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
Kelley stood near the side of the court watching the rookies run through a play. Frowning, she blew a sharp blast on her whistle. “Jackson, you can't let your player take such an open shot.”
“She hasn't made a shot from out there all camp,” the rookie countered to excuse not guarding her opposing player more closely.
Walking across the court toward the rookie, Kelley silently counted to ten. “And if the game was down to the last seconds and we were trying to protect a one point lead and she got lucky, what then?” she asked glaring at the obstinate rookie.
“Okay,” Jackson muttered. “I get it.”
“You better,” Kelley told the rookie. “Because the next time you let someone have that much room, you can sit the rest of the day.” Kelley started to backpedal back to her original position. “Run it again.”
While Kelley worked with the post players and forwards, Sherry and Pat were working with the guards.
“Take the shot,” Sherry shouted when Hudson broke free of her defender then groaned when the rookie's jump shot bounced off the front of the rim. “Positions,” she called to the players.
As the rest of the players returned to their starting positions, Pete chased down the ball and passed it to Pat standing beyond the line at the end of the court. Pat slapped the ball to put the players into motion. She faked a pass to Wendy then, without moving her head to look, she fired the ball to Wilson on the opposite side of the key.
Wilson caught the pass on the run, scooted around Amie who was slow to move with her. She passed the ball back to Pat who bounced into the air and easily dropped a six foot jump shot into the basket.
“Nice move,” Pat praised the rookie. “Amie, move your feet next time,” she scolded the veteran player. “Okay, let's take ten minutes,” she told the players before walking over to where Sherry stood. “What's with Hudson?” she asked her assistant coach. “That was the fifth time she blew an open shot.”
Sherry grimaced. “I'm not sure. One minute she's shooting the hell out of the basket and the next… it's like the old saying, she can't hit the broad side of a barn,” she muttered walking toward the row of seats where they had left their water bottles.
Pat grabbed her bottle before dropping into one of the seats. “Maybe we should just cut her and be done with it.”
Sherry dropped into the adjoining seat. “I don't want to do that.”
“There are less than two weeks of camp left and we've still got too many rookies. We have to get down to what we carry on the roster.”
“I know. But I like Hudson. I want to give her time to work through whatever the problem is.”
Pat took a swallow of water. “We don't have the time.”
Sherry glanced at the player in question. Hudson was on the floor taking shots at the basket and making about one out of every three attempts. “Give me the rest of the week,” she requested turning back to the head coach.
Pat was also watching the rookie. “Okay,” she said standing. “But she's got to start hitting the basket,” she instructed before turning to trot down to the other end of the court and Kelley.
Sherry slumped back into the seat. “And how can I make her do that?” she asked herself.
“Having fun yet?” Pat asked Kelley.
Kelley gave her a wry grin. “You bet, Coach.”
“You still want to keep Jackson?”
“Okay, then let's see what she's really capable of,” Pat told her assistant then turned to face the court. She waited for the play to conclude then called to the veteran player working opposite Jackson. “Latesha, take a break.”
“Oh, great,” Jackson grumbled when the coach ran to take Latesha's position.
Pat stopped in front of the rookie. “You have the rest of the week to show me that you can play for this team. I strongly suggest you don't waste my time.”
Kelley blew her whistle. “Positions,” she shouted.
Dimchek dribbled the ball to the end line then turned to face the floor. Pat and Ashley, a veteran post player, took positions even with the free throw line and approximately twenty feet apart. Rookie Grindley guarded Terry, the other veteran post player on the floor. Jackson shuffled into position between Pat and the end of the court.
Dimchek slapped the ball. Pat threw a head fake to the right. Jackson bought the fake and moved with it. Pat took a stutter step to the right then abruptly changed direction to run toward Dimchek and caught her inbound pass at a full run. She continued charging to the basket, laying the ball up to kiss the backboard. Jackson ran up just as the ball dropped through the basket.
“Not very good defense,” Pat commented catching the ball and tossing it back to Dimchek.
The play was run again with the inbound pass being thrown to Terry. Grindley was guarding her closely and preventing her from moving toward the basket.
Pat ran toward Terry who passed off to her. She began to dribble but Jackson managed to stay between her and the basket. She passed back to Terry who had managed to break free from Grindley.
Jackson stayed on Pat leaving Terry free to take an open twelve foot jump shot that dropped cleanly through the hoop.
Kelley blew her whistle. “You blew the coverage, Jackson.”
“I was guarding Coach,” Jackson protested.
“Your teammate got beat,” Kelley countered. “You're supposed to help out.”
Dimchek retrieved the ball while Pat ran back to her starting position. Jackson just managed to get back into position before Dimchek set the players into motion again.
Pat threw a head fake but Jackson refused to follow it. She then spun to her left intending to open enough of a gap between herself and her defender to accept a pass. But Jackson, determined not to be beat again, slid over and blocked her.
Dimchek passed to Terry.
Pat ran toward her teammate then abruptly changed directions to angle toward the basket. Terry fired a pass to her. Grabbing the ball, Pat twisted to square up to the basket only to find Jackson standing defiantly in front of her. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Terry racing toward the basket a few feet from her. Grindley was trailing Terry by a step. Pat flipped the ball to Terry.
Anticipating the pass, Jackson shifted and stretched out a long arm. She just managed to get her outstretched fingers on the ball, diverting it away from Terry and toward Grindley who plucked it out of the air.
Kelley blew her whistle. “Nice play, Jackson.”
The rookie smiled smugly at Pat.
“Let's see if you can do it again,” Pat challenged before trotting back to her starting point.
Sherry stood watching the guards run through plays but her focus was on the rookie Hudson. Pete was working against Hudson and Sherry was amused to see that, even though Pete had played many years at the professional level, the rookie was giving her a good work out. But she wasn't amused at all to see Hudson continue to miss many of her shots.
“What can I do?” she asked herself again. Then she suddenly remembered a time she was having a similar problem. After taking a hard hit that had resulted in a concussion, she had found it hard to take a shot whenever she was closely guarded. She smiled remembering the way Pat had helped her get past the problem.
Sherry had been doing her self-imposed free throw practice.
“You have a few minutes?” Pat had asked when the rookie had finished her shots and started for the locker room. “Or do you have to get someplace?”
Sherry shook her head. “No. I'm okay.”
“Good. Thought we might talk.” She reached out, tapping the ball out of Sherry's hands. She let it bounce once before catching it on the rebound. Then, barely glancing at the basket she released the ball in its direction. They were standing near the sideline but the ball dropped through the center of the basket barely disturbing the net. “We all go through spells where we're afraid to trust our instincts,” she said as she walked to retrieve the ball then passed it to Sherry.
Without thinking Sherry caught the pass and duplicated Pat's shot.
“My junior year in high school a player from another school took my legs out from under me on a lay-up. I landed on my head.” Pat took a couple of steps into the key before popping up in the air for a five-footer. “I spent two days in the hospital with a concussion.”
“Damn.” Sherry caught Pat's pass, took three steps toward the basket and cut left around Pat who was offering a little pressure, before taking a jump shot. “Messed up your shooting?”
“For a few days. I kept hearing footsteps whenever I thought about leaving my feet.”
“How'd you get over it?”
“I forced myself to ignore the footsteps. Won't say I didn't get a scare or two but I bulled my way through them.”
As they exchanged baskets, Pat gradually put more pressure on Sherry, guarding her a little tighter each time she had the ball.
Sherry grunted as she tried a head-fake against her coach. When Pat seemed to fall for the fake, Sherry tried to dribble around her but she found her path blocked again. Instinctively, Sherry feigned left, made another head fake then spun a 360 around Pat leaving her nothing but empty floor to the basket. A quick step before she left her feet and the ball kissed the backboard before dropping into the basket.
“Think you can do that in our next game?” Pat asked.
“I can give it a try.” Sherry grinned. Somehow, without her even realizing it, Pat had put her demons behind her.
Sherry turned to the guards standing at the end line waiting for their turn to play. “Amie, go in,” she told one of the players. “Hudson, over here,” she called to the rookie. “Let's go over there,” she pointed to a temporary basket set up in the corner of the arena. She grabbed a ball off a rack as she led the rookie away from the other players. “How are you adjusting to the contact lenses?” she asked as they walked.
“Okay, I guess.”
“Still having trouble seeing the basket?”
“Um… no, I can see it.”
“So, what's the problem?”
“I'm not sure. I… it's like I don't trust my shot anymore,” Hudson admitted.
“Well, we've got a problem. I want to keep you around but Coach says your shooting has to improve.”
“I'm trying,” Hudson asserted. “I really am.”
“I know. But trying isn't going to keep your name from being erased off the board. Stay here,” Sherry said as she left the rookie to move to a spot under the basket. She turned to face Hudson waiting about fifteen feet out but well within her range. “I'm going to pass you the ball and I want you to shoot it. Understand?”
“Yeah,” Hudson answered with a quizzical look.
Sherry fired the ball at the rookie.
Hudson caught the pass then looked up at the basket. After a moment's hesitation, she put up a jump shot that hit the back of the rim and ricocheted away from the basket.
Sherry chased down the errant ball. “This time, don't think.” she said passing the ball back to the rookie. “Shoot!” she barked as soon as the ball hit the Hudson's hands.
Hudson immediately jumped into the air.
Sherry smiled when the ball dropped through the basket into her waiting hands. She tossed it back to the rookie. “Shoot!”
Again, Hudson executed a perfect jump shot.
After an hour, Sherry caught another made shot. “You did quite well,” she said smiling at the rookie.
“I… uh… I wasn't keeping track.”
“That's okay, I was. That's the best you've shot since training camp started.”
Sherry nodded. “I think it's time you forgot about how things were before you got your eyes checked. You've got contacts now and you don't have that problem any more. You need to stop thinking about what might happen if you take a shot and just trust your can make it.”
Hudson sighed deeply. “I wish it was as easy as you make it sound, Coach.”
“Nothing we do here is easy, Hudson. But if you want to make the roster, you're going to have to change your mindset. Right now, you're spending too much time thinking and not enough time just doing what you know how to do. You're a good player. And, when you give yourself the chance, you're a good shooter. I've got to tell you that the only thing keeping you from making this team is you believing in you… and in your ability to make shots.”
“I… I can make the roster?” Hudson asked in surprise.
Sherry nodded. “You could have a good chance at it. We need a good backup at guard and I like what I see in you… except, of course, for your lack of confidence in your own talent. Unfortunately, that isn't anything I can do much about. I believe in you, Hudson… I just wish you believed in yourself. Now, get back over there and finish practice.”
Slowly a smile developed on the rookie's face. “Thanks, Coach.”
“Don't thank me yet,” Sherry told the rookie seriously. “You still have to prove that you have a place on this team. And you're running out of time to do that.”
After Hudson ran back to join the other guards, Sherry glanced to the far end of the court where Pat was demonstrating a move to the players gathered around her. Let's hope I'm as successful with Hudson as you were with me , she thought.
“Ahhh, this feels great,” Sherry moaning as she settled down into the steamy water in the hot tub.
“Tired?” Pat asked adjusting her position to sit behind her lover. She placed her hands on Sherry's shoulders and began a slow but soothing massage of the knotted muscles under her fingers.
“Oh, right there,” Sherry directed squirming to provide Pat better access to a particularly sore spot. “I'm exhausted,” she finally answered.
“Good thing we only have one day left this week,” Pat noted. “I think we should plan to take it easy over the weekend.”
“I won't argue with that,” Sherry mumbled hanging her head down until her nose almost touched the bubbling water.
“How'd it go with Hudson?” Pat asked her fingers tenderly probing along Sherry's spine.
“Not sure. To be honest, I really wasn't sure how to deal with her.” Sherry straightened then squirmed around to look at Pat. “This coaching stuff is a lot harder than I ever thought. It would have been so easy just to let you erase her name but…”
“You believe in her,” Pat finished.
“I do. I really think she could be a starter in a couple of years.”
“When you get too old to play?” Pat teased.
Sherry splashed water at her grinning lover. “Shame on you,” she scolded turning her back to Pat to encourage her continue her massage. “Remember last year when I had a problem shooting?” she asked after a few moments. “How did you know what to do?”
“I didn't. I sat up in the stands watching you shoot your free throw practice and questioning how the hell I was going to get you over your fear of being knocked down again. Every thing I thought of to tell you, I discarded for being stupid.”
“But you did get me past my fear,” Sherry protested.
“No, not really. I just showed you that you had the smarts to play tight and not get hurt.”
“And that you believed I could get past the fear.”
“I always believed in you… but you needed to believe in you .”
Pat chuckled. “I wouldn't go that far, honey.”
“No, not you.”
Pat's grin changed into a grimace. “Oh, thanks,” she groaned.
Sherry laughed. “Stop it, silly. What I mean is that's exactly what I told Hudson… I believe in her but she needs to believe in herself.”
“Sometimes, that's the best we can do for a player… let her know we have faith in them and, hopefully, that the nudge they need to step up to the next level.”
Sherry leaned back against Pat. She smiled when her lover's hands began a sensual exploration of her sensitive skin. “Damn, that's nice,” she sighed.
Pat bent her head to kiss Sherry's shoulder. “Maybe we should spend the weekend in bed,” she whispered.
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Sherry said twisting her head to allow Pat to claim her waiting lips.
To Be Continued...
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