking, I utter softly, “I can’t play for Saint Francis Academy, coach.”
He narrows his eyes, confused or agitated. I don’t know exactly. He asks, “Why not?”
If there is one thing I fear besides not making it to the NBA is disappointing my stepdad. Not that I want or need his approval. I don’t want him beating my mother or me every time he feels I disobey him.
But I must stand my ground. However, I can’t even look at Coach Perez as I stare at my sneakers. Ironic enough, I know my purpose and just like footwear in its box: remains in mint condition to be admired but not purposeful.
I raise my head high enough to look at my coach’s eyes. I’m about to expose my dirty laundry, but I don’t care. So, I say to him, “My stepdad beats us when he doesn’t get his way.”
He looks away. Avoiding eye contact is a bad sign. Does he not want to hear my truth? Is my truth going to conflict with his self-interests?
He shakes his head and sighs and tilts his head as he fixes his brown eyes on me. “Two is better than one,” he utters.
Huh? What does he mean by that? I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so I pause for about five seconds.
“Get your mother on your side,” he says confidently.
I break a nervous smile. I knew it. My coach wants his agenda to supersede mine.
I wonder what’s in it for him? Did I lose my athletic scholarship or is he getting fired and he wants me to be in the best position possible?
As I continue to study his facial expressions, I can see that he wants the best for me. I hope I’m wrong, and if I am, perhaps I should major in Psychology at Cal or Stanford.
But, then again, I should take my mother away from the Bay Area. Somewhere in the East Coast, Florida or New York, or I should ask Roxy what she prefers.
So, with confidence, I reply, “I’ve always wondered how the other half lives anyway, Coach.”
His face lights up. Coach gives me a tight baby bear hug. “You’ll love it at S-F-A, kid. The fans will love you. So many spoiled rich girls are going to swoon over you. Hell, even MILFs are gonna throw themselves at you.”
I shoot him a half-hearted grin. Geesh! Coach has practically been my surrogate father for three years, and he hasn’t got the faintest idea that I detest attention from citizens of Venus.
As much as I hate my stepdad, to the very least, I can safely assume that he knows that I fancy earthlings instead.
I shake his hand and assure him that I’m going to make him proud. “I’ll miss you, Coach.”
He looks away again. He clears his throat. I knew it. He’s probably all choked up and doesn’t want me to see that parting with me is killing him.
“Later, Trey. Wish you the best, son.”
“You, too, Coach.”
I start to jog up the steep concrete path of Nob Hill. I can’t stop smiling. I look back to check up on Coach. He’s not moving. He is facing opposite me.
I wish I knew what he was doing.
Nevertheless, I know he has my best interest at heart.
Coach Perez sends a text message to “JW” that reads: The deal is done. TP is going to SFA.
Within a few seconds, Coach Perez receives a text from “JW” that reads: Good. We squared CP. Stop gambling bad for your health. LOL.
Coach Perez sends a text message to “Coach Dub” that reads: Trey Park wants to play for you.
He pockets his phone and starts walking. After a minute of walking, a DING. He receives a text from “Coach Dub” that reads: U 4 REAL, CP? WOW! (mind-blown emoji).