Monday, October 24, 2011

Tryout Part II, Final Piece

On Saturday, after the first session I woke up at about 2pm after a very brief nap on the couch in my mom and dads living room.  The couch has always been my spot, in fact you can often times find me sleeping on mine in my living room.  I don't know what it is, but I can sleep on the couch just as easily as on a bed, and often times I prefer it.

It was literally the perfect nap.  I slept for the perfect amount of time that allowed me to wake up re energized.  So many times you can doze off and when you wake up from a nap you're actually more tired then you were before.  That would have been a disaster in this case.  I took a quick shower to fully wash away the remnants of my snooze and put on my favorite Nike basketball shorts for what I thought would be another 2 hours of intense 5 on 5.  I cleaned my shoes up as I always did before my games, packed up the rest of my gear and headed out the door at about 2:45.

I arrived back at the gym in Canton at about 3:15.  I was early as we were not scheduled to begin until 3:45.  Some of the out-of-towners were laying on the floor sleeping on their gym bags and using their sweatshirts as blankets.  It was pretty amazing actually.  What some of us were going through to chase our dreams, but I can tell you that it was intoxicating to be in that environment again.  I used the extra time to once again stretch out my legs and get as loose as I could.  I wanted to be ready to go as soon as I heard the whistle.  Slowly everyone started filtering back in, but not everyone.  There were clearly some folks that did not return, or maybe were told not to.  I'm not sure which but pretty hard to imagine considering there was an entry fee of $150 to just be there.

Coach Jensen arrived and introduced himself at the beginning of the session.  He had just been named the head coach a few days earlier and flew into town that morning.  He played at Utah with Andre Miller and was an assistant coach under Rick Majerus.  Huge guy, good basketball player.  Played in the states and overseas professionally and had experienced some of the things we were going through having been through tryouts himself as a player.  I was amped up at this point and itching to get going.  We started the 2nd session with more weave drills to get warmed up but then moved into some shell drills.  They broke us up and had us run through some offensive sets.  Fist Up, Fist Out and Flop were the calls and we were to use them in the upcoming games we would play.  I was a kid in a candy store at this point and was eating the whole thing up.  The point guard spot is my natural position so I loved getting some sets in and being able to run an offense.  Direct the guys around and be a leader.  I WAS BORN TO DO THIS!

Then we played for about an hour straight and it would prove to be the best I felt and played all weekend. The trainer had taped up my my foot and it was feeling really good.  I was getting after it on defense chasing guys all over the floor, diving for loose balls and hawking the opposing guards.  My legs were literally covered with floor burns and my arms had scrapes all over them.  It was amazing and I loved every second of it.  I was rebounding, playing great help defense and I buried the only jump shot I would take.  I felt comfortable and confident the entire session.  We wrapped up at about 5:30 as the other half of the tryout was going to start the second session. Wes, Coach and Ira brought us in to talk.  As I walked to the huddle Wes (The GM) grabbed me and asked if I could stay and play in the night session too.  I was the only guy he asked out of the 40 or so in my session so I figured it had to be a good sign.  I was completely exhausted, beat up and mentally drained at this point but I sure as hell wasn't going to tell Wes that.  I said  yes I can definitely stay, whatever you need me to do I'm in.  There was a team in the night session who needed a guard so I jumped on to "Team 3".  Two more unexpected hours were ahead and I had no idea how my body was going to handle it.

The night session lasted until about 7:45 and we pretty much just played.  IT WAS AWFUL.  My body completely gave out on me.  After I subbed out of my first game I threw up in the trash can and in the towel I was carrying around.  I couldn't stop coughing for about 20 minutes and there wasn't enough water in the Atlantic Ocean to rehydrate my drained body.  I couldn't dribble, I couldn't defend, I could barely get up and down the floor.  I don't know if I have ever subbed myself out of a sporting event in my life but I had absolutely no choice.  Betty White could have scored on me at that point and I didn't want to puke on the floor.  I literally thought I was going to pass out. 

The competition was much stiffer in the 2nd session so I was giving it everything I had, but unfortunately I just had nothing left to give.  It was really disappointing that my body prevented me from performing the way I know I could have, but I was simply exhausted.  Plain and simple.  Four hours later my afternoon session finally ended mercilessly and I collapsed in a heap on the floor by my bag. It took me about 20 minutes just to get my body to a point where I could stand up and drive my car home.  I dragged my butt to the car and made the 25 minute drive back to mom and dads.  Session #3 would begin at 8am in the morning.  All I could think about was getting home to eat about a 1,000 calories of anything that I could find and immediately lie down to sleep.

I got home, ate my dinner, showered and flopped down on the couch.  I tried to watch the Ohio State game but I had recorded the wrong game.  OSU, it turns out, can also stand for Oklahoma State University.  FAIL.  As I'm sure you can imagine it did not take me long to fall asleep, but it would not be the night of rest I hoped for.  I hurt all over and I just tossed and turned the entire night.  I ended up getting maybe three hours of sleep, maybe.  6:30am came quickly.

I woke up and wondered how painful those first two steps would be, and how sore my legs would feel.  It was not good.  Took me about a minute just to climb the 10 steps to get upstairs.  I shook off the early morning daze and got myself in the shower.  I ate a banana and drank a 12 oz bottle of water to get hydrated.  I was definitely sore and beat up, but overall I felt fairly strong.  Today was going to be a good day.  We had one session and it was mostly just playing.  Short session.

I left at 7:15am and arrived in Canton at 7:45am.  My radio was blasting the entire way with music that gets me pumped up.  I can't reveal my song selections, but I can tell you that I was getting goosebumps on the way down.  What if they actually pulled me aside and told me I was going to get invited to camp?  What the hell was I going to do about my job that I just got promoted at?  Decisions that would have to be made later.  Now I just needed to make one last impression.

The last session literally flew by and I played very well.  Even more guys didn't show up but those weren't the guys I needed to worry about anyway.  My legs came back and I was able to get back to what I do best.  Defend and run the offense.  My team won every game we played on Sunday which ended up being four games of 12 minutes running clock.  Other then our warm-up all we did in the final session was get after it in live scrimmages.  Once again I ran myself into the ground and left every ounce of energy I had out on the floor. In the back of my mind I was thinking this could be the last time I play a meaningful game of hoops in my life.  If you know me at all you know how difficult a realization this was, but all I could control was playing the way I've played the game of basketball my entire life.  So that is what I did.  Our session ended at about 10:00 and I walked off the floor.  Wes brought us in and said that they would get in touch with our agents or with us directly if they had an interest.  He thanked us for the weekend and said it was one of the most talented tryouts he had ever been a part of. 

And so it was over.  I did my best, left some skin on the floor and could go home knowing I did everything I could.  I would say it was very unlikely that this 5'10, 30 year old white guy was what they were looking for, but I'm confident that I at least made an impression.  If I don't make the cut I could always say I tried out for a professional basketball team on my 30th birthday, and held my own with some of the best basketball players in the country.  It was an incredible feeling and amazing experience from start to finish, something I will surely never forget.  I sent an email to all the guys running the tryout to say thank you, and I really meant that.  At this point I was not that concerned with the result.  I'm pretty happy with my life and I've got a great career.  But I truly was thankful for having a chance to go through this experience, and that I didn't give up, I didn't quit, and I competed.  Nobody could ever take that away.

So I'm sure you are wondering what happened, and if I ever got that call.  Well no, I haven't received a phone call yet.  They've only signed two players that we know of and none yet from the tryout.  I told Wes that even if they have no interest in me to play on the team, I'd be more than happy to come down and practice with the team and beat up his players a little bit.  They only carry 10 guys on the roster so they will need some practice players to give the guys some reps. 

Well I guess that is pretty much it for the story of my tryout.  I hope you enjoyed the read and thanks for following along.  All the support from friends and family was incredible.  Back to reality, for now......


Darin said...

Thanks for the story. I've been checking the page every day since last Wed, waiting for the next post. Congrats on living out a dream.

MrsFallis said...

You are amazing. Very proud to be your friend crazy man!

Anonymous said...

I am very proud of you "little brother"


Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!! That was an awesome read Jeff. Thanks for taking us along for the ride. As you know, I appreciate but know next to NOTHING about basketball but I loved every minute of living vicariously through your experience. I give you big respect for pushing your mind, body and spirit to its limits!

Now if you will excuse me , I have to go practice my high kicks. I'm gonna try out for the NYC Rockettes!!!