Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Tryout Story, Day 1, Session 1

The day had finally arrived.  I literally had been dreaming about an opportunity to play professional basketball my entire life. Not just deaming though, but searching out opportunities to make it happen.  Now I found myself, on my 30th birthday, driving down I-77 South heading towards a high school gynamisum to try out for the Canton Charge.  An NBDL team owned by the very company I work for.

r_jv_1019_charge_coach5602.jpgThe ride down I found myself thinking about a day that I spent at Springside, the fitness club in Akron I frequented during my younger days.  I trained there often and played in 5 on 5 games with a bunch of older guys who would come on their lunch break.  Good games and sometimes a former NBA player would even stop by when it was the offseason.  Jimmy Oliver.  He played for the Cavaliers and Celtics, but more notably became a star overseas.  He was about 6'7, strong, and had a tremendous jumpshot.  He had the opportunity to earn a great living for his family playing for several different teams in Europe.  Jimmy is a great guy.  He befriended me and would stay after to help me work on my game.  I would always take the challenge of guarding him in the games because I knew it would only make me better.  He was a beast but I loved mixing it up with him.  On one particular day he said something to me that would stick with me.  "You should be playing overseas.  Get an agent and take a shot."  I didn't do it, obviously, but I didn't forget it either.

So I arrived at Canton McKinley High School at 8am.  Tryouts were to begin at 9:00am but they needed an hour to get everyone registered.  Ricky Garratt, my man from the Q box office was running the registration table, along with James Williams who is the director of player personnel for the Charge.  I stepped into the building and saw far more guys than I had expected.  Looked to be at least 50 or 60, which eventually turned out to be over 70.  Everyone was standing around nervously waiting to be registered.  A lot of guys much bigger than I.  In fact I may have been the smallest overall, and one of the few white guys. There were some issues with the internet so we were all forced to wait.  We walked down to the court and everyone spread out and most of the guys sat down.  It was early.  Basketball players are used to getting up early for workouts, but I think we all tend to be mostly night owls.  There were some tired faces and lots of yawning.

I used the delay as an opportunity to start stretching out my 30 year old body.  I brought an elastic band and my new shoes had barely been broken in.  So every additional minute was important for me to get my body loose and get a sweat going.  Most of these guys were much younger than I was so they probably could jump on the court and start playing.  As I could when I was 22, but if I attempted that now I'd be in the hospital within 10 minutes.

Finally the internet started working and we could get everyone registered and signed in.  Wes Wilcox is the GM for the team and he brought us in for a little talk.  He introduced Ira Newble (former Cavalier) and James Williams as guys who would be helping out during the weekend.  Alex Jensen, the newly named head coach, would be joining later.  He said we'd be doing some conditioning, running a few basic drills but mostly playing throughout the weekend so they could get as much time evaluating as possible.  They passed out our NBDL Canton Charge jerseys and we were broken into teams of 9-10 players.  It was about 9:00am and the experience was about to begin.  There were a million emotions going through my mind and body but probably different than what you expect.  I wasn't nervous, instead I was excited and the adrenaline was coursing through my veins.  I wasn't overwhelmed or intimidated by the mostly 6'4 - 6'8 guys around me that had played Division I basketball or already had played professional.  I was motivated and determined to be noticed amongst these guys that most likely already had a reputation with our evaluators.  The first drill would be three man weave.  One of my favorites.  Three lines with the ball starting in the middle.  Pass to your right or left as everyone sprints down the court.  Passer runs behind the guy he passed to and last pass should to a guy at the opposite end of the court for a layup.  We divided into three lines under the basket and Ira explained what he wanted.....Here we go.  At this point all I could think about was that there was not one guy in this gym that was going to leave more out on this court than me.  I was ready to bleed, sweat, puke, run, dive, and whatever else it was going to take to be noticed.  I took my spot in the left line because I knew I could showcase my speed.  The first drill began, picture is below, you can just see me waiting for my turn. Everything I am, everything I want to be....let's go...The next two days would be one of the greatest challenges of my life.

The first drills were smooth.  I got loose and the three man weave was just as natural as it had been when we ran it in high school and college.  Up and down we went and I felt amazing.  Feet and legs were holding up and my conditioning was strong.  We broke into a 5-man weave and it was more of the same.  Gave me a chance to use my speed and lead my groups by communicating, which is key to making sure the weave is done correctly.  Ball should never touch the floor. 

After that we broke into some three on two, two on one drills.  Up and down the floor to first test our decision making in the fast break scenario, and then how we would do in a compromised defensive position.  2 on 1 fast break.  On an island by myself.  The first drill I found myself on the defensive side of the 2 on 1.  Two guys spring down the sides, both 6'4 or bigger.  Defense.  My bread and butter back in the day.  pass went from my left to right and the big guy ended up with ball and went up for a dunk. But he never got the chance, I stripped the ball away.  Nice little confidence booster.

Ok so things were going fairly well to this point.  We broke off from the drills and Wes brought us in.  He wanted us to run through one conditioning drill to see who had truly prepared themselves for this. He called it "The Easy Run".  A conditioning drill that the Cavaliers use constantly to keep the team in the best shape possible.  Up the length of the floor in a light jog with the hands raised all the way in the air.  Defensive slide to the right, then backwards shuffle back with hands in the air.  It was one long line, no breaks, repeating for 15 minutes straight.  Way tougher than it sounds. First the arms and shoulders go, then the legs start.  I loved it.

This was the first time you could really start to separate the men from the boys.  Some dropped out and couldn't finish, others laborerd their way through.  Either way it was now time to play 5 on 5 live basketball.  No play calls, just hoops.  He broke us into 10 teams of about 8-10 players each.  We played 12 minute games and would sub in one time.  I started at the 2-guard position with my team.  Everything was going well.  A hit a jumper and I was playing the kind defense that I used to drive offensive players with.  Up in your face from one end to the other.  We were well as a team and winning our game when it hit.  Out of nowhere my legs got heavy.  Like 50 lb sand bags were suddenly dumped on my shoulders.  I committed a couple bad turnovers right before our group subbed out.  We went on to win the game but I was a little disappointed that my legs gave out on me.  My Plantar was definitely acting up and I think it really hurt me as I was compensating with my left side.  But I think I may have overdone it on Friday morning playing three hours and then lifting in the afternoon.  It was definitely more fatigue then not being in good enough shape.  Pissed me off because I could have performed better in the games.

So that was about it for the first session.  It was about 12:30pm by this time.  I'd give myself a B- based on my overall performance. Good effort and intensity, but the afternoon session needed to be better.  It was time to get back to my parents house to refuel, regroup physically and mentally.  Maybe even a little nap.  I called my dad on the way back and he offered a little advice. Just go out there and play, have fun and enjoy it.  Good advice, but I could enjoy it later.  All I could think at that moment is how I could improve when I had to report back at 3:45pm for session II of the day.

I enjoyed a bowl of pasta, a banana and a ton of water to get some calories in my body.  Then I took a quick shower and then laid on the couch with the TV on.  Slowly my eyes closed....

To Be Continued....

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