This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
“You're late,” Pat barked when Jackson emerged from the corridor leading to the locker room.
“I don't give a damn what your excuse is,” Pat cut off the rookie.” Spotting Kelley trotting out of the tunnel, she told her assistant, “Make sure Jackson goes through the exercises she missed.”
Kelley nodded then she motioned to the rookie to move to the far end of the court.
“Five laps around the court,” Pat told the rest of the team. “Full speed,” she added. “Gallagher, with me.” She waited for Sherry to join her. “I wonder how Kelley made out,” she said keeping her tone low.
“By the look on her face, I would guess it didn't go well,” Sherry replied looking down the court to where the other assistant coach was putting the rookie though a series of conditioning exercises. “You could ask her.”
“I'll wait until we can talk away from the team. I don't want Jackson to think I'm overly concerned with it.”
“Okay. I need a drink; you're working our butts off this morning.”
Pat chuckled. “I know.”
“It's going to get worse, isn't it,” Sherry asked the grinning coach.
“Oh, boy,” Sherry sighed then headed for the side of court and her water bottle.
“Grab some liquid,” Pat told the players as they finished their laps. “Then find a seat by Coach Gallagher.” She waited for all the players, except Jackson, to be seated then she walked over to stand in front of her team. “For you rookies,” Pat started, “I'm sure you noticed the intensity of our workouts has increased this morning.” She saw several of the players nodding. “Get use to it. This is our last full week of camp and we have our first pre-season game next week. From here on, we'll spend mornings on getting you in condition to run for the full sixty minutes of a game. Afternoons will be spent working on plays and scrimmages. If you haven't gotten the message by now, let me make two things very clear to you… One, the Cougars are a running team. We are faster than almost every other team in the league and we use that to our advantage. If you can't run for a full game, you will find yourself on the bench. And I don't have much use for bench warmers. And, two, our goal this season is to keep the championship trophy in our house.” She paused while Jackson, panting heavily, joined the rest of the team. “Nice of you to join us,” she told the rookie. “Okay, where was I before being interrupted by our late arrival… oh, yes, our goal. Any player who isn't one hundred percent focused on winning will find themselves off the team. We have reserve players for a reason, so don't think you're safe just because you signed a contract,” she said staring directly at Jackson. “Got it?”
“Got it, Coach,” came the instant response from the players including the troublesome rookie.
“One more thing… if you suffer an injury, no matter how minor you think it is, I expect you to report it to the coaching staff. Don't try to hide an injury; you only hurt your teammates if you do. Okay, back on the court,” she ordered the players. “Stretch out along mid-court, ten wind sprints.” She watched Jackson follow the other players. Not waiting for the rookie to reach mid-court, she blew her whistle to put the players into motion.
“You plan to run her to death?” Kelley asked after joining Pat.
“Don't give me any ideas,” Pat answered glancing up at the clock on the arena wall. “We have an hour to lunch break. Alternate wind sprints with conditioning exercises until then. And work them hard.”
“You going somewhere?” Kelley asked surprised to have the practice session turned over to her solely.
“I'm going to be a player for the next hour,” Pat informed her assistant.
“Hard, uh,” Kelley murmured watching Pat run to mid-court to join the team in wind sprints. Smiling, she walked to the end of the court raising her whistle to her lips.
After lunch, the team had been split into two squads; both made up of rookies and veterans. Sherry was working with one squad at one end of the court while Kelley worked with the second squad at the other end of the court. Pat was sitting high in the stands where she could observe the action of both squads.
“Hudson, what are you doing?” Sherry barked at the rookie. “You're the point guard, you've got to get the ball down court.”
Frustrated, the rookie slammed the ball to the floor. “I know, Coach,” the rookie snapped. “But every time I try to do anything, Pete is already there.”
Sherry walked over to the rookie. “Stop waiting to see what Pete is going to do,” she told the rookie harshly. “She should be reacting to what you do. Instead, you're reacting to her. You've got to be thinking… From the moment the whistle blows, you've got to be thinking of possibilities— if I go this way, what will Pete do; if I go that way, what are her options— Playing point guard is more than just bringing the ball down court. The team depends on you to see all the possibilities and to decide the best course to get the ball into the basket. Do you understand what I'm telling you?” When the rookie nodded, she continued. “Think, think, think. You've got to be thinking three steps ahead all of the time. Let's run it again,” she said moving away from the rookie.
“Hey,” Pete said smiling at the rookie when Hudson took a position at mid court. “Stop thinking of me as a player who can whip your ass,” Pete told her. “I'm just another player on the court that you need to get around. Worry about what you're going to do and make me chase you.”
“Easier said than done,” Hudson muttered.
Pete shook her head. “What you need is a big dose of confidence, Hudson. You've got the skills, you just don't believe in yourself,” she told the rookie then backed off a few feet to wait for the play to start.
Waiting for Sherry to blow her whistle, Hudson dribbled the ball in place and thought about Pete's comment.
Sherry blew a short blast.
Hudson started up court. She made a quick cut to the right only to find Pete blocking her. She backed up then attempted a cut to the left. Again, her progress was blocked.”
Sherry stopped play. “Hudson, why are you walking?” she asked trotting up to the player and slapping the ball out of her hands. “Let's try this again,” she said taking Hudson's position. “Ready?” she asked Pete who nodded. “Go!” Dribbling, she took off down the court. When the veteran player tried to move in front of her, she executed a full spin and charged past her.
“Dammit, I should have seen that coming,” Pete grumbled chasing after Sherry.
Sherry continued to the top of the key where Val and Stacy moved to double team her. Seeing Killen unguarded at the bottom of the key, she snapped a bounce pass between her defenders to her teammate.
Killen completed the play with an easy three foot jump shot.
“Nice pass, Coach,” Val told a grinning Sherry.
The players looked up into the stands where Pat was sitting.
“You ever let a pass go between you like that again, I'll bench your asses.”
“Yes, Coach,” the players shouted back in unison.
“I still say it was a nice pass,” Val said once her back was turned toward Pat.
“I heard that,” Pat called down to the player.
“Back into positions,” Sherry told the players. “Hudson, try it again.”
“Ugh,” Sherry grunted dropping down into one of the chairs in front of Pat's desk.
“You can say that again,” Kelley said collapsing into the other chair.
“Gee, and it's only Monday,” Pat muttered sitting behind her desk. “What have we got?”
“Could we start with the elephant in the room?” Sherry asked.
“Jackson?” Kelley asked.
Kelley slumped against the back of the chair. “I don't get her. I told her she was being an idiot. I told her Mac was not happy. I told her you two weren't happy. But she just keeps up that cocky demeanor.”
“Did she sign?” Pat asked.
“Yes. In fact, when I told what would happen if she refused to sign it, that was the only time I saw any real emotion from her.”
“Oh?” Sherry asked.
“Yeah. She sort of looked scared.”
“Really,” Pat said.
“But it was only for a fraction of a second. Then she was right back to her usual attitude.”
“At least she signed it,” Pat said. “That gives Mac an out to cut her if she decides to. Okay, enough about Jackson… any comments from today's practice?”
“Hudson,” Sherry said shaking her head. “I don't know what to do with the kid. She has all the tools but she's just…”
“Scared,” Pat offered. “She's afraid of making a mistake. Find a different way to approach her.”
“All right,” Sherry responded. “Any suggestions?”
“If I knew, I wouldn't be telling you to figure it out,” Pat answered glumly. “Kelley?”
“I'll let you know if I think of anything,” she said referring to Sherry's question.
“What about the practice?” Pat asked to redirect her assistant's thoughts.
“Dimchek sure looks good, she just keeps improving.”
“Stacy was moving better today. Lizzie says her knee is almost one hundred percent.”
“That's good,” Pat commented picking up a sheet of paper on her desk.
“Injury report?” Sherry asked.
“Yes. So far, Stacy is the only one with a problem.”
“There's going to be a lot of sore muscles after today,” Kelley noted.
“They better get used to it,” Pat said writing a notation on the report then placing it into a folder in her desk drawer. “You will be running the morning workouts all week, Kelley. I need the conditioning as much as everyone else.”
“Shall we call it a day?” Pat asked. Sherry and Kelley nodded. “Good.”
Kelley stood. “I'll see you in the morning.”
“Good night, Kelley,” Sherry said. “Sheesh,” she sighed after Kelley left the room.
“Exhausted. What about you?”
Pat leaned back in her chair. “The thought of going home and sitting in the hot tub for a few hours sounds pretty good.”
“I'm with you on that.”
Pete was tying the laces on her street shoes when Jackson came out of the shower room and sat in the chair fronting a locker several feet down the row.
“Anyone but me think these chairs are impractical?” Jackson asked of the leather chairs bolted in place in front of the rows of lockers.
“Just about all of us,” Pete answered. “Mac put them in thinking she was being nice.”
“She was wrong,” Jackson grumbled struggling to balance on the edge of the chair and reach her locker.
“You ever in a good mood?” she asked the sullen rookie.
“What's it to ya?” Jackson shot back.
“Just trying to be friendly.”
Jackson glared at the veteran point guard. “Seems to me, this team isn't too fond of friendly players.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
Jackson shrugged, turned to her locker and opened the door. “Few times I've tried to be friendly to Sherry, I've got my head chopped off,” she said off-handedly.
Pete glanced at the rookie. “What are you talking about? And she's Coach Gallagher to you.”
“Forget it,” Jackson muttered retrieving a fresh set of clothes from her locker.
Pete considered the rookie's comments. “I don't think I want to,” she said after several minutes.
“What do you care?”
“Sherry is a friend… and one of the nicest people I know. So, what's your beef with her?”
Maintaining her silence, Jackson stood up and began dressing.
Pete shut her locker then moved down the row to stand beside Jackson's. “I don't know what your problem is but don't mess with Sherry.”
“Or?” Jackson asked antagonistically.
Pete smiled at the rookie then she leaned down to be nose-to-nose with her. “You mess with her… you mess with all of us; and you don't want that,” she said, pronouncing each word very deliberately then straightening up.
Jackson waited until Pete walked away before slamming her locker door shut. “Geez,” she muttered, “it's not like I asked her out on a date.” She stood up and smiled. “Yet,” she whispered into the empty room.
To Be Continued...
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