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King of the Court - 1

by yosh

Chapter 1


Alexander Song, 14, 8th grade, November 14th

Alex wouldn’t say that he particularly likes to lie, or that he has a habit of lying. However, in certain cases, he resolves that he probably would. For example, if anyone, for some unknown reason, asks him how he woke up that morning, he would reply that he woke up with a start, and sat up immediately as if haunted by some terrible dream.

It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

At 6:30 in the morning, Alex woke up cuddling his pillow with a giddy smile on his face.

There is no way that I will divulge this information to anyone. Never. Not in my life.

"Alex," calls a voice from the doorway of the bathroom. He turns to see his sister, already in her uniform, glaring.

"You’ve literally been staring at yourself in the mirror for the past five minutes. Stop daydreaming and get dressed," says his sister.

Alex frowns, "Sheesh, Thea. What are you, my mom?"

The comment solicits a flying hair brush directed at his face.

Since Alex stayed a year, he and his sister, who is three years younger, are now in the same school. Neither of them is overjoyed. His mom, however, seems to like it. After all, for the rest of the year, she’ll only have to go to one school to pick up her children. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise Alex if his mom hopes he would fail his grade two more times so he’d be in the same grade as Thea.

The two siblings get into the car and their mom drives away.

"Basketball tryouts are today, aren’t they?" asks his mom, speeding past a yellow light with inhuman timing. Strange, thinks Alex, my mom is always so groggy in the mornings unless she needs to get past a traffic light. Adults are so weird.

"Yeah," Alex frowns, finishing his bagel. Basketball didn’t bring back good memories. Last year, the team suffered a horrible defeat, against a team that didn’t even play seriously.

"Since Alex is so stupid, he gets to play another year," Thea pouts, tying her straight black hair up, "How’s that fair?"

"Excuse me?" Alex replies, raising his fist threateningly. In truth, he intentionally failed his finals so that he would stay a grade. He’s never told anyone because if his mother found out, she would have a heart attack.

He didn’t have any other options. Alex wasn’t going to let the history of the Marble Creek Middle School basketball team end on such a low note. He wasn’t going to let the history of the Marble Creek Middle School basketball team end. Period.

School is very dull, as usual. Alex’s elective is music, but his only passion is basketball anyway. The core classes like Algebra and English aren’t any better. He doesn’t know any of his classmates in any classes because he stayed a year, and it seems that none of them have any interest in befriending him, either.

After suffering for eight hours, Alex is finally set free. He rushes to the gym immediately.

As he enters, a rush of emotions strikes him at once. As Alex steps onto the perfectly placed hardwood floors, he remembers mopping it with some friends before a practice game. That day, he never got to play, but he got to step on the court nonetheless, even if it was about half an hour before the game started. As he looks up at the basketball hoop, Alex shivers with excitement as he remembers the first shot he made during a practice game. His teammates were cheering, he was crying, his mom in the bleachers was crying, and Thea wasn’t paying attention because she was reading a book. But it was still amazing.

He remembers bringing his little sister to the gym to teach her basketball. It was so long ago. Back when Alex was still a beginner. Thea had an interest, so Alex wanted to show her the ropes. Now, both of them are quite skilled.

Alex inhales, relishing the stale air of the gym. The stinky, uncomfortable air. The broken-AC air. The sweaty, hot air that mostly reminds him of the long, hard hours of running suicides inside the gym, back and forth. If he could stay in this paradise forever, he would.

"Who are you?" asks a voice far to his left. A tall, skinny, white boy with an afro stares at him with contempt. He’s wearing a hoodie and shorts.

"Alex," he replies, "What’s your problem, afro?"

The boy glares at him warningly, "It’s not an afro."

Alex is not convinced, "Uh huh. So who are you, Not An Afro?"

Mr. Not An Afro is not charmed by Alex’s humor, because he does not respond.

A moment later, another two boys come in: a timid-looking, curly-haired white kid, and a taller, more athletic black kid with short braids coming down his head.

"Are you all here to join the basketball team?" Alex asks, as the two of them come in, the question directed to Not An Afro as well.

They all reply with positive answers, and at that moment, the coach walks in. He stares at the two boys who walked in.

"These are the new guys?" Coach Miller asks, unimpressed, "Why are you two so short?"

Alex snickers inwardly, remembering ex-high school basketball Coach Miller’s constant disappointment about the height of middle school players last year. Apparently, he still hasn’t changed his mindset. Coach Miller is 6’5’’, though, so he has a reason to think that everyone else is so short.

"We’ve got a giant over here," Alex points at Not An Afro. Coach turns, and when he sees the tall, skinny boy, he suddenly pauses.

After a moment he bursts out in laughter, making Alex jolt with surprise.

"Chris! What did you do to your hair?" he asks.

Not An Afro frowns, "Got a problem with it?"

"An afro!" Coach starts slapping his leg, which makes Alex cringe. He had no idea that people do that in real life. Plus, Coach Miller and Chris’ overly casual manner seems a bit strange.

"Coach?" Alex taps his coach on the shoulder. When he finally calms down, he looks at Alex.

"Uh, who is this guy?" Alex asks, pointing at Chris.

Coach shrugs, "This is just my little brother. He didn’t play during his last two years, but I’m forcing him to play this year because he’s a heck of a shot."

Alex nods, "And he’s tall. He can play on the inside in defense."

"Uh," Coach pauses, "About that . . ."

Chris walks over to them and says warningly, "I will not now, not ever, play center in any part of the game."

Coach pats Chris on the back, "Chill out, no one’s making you play center."

"Um," the curly-haired boy raises his hand, "Are we going to start tryouts?"

"Let’s introduce ourselves first," says Coach, "My name is Coach Miller, but you can call me Coach Miller. A few of the 'old guard' still call me Coach Miller."

"In other words, you will call me Coach Miller, and nothing else, got it?" he adds, and they laugh.

"Next," says Coach Miller.

"I’m Spencer Brennan," says the boy with braids, "I’ve played a little basketball before, but I’m honestly not that good. I’m in sixth."

"I’m Colin Richards," the curly-haired boy adds quickly afterward, "I’m a point guard and in sixth."

After a moment of staring disdainfully at everyone, Chris finally says, "I’m Chris."

Coach Miller moves his hand in a circular motion toward Chris, prompting him further.

"I’m a shooting guard. So where is everyone else?"

"They’re not here today. It’s just me, Coach, and you guys," Alex replies.

"Wait, then who are you?" asks Spencer.

Alex smiles, and swings his arms out wide, "I’m Alexander Song, captain of the boys’ basketball team."

"We do have a problem, though, Cap," Coach Miller crosses his arms, "All the big guys in your grade are gone. We don’t have anyone who can be a center."

"Well then, what are we going to do?" asks Alex.

Coach Miller shrugs, "We’ll do something about that later-"

A loud, brash voice resonates around the gym, shouting dramatically, "Consider that problem solved!"

All heads turn toward the voice, coming from a short, black boy with a bleached blonde buzz-cut.

"I’m Dwayne Lawrence!" he cries, his fists on his hips, and his chest pumped forward as if someone kicked him in the upper back a little too hard. Alex can practically see the imaginary cape flapping around behind the short boy.

"And I play center!"

. . .

Spencer does a double take. Then he decides to do it again.

Despite his limited knowledge of basketball, he does know one thing: there is always a big guy. Obviously, the term ‘big guy’ refers to a big guy. It’s the position he dreams to play. The tower. The giant. The big guy. The center. With nicknames like that, it’s pretty clear what kind of player one would be.

However, when this self-proclaimed center called Dwayne steps in, stealing the spot that Spencer wants, he feels a spark of jealousy. The others begin to ask Dwayne questions, but he answers them all confidently. Spencer knows that Dwayne feels a passion for the center, too.

But all centers should be able to do something very important.

"Hey Dwayne," Spencer blurts out, without even thinking.

If Dwayne is a center, no matter how short or how tall, there’s got to be one thing he’s good at.

"What do you want?" replies Dwayne.

Spencer doesn’t know too much about basketball, but he did watch a lot, and he knows what centers usually do: rebound. Maybe he isn’t experienced, but he is confident in his ability to jump as high as possible. After all, he’s played many sports before, and quite a few of them valued vertical jumps.

Spencer points at the rim behind him and tries to look intimidating, but instead, he feels a stupid smile crawl onto his face, "I bet you can’t take a rebound from me."

Dwayne doesn’t even hesitate, and returns the smile, "I think I will."

. . .

"Are you going to stop them?" asks Alex, looking at Coach Miller. Coach shrugs.

"I honestly don’t mind," replies Coach, "I’m pretty curious about why Dwayne thinks he can be a center. I mean, he’s got to have some skills to back that declaration."

At that moment, Spencer and Dwayne are underneath the hoop, and Colin has been instructed to miss a shot so they can rebound.

The two of them get ready, both crouching very low. Once Colin takes the shot, Dwayne slams backward into Spencer, pushing back and away from the hoop. Unfortunately, Colin accidentally makes the shot.

They try again, but this time, Spencer is prepared. Colin shoots and Dwayne slams backward again, but this time, Spencer dodges and runs toward the hoop. Unfazed, Dwayne charges forward instead, pushing him out of bounds. When the ball hits the rim and bounces up high, Dwayne gives Spencer one last push and dashes forward to catch the ball out of the air.

"A box-out," says Coach Miller, impressed, "It looks like Dwayne here is a master at it."

Spencer groans, sprawled on the ground, clearly regretting his life decisions.

Afterward Dwayne proudly turns to Coach Miller and grins, "I’m Dwayne Lawrence! And I play center!"

Is this a review?



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646 Reviews

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Sun Mar 26, 2023 7:50 am
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RandomTalks wrote a review...


RandomTalks here with a short review!

I went through the previous part to get a better understanding of this one and I have to say, I was a little surprised by the change of tone and pace in the two chapters. However, what you have established until now is a character deeply passionate about his sport. I love the fact that this is what stands out the most in both the parts - Alex's passion and love for basketball and what that love reveals to us about his personality in little bits and pieces.

In the previous part, we got to see his tenacity and perseverance and the unwavering determination that fueled him and did not allow him to give up, even when the odds were stacked against him. I liked how giving up wasn't even an option he considered - it shows his dedidaction towards his sport and the fact that it is not going to be overcome by a few, albeit repeated failures. In this chapter, we meet him in a different context. Instead of being sad or downcast, we find him bright and determined and ready to try once again. These qualities make him an instantly appealing charater who is not going to sit around and mope but is going to take charge and change the conditions of his own life.

I also liked how you have shown us the dynamics between the different characters. The sibling banter between Thea and Alex is reflective of the easy relationship they share. I was a bit surprised when I realized they were both into the same sport, since that is bound to create some sort of tension between them at times, right? I also liked how you infused personality in the mother's character through short, simple moments. Her secretly wishing Alex would fail so that he would be in the same class as his sister was a particularly hilarious moment that made me smile.

You introduced a lot of characters in this chapter and even though we did not particularly get to spend any significant amount of time with them, they still left an impression. Dwayne's introduction to the team was an interesting addition. His cocky and confident behavior brings a new dynamic to the group and it really makes me curious about how they are going to work as a team in the future.

I was a little confused by Spencer's POV in the middle, especially it did not add anything significant to the story or tell us anything about his character. I didn't really think it was necessary, but since this is a story featuring many characters, it might actually be helpful to have different perspectives.

Overall, this was a good continuation of the story. I love the lightness that your narration exudes and how every interaction in the chapter contributed in us getting to know and like these characters.

Keep writing and have a great day!

~ RandomTalks

yosh says...

Thank you for the review!

yosh says...

OKAY Sorry for the notifs but I am BACC

Here for a detailed reply. Or . . . review review?

I also liked how you have shown us the dynamics between the different characters. The sibling banter between Thea and Alex is reflective of the easy relationship they share. I was a bit surprised when I realized they were both into the same sport, since that is bound to create some sort of tension between them at times, right?

Hmmmmm thats actually kind of interesting I didn't think of that. But on the other hand I see where you're coming from because I play basketball, my sibling plays basketball, and we do NOT have fun playing it together lmao

[quote]I was a little confused by Spencer's POV in the middle, especially it did not add anything significant to the story or tell us anything about his character. I didn't really think it was necessary, but since this is a story featuring many characters, it might actually be helpful to have different perspectives.[quote]

Actually, I think you're right lol. There's really no reason for him to be here, but I was thinking of giving the Alex POV a break, and I decided on Spencer after a bit of speculation. I wanted to balance out the POVs best I could. Obviously, the person with the most POVs would be Alex, since he's like the MAIN MAIN character, but characters like Spencer and Colin will end up getting more development later in the story, if at all, and I wanted to put him in there towards the beginning so as to not push them into the background.

THANKS for the review again.


RandomTalks says...

Sorry for the late reply, and you're welcome!!

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5 Reviews

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Sat Mar 25, 2023 2:27 pm
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Echo924 wrote a review...

I like how you show Alex and Thea's sibling rivalry without actually calling it sibling rivalry. As someone with siblings, I can say that you wrote it very realistically.

I like that you lead into the basketball tryouts by telling about Alex thinking so much about last year's loss. The loss last year is used well to explain why Alex chose to fail the tests to move up into 9th; it shows Alex's passion for basketball to be central.

One thing I wasn't so sure about was when the perspective switched from Alex's to Spencer's. It was good that you showed the switch by putting ellipsis marks, but in my opinion it could possibly be distracting from the whole literary experience of reading this work.

Lastly, I want to say you did a good job on the character design. The characters have personalities that stay the same throughout the story. They have conflicting personalities. They have some conflict and connections that are not overly explained.

The grammar is overall very good. I didn't notice many errors at all. The main places that I saw are as follows, and they can be easily corrected.
• In " 'Since Alex is so stupid, he gets to play another year,' Thea pouts, tying her straight black hair up, 'How’s that fair?' " the two sentences "since… year," and "how's… fair?" are put together by Thea … up. The reason this is incorrect is because the two sentences are connected into one, which they shouldn't be. They're meant to be two separate thoughts, two separate sentences, but Thea… up makes them into one.
• In "Dwayne doesn’t even hesitate, and returns the smile, 'I think I will.' " smile should not be followed by a comma. Instead, it should be followed by a period, because "returns the smile" is not to be used to introduce dialogue.

On the whole, I think this is a great story. I really enjoy seeing the characters interacting, the conflicts happening, and the memories coming.

yosh says...

Thank you for the review!

The first thing I do when I have a good quote is always to put a goat in it. uwu
— Liminality