“Let’s use Matt as an example,” Coach Davis said. Someone snickered but Coach didn’t seem to notice. “Now Matt has a great layup.”
I puffed up my chest and half-smiled feeling mildly vindicated after being the brunt of every taunt for the last three hours of school.
“But he’s going to get called on the charge every time if he doesn’t slow down and get control of his approach.”
My shoulders slumped.
“We’re going to have him demonstrate how to do a textbook hop-step to help him gain control of his momentum as he penetrates the lane.”
“I think he learned that technique last night,” someone near the back of the group of players mumbled. I turned around and glared at him, Brett, I think his name was. Cocky junior. I narrowed my eyes and he averted his.
I turned back to the coach and lifted my chin confidently. “I’d be happy to demonstrate that for you coach. I think some of these kids need to learn a lesson.” I took the ball from the coach and dribbled to center court.
Channeling the frustration from the events of the day, I dribbled forward at my fastest controlled speed, curved into the lane to where I knew a defender would be waiting to draw the foul, hopped onto both feet and let the ball float off my fingers, over my imaginary defender’s reach and into the basket.
Lukewarm applause greeted me as I turned to the coach and looked him in the eye.
“Nice job,” Coach said. “See, this is why Matt will likely start every game. I didn’t have to teach him how to execute that move. He just knew it.”
“You’ve trained me well, Coach.” I nodded to him.
“Now let’s see the rest of you guys learn it. Matt, you take the seniors to the other end of the gym and I’ll work with the sophomores and juniors.”
“Thank goodness,” I mumbled under my breath, thankful I didn’t have to teach Brett. I jogged to the other side of the gym along with seven of my closest friends, all of whom treated me with respect.
The rest of practice continued with similar success, until we had to practice spin moves. I understood the move, could execute it perfectly, and got cocky. The defender leaned left to block me, and I spun to the right, catching my own foot in the process and I went down. Hard.
I heard a snap in my ankle and cried out in pain. Dylan was at my side before Coach Davis could make it across the gym and crouched next to me, attempting to help me up by my shoulders. I cringed and cried out again, slumping back to the floor. I pounded my fist on the gym floor willing my eyes not to tear up.
As Coach carefully removed my shoe and sock from my swelling foot, and wrapped the whole ankle in ice, I stared up at the ceiling of the gym in shock. There goes my starting position. There goes my senior year.
Now I understood why Trina had been crying in the hallway.