By Adam Button
As I watch all of Ryerson’s prospective men’s basketball players run on the spot on the baseline of the Kerr Hall gym, I can’t help but feel a little responsible for their misery.
Assistant coach Patrick Williams is punishing the team for missing layups. We’re all being punished, even though not everyone missed the shots.
The drill was simple: dribble down the court with your left hand and hit a left-handed layup. After three misses everyone does a round of Williams’ excruciating running exercises. I’m the guy who missed all three layups. Like I said, I feel a little responsible.
When we finally finish the running and prepare to resume the drill, one player shouts at me, “come on, it’s just a fucking layup.”
Basketball was never my sport.
After a season of riding the pine in grade nine, I decided to concentrate on less height-discriminating sports. My basketball career rebounded when I came to Ryerson and realized that pick-up basketball was the only way to exercise at the RAC without getting on a treadmill.
Men’s head coach Terry Haggerty gave me a handout at the first team meeting that read: “The following gym time has been reserved for the men’s basketball team to scrimmage.”
Little did I know Haggerty’s definition of a scrimmage was much different than mine. His was a full-blown, hard-running, backbreaking, shirt-soaking, body-exhausting tryout.
When I arrived in the Kerr Hall gym Williams greeted me: “You’re late. Normally I would make you do sprints, but I’ll let you off.”
Williams found plenty of other ways to make me run. After a warm-up he started his favourite drill: left-handed layups. It’s the perfect drill for a tryout because it automatically exposes players like me who have weak fundamentals.
Williams’ favourite drill is always accompanied by his favourite saying: “I don’t cut you, you cut yourselves. If you can’t do the drill, don’t make everyone else run.
The real tryouts (and cuts) started just after my swim team tryout ended with me puking and abandoning my swim team dreams.
When I looked around the Kerr Hall gym, I noticed that I was the only one wearing shorts that ended above the knees.
Still, I thought I wouldn’t be that out of place. In pick-up games at the RAC I win more games than I lose.
It was a different story playing against varsity athletes. In one drill, I was matched up against six-foot-nine centre Jon Reid. When Reid dribbles against the guys on the team they take the ball nearly every time because the ball bounces so high. Of course, he dribbled circles around me.
Guard Errol Fraser was in perfect control of the ball as he slipped it back and forth through his legs.
A good athlete can learn to dribble and look flashy in a week. But it takes years to get to the point where an athlete can anticipate exactly where the ball is going to hit his hand.
Before the end of the tryout I miss a few more left-handed layups and force the team to endure a few more sprints. I figure I better quit because some real players might get injured from all the running I was forcing them to do.
But, before I quit I wanted to find out if Haggerty thought I was any good. “What do you think of my game?” I asked him.
“Come to the next tryout,” Haggerty said, avoiding the question.
“Oh, come on,” I replied, putting him on the spot, “What did you think?”
Haggerty started to stutter, his pupils dilating as he searched for something positive to say.
“Um … you’ve got a lot of hustle,” he finally said.
“Gee, thanks coach.”
All in all it was a rough morning: cut from two varsity teams on the same day, all before 10 a.m.
When I came back to the gym two days later I walked into basketball bizarre world. I was the tallest athlete on the court for a change.
Next week read about Button’s badminton tryouts.