By Andy Burress
Here at the University of Kentucky, basketball is everything. Check that. In Kentucky, basketball is everything.
Kids wear jerseys and shout their favorite players’ names, dads fill basements with endless amounts of memorabilia and moms, well, moms put up with it all.
This year, when it was announced there were to be open tryouts for a walk-on position with University of Kentucky men’s basketball team, I felt it was my duty to give it a shot. A chance like this is rare.
60 guys, two nights, one position.
From the start, I knew I was in over my head. And if I didn’t think so beforehand, the dress of a jersey they assigned me was a hell of a hint.
Looking down over the rail onto the court below, I could see the rest of the guys warming up, and I was absolutely terrified. Not only were they nailing shots, but they were also going one-on-one with ghost defenders. Who does that? (Certainly not the guys from my church league.)
After 15 minutes of rebounding for everyone else (still not sure how that happened) it was time to get the ball rolling. Tony Delk, my all-time favorite, was there to lead the way. No pressure.
I feel like now is probably a good time to point out that running has never been my thing. I don’t know if my body just chooses to say “no” in times of duress, or if maybe I simply don’t have a “turbo” option.
Regardless, by the end of warm-ups I had already done all the running I cared to do for one day. It was tough. We jogged, ran, jumped and slid. We even did some overlapping dance move called a “karaoke.”
By the time we’d finished with the basics I really felt like I’d accomplished something. The competition was neck and neck, and my name was still up for consideration. That is, until the first real drill started.
By the grace of God, I was sent to the shooting station first – the one thing that would warrant my actually being there. Not tonight.
This was no ordinary shooting drill. Throw aside the fact that we were on the hustle the entire time, we were still cutting and weaving like someone was chasing us. Should someone miss a shot, he would have to chase the ball down and get it back in circulation before it interrupted the flow.
Now imagine that instead of missing one shot, said person actually misses around 15 shots. What you’re eventually left with is someone blindly running in circles while everyone else practiced.
There was absolutely no chance my consecutive misses would go unnoticed. I knew the only way to stay on the positive was to start ripping down some boards.
This meant unnecessary jumping, one-handed snags – maybe a snarl or two.
All enthusiasm was lost within three minutes. My breathing had turned to panting, and by this point the shots weren’t even close. I’m not even going to think about what my rebounding had turned into.
Nearly dead, with hands on knees, I contemplated giving up. I was spent.
Our next drill was all about fast breaks and continued weaving. Or at least that’s how I understood it. By this point I was sick, confused and by most standards, completely disoriented.
I had every intention of doing my best but knew better than to risk the others’ chances.
Physically defeated, I turned to the coach and explained my situation. (The one where I lay down and nap, or else.) My dreams were done for, but at least I’d given it a shot.
I tried out for the University of Kentucky basketball team.
I lasted 28 minutes.
Andy is a intergrated strategic communications senior. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.