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E - Everyone

King of the Court - 2

by yosh

Chapter 2


After tryouts, Alex starts to understand a lot more things about the new members.

For example, Chris is quite skilled at basketball and does not exaggerate when he says he can play as a guard. In fact, not only does he adamantly decide he is a guard, but he also has an amazing shot, and can drop in three-pointers four out of five times, which is extremely impressive. With his height, it’s quite admirable to have that kind of determination, especially considering that most guards are typically the short, speedy type.

On the other hand, one of the 6th graders joining the team is quite literally an example of that stereotype. Colin is not as tall as Chris, but handles the ball just as well, if not better. He also has a great passing sense and typically makes shots, just not as much as Chris, but he makes it up for his agility and his natural court sense.

Then, there is Dwayne, who is quite an enigma among the new members. On the first day of practice, he went and told every single player that he wants to be the center. However, he doesn’t exaggerate either. He can keep the rebound away from a player of almost any height, despite being 5’2’’.

Finally, at the end of the bunch, is Spencer. Despite being naturally athletic and putting forth 120% of his effort, he simply isn’t skilled enough to play at a high level. Of course, he’s rapidly improving at an astounding speed. After his embarrassment of losing to Dwayne, he started to work on rebounding very seriously, even asking Dwayne to teach him. Additionally, Spencer’s upbeat attitude always keeps everyone, including himself, motivated.

Alex can’t help brimming with excitement. With a lot of practice, the team might be able to come together really well. They might even have a chance of winning the regionals!

No, Alex stops himself. He shouldn’t get ahead of himself. The team may have a chance, but one year won’t be enough. The most important thing will be to build the team’s strength so they can win in future seasons.

Maybe I’ll fail my finals again, or maybe after that, I’ll fail one more time, so that Colin, Spencer, and Dwayne will be 8th graders. Then Chris can fail his two times with me, and then–


His eyes blink open, and he groggily sits up. He had been laying down on a bench in the school courtyard for his lunch period. He would never tell anyone, but he secretly thinks that it looks sort of cool.

"Seriously?" asks Coach Miller, standing in front of the bench, "Laying down on a bench in the school courtyard for your lunch period? You think you’re cool or something?"

Alex looks up, "I’m cool enough already, what do you mean?"

"Combined with the bed hair, it makes you really look stupid, I have to say," says Coach, shaking his head.

"What are you actually here for, Coach?"

Coach Miller pauses for a moment and then sits down.

"Alex, I just wanted to let you know that there is something I really dislike."

Alex nods.

"There are some people in this world," says Coach Miller, leaning back, "that believe too hard in some things. For example, wholeheartedly believing you should be a center, or that you will never be one. These aren’t necessarily bad traits, but they are not good ones either."

"People who think like this don’t think realistically. They can’t look forward. They can’t see the future. You are the captain of my team, and I do think you’ll accomplish great things in the future. I really hope that you can become a forward-thinking person who can see things for the way they are, Alex, instead of stubbornly hoping they won’t change."

Alex sits in silence, not replying.

"Just some food for thought," Coach Miller stands up and walks away, leaving Alex sitting there, alone.

Alex buries his face in his hands. He understands. He knows what Coach is talking about. He knows when someone is acting stubbornly, even if it is himself.

Coach can see it too, realizes Alex, he probably knows why I am staying.

Alex shakes his head. He has to win. No matter what.

I’m sorry, coach. I can’t accept failure.

Only the winners are the strong.

Alex steels himself. He can’t afford to let his emotions, or anyone else’s get to him. He has to rise to the challenge of victory. He is the only one who can. Whether it takes one, two, or ten years, he will do everything he can to win, win, win.

It’s the only thing I can reach for.


Alex stands up and gets ready to go to his sixth-period class. He shakes every negative thought from his mind. He’ll fight in his own way. He’ll use his own strength. He’ll put in more hours than anyone. Coach doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand how important this is to me.

If he can’t win, he’ll win tomorrow. If it escapes his grasp, he’ll reach for it again. This is the principle he strives to live on.

The rules of the winner. The mentality of the champion.

The path to the king of the court.

. . .

"Conditioning. . ." Chris enunciates, breathing heavily. After nine laps, it still doesn’t look like Coach Miller will give them a break any time soon. Every single part of Chris’ body hurts. For some reason, his arms feel tired, too, even though they were running.

Of course, he was expecting the pain that would come with the conditioning. Perhaps an unspoken rule of all basketball teams was to spend the first few weeks running the players’ souls into nonexistence. In other words: suicides.

Chris was surprised at first, thinking that his brother was seriously asking the entire team to commit self-harm. Chris should have known that it isn’t as merciful as that. In fact, he speculates that the name ‘suicide’ was dubbed by players who ran them, on the verge of committing it themselves.

"Huh?" Colin asks while gasping for air. The suicides that Coach has them running seem quite decent on the surface, but are in fact, extremely painful.

The team splits into two groups. Since there’s a total of sixteen people on the team, including the new players, they split into eight and eight. The first group runs one suicide, and when they are finished, the next group runs theirs. They alternate until the coach tells them to stop.

Colin is in the group with Chris, and at the moment, they are watching their teammates suffer. The suicide itself translates to ‘multiple short sprints’, running back and forth, from line to line.

"What?" Chris replies, aware that their communication ability has dropped multiple levels.

"Did . . ." Colin gulps a breath of air before continuing, ". . . you . . . say something?"

"No," Chris replies.

When the other group finishes, Chris’ group starts running again, and after a second, he can barely keep his voice contained. With each step, he groans softly with pain, and his legs burn as if he’s washing them with molten lava. His lungs frantically pull in air as he wheezes and groans, willing himself to pull his body forward.

Somehow, he manages to run the entire suicide, but he does not feel any sense of accomplishment– only despair, that, in a moment, he’ll have to do it again.

He looks at his brother, pleading, Please, Jacob, End this. Please.

Coach Miller sees this pleading look and stares back straight-faced as if to say, Maybe you shouldn’t have spent your summer playing video games, then.

And in a moment, the hell begins yet again.

. . .

The fresh autumn wind blows leaves off the rooftops, and they flutter down aimlessly as if they are unsure where to go. Fernando gently pulls the arrow out of the bullseye and walks back to the patio.

"When will we be done?" he asks softly, gracefully, like every other thing he does. Fernando likes to be exact. To be perfect. If he can’t be exact in everything he does, then how can he be perfect on the basketball court?

"In . . . about half an hour?" an underclassman, Luke, replies quickly, not realizing his grave mistake.

Fernando does not answer. Instead, he pauses, waiting for the correct answer.

Luke backs up, swallowing hard. Everyone else averts their eyes.

An older eighth grader quickly covers up Luke’s mistake.

"We have 26 minutes and 17 seconds left before we must leave the archery range," says Greyson, checking his watch, and Fernando nods with appreciation.

Fernando raises his bow, and pulls the string back, barely past his face. When he releases, the arrow cuts through the air like a knife, slamming into the bullseye with so much force that Greyson feels the wall might just crash down. Fernando’s arm strength is no joke.

The team manager, who is also there, walks up and taps Fernando on the shoulder. The captain turns around and smiles, but everyone knows that he is not happy. No one interrupts the captain on one of his archery trips. The last time someone did, they were ‘mysteriously’ ejected from the team.

Instead of answering first, he waits for the manager to begin.

After a brief, awkward silence, the manager starts, "Another basketball team is requesting a practice game. They are a weaker team, but they are very stubborn about it."

Fernando thinks for a moment, then leads his team back inside the archery range lobby to return the borrowed bow and arrows.

"It will be a good warm-up for the Regionals," Fernando finally says, after returning the bow. Greyson doesn’t like the trips, but no one wants to get on Fernando’s bad side.

Pennel Creek’s boys’ basketball team doesn’t have a coach.

Their advisor doesn’t show up for practices and leaves everything to Fernando. Fernando, in turn, has one of the less important players act as a manager, to keep the schedule and most of the technical things in check.

It’s quite impressive of Fernando to be able to manage the team so well.

Thinking about the upcoming match, Greyson smiles. Even though he doesn’t play much, he does occasionally enjoy the surprise from other teams when they face the sheer terror known as Fernando.

It’s not exactly common to have a very tall shooting guard and one who doesn’t miss, at that. Greyson can’t remember the last time Fernando missed a shot, other than at practice.

Even at the archery range, Fernando hits the bullseye of the targets each time.

Greyson pulls out his phone to call his parents to pick him up, thinking about the devastated faces of the next basketball team to be crushed by Fernando’s iron fist.

. . .

"You keep on saying this will be a good warm-up for the Regionals, but the Regionals are in March," Alex stands behind Coach Miller, trying to make sense of the sudden decision to play a practice game.

Coach shrugs, "And?"

"It’s September!"

Coach Miller shrugs again, "I don’t see an issue."

"I do! We are definitely not in shape, mentally, physically, or just stamina-wise," says Alex, struggling to understand his reasoning.

As he says this, Dwayne, who is practicing rebounds with Spencer, trips over his shoelaces and hits the floor with a loud, echoing boom. Fortunately, not face-first.

"You should probably check on him, Cap."

Alex quickly runs over to Dwayne, who is wearily standing up.

"You good?" asks Alex.

Dwayne grins, "So how loud was it?"

"Pretty loud," Alex admits, laughing.

Maybe I won’t have to worry about these guys. They don’t seem like the type to falter in the face of a challenge.

When he returns to Coach Miller, he asks, "So who are we playing against, anyway?"

Coach Miller frowns, "You really want to know?"


"I don’t think telling you will improve your performance," advises the coach.

"I still want to know.

Coach Miller grimaces, "This Saturday, at 10:30 A.M., we will be holding a home practice game against Pennel Creek Middle School."

. . .

Alex breathes deeply. Game day, he thinks.

Sitting on the steps outside of the gym, he ties his shoes nervously, wondering about the challenge he might have to face. He physically practiced a lot, of course, but Pennel Creek is still such an overwhelmingly strong team. He remembers it so clearly– the stinging pain of losing 9-0.

Not even halfway through tying one of his shoes, Alex buries his head in his arms, in fear of the possibilities. If it’s the same team, Marble Creek wouldn't stand a chance.

Someone taps him on his shoulder, and Alex looks up. Standing there is Chris, in his practice jersey. Now that he isn’t wearing a hoodie, like usual, he looks even skinnier.

"Why so sad?" Chris wonders, staring up at the sky. Alex looks up, too, staring at the clouds.

"Not important," replies Alex, "Nice weather today."

Chris nods in agreement, stoic, "You know, if the reason you're sad isn't important, then it shouldn't affect our upcoming game, right?"

"Thanks," Alex stands up, giving Chris a grin. After more and more practices, Chris became a little more lighthearted and open to his teammates.

"Also, how long does it take you to tie your shoes? Are you slow or something?" Chris adds. He can’t hide his true nature, though.

Alex shoves Chris through the double doors, laughing, and he gets back to tying his shoes

However, he barely gets started before he's interrupted again.

"Hello?" a voice asks him from above. Alex cranes his head upward, his eyes finding a tall Hispanic boy, most likely around the same height as Chris, if not taller.

"Yes?" Alex replies, noticing around ten people behind him, all wearing basketball uniforms and jackets.

"Marble Creek?" the boy inquires, staring at Alex's uniform, "We are at the right gym, right?"

Alex violently shoots up from his sitting position, "And you're Pennel Creek?"

"Indeed," he nods, "I’m Fernando."

Alex hesitantly replies, "Alex."

"I wish you good luck during the game, Alex," Fernando smiles, patting Alex on the shoulder condescendingly. Alex doesn't ignore it.

"Good luck to you as well, Fernando," Alex replies in the same condescending tone. He isn't going to let some strange guy from another school push him around, especially on his home turf.

"I like your enthusiasm," he comments, leaning closer towards Alex, close enough that Alex can smell his breath, which makes him extremely uncomfortable. Alex shoves him away gently, to not seem too hot-headed, although he wants to shove Fernando a lot harder than that.

"Come on in," says Alex coldly as he leads them into the gym, "Your side is over there."

He points toward a line of chairs on the other side of the court.

Dwayne walks over just as Pennel Creek starts toward their chairs. He's wearing his uniform, and it frankly still looks a bit too big. I'll need to tell Coach Miller about that if he doesn't already know, thinks Alex, amused.

"Roll your shorts so it's not covering your stomach. It looks worse like that," Alex suggests. After doing it, Dwayne still looks a little strange, but at least the shorts seem to work.

"This was the smallest size," Dwayne frowns, "Honestly, it's like they're assuming that all basketball players are this tall!"

"I think it’s a pretty reasonable assumption to make," says Alex, scratching his head.

Dwayne looks down and raises an eyebrow, "Dude! You were out there for, like, ten minutes and your shoes are still untied!"

I was distracted, thinks Alex, rolling his eyes.

. . .

Chris stares at the basketball rim thoughtfully, wondering why it was created with a red color. Red often means 'stop', 'danger', or 'blood. It’s a warning to stay away. People who attempt to score on the inside are just muscleheads, in Chris' opinion. Lay-ups are the most accurate shot, but it also comes with the risk of being hurt, and being hurt is the most counterproductive thing that Chris can do for his team.

"The game's almost started. Coach wants to talk to us," says Dwayne.

Reluctantly, Chris trudges back to the benches. Everyone is standing in a semi-circle in front of Coach Miller because he hates having to talk to people behind him.

"This will be the game to start the year. When that ref blows his whistle, we’re going to walk out there with our heads high. I don’t care if we win by a hundred, lose by a hundred, or fight neck to neck in double overtime; If you aren’t playing your best, I’ll walk out there and make you play your best myself," Coach Miller looks each player in the eye. 13 people are present today. Technically, the coach wants every member of the team to go to every game, but sometimes people have conflicts or are just lazy.

"Starting line-up will be Chris, Alex, Colin, Malcolm, and Jackson."

Alex looks at coach, impressed. It's not an easy decision to throw a 6th grader into the game, but Colin does seem skilled enough already.


The sharp noise of the referee's whistle echoes around the gym.

Since it's a practice game, there are very few people sitting in the bleachers. It's mostly a few parents, but Coach Miller had told Chris that there will be a bigger turnout for official games, especially in later rounds, or against stronger teams.

"Get ready for the tip-off," says Coach Miller.

"The what?" asks Spencer.

"The tip-off. At the beginning of the game," Coach Miller explains anxiously, after the referee throws them an impatient glance, "Basically, one player from both teams jumps to get the ball. Chris, why don’t you do the tip-"

"Pennel on three! Creek on six!"

"One, two, three, Pennel! Four, five, six, Creek!"

Pennel Creek’s players run onto the court. Forgetting to break their own huddle, Marble Creek’s players frantically follow. Chris quickly jogs over to the center of the court, reaching the half-court circle before Pennel Creek's jumper.

The jumper is a tall Hispanic boy with streaks of red highlights in his black hair. The hair is very perfectly combed, and Chris can sense that this boy had spent a lot of time and energy to get it that way.

"Slick hair," Chris smirks, attempting to throw the boy off balance.

He isn't thrown off at all.

Instead, he says, "My name is Fernando."

"Didn't ask."

"Didn’t care."

With a mocking smirk, Fernando adds, "Slick shoelaces."

With a sneer, Chris kneels to tie his shoe, and while doing so, the referee walks onto the court, preparing for the game.

For some reason, the shoelaces seem thoroughly messed up, as if someone had intentionally wanted him to tie his shoe for millennia. Chris starts getting fidgety as he fixes the laces on his shoe. The referee waits patiently, but Chris feels as if every single player is staring holes in him. Finally, Chris finishes, and he stands back up, his knees cramping from the strain.

"White!" the referee points in the direction that Chris is facing, indicating that Marble Creek will be attacking in that direction.

"Green!" the referee shouts, pointing in the other direction.

Chris bends his knees, lowering his body to nearly a squat, and Fernando does the same. And suddenly, the cramp strikes his knees again. The referee blows his whistle, and the ball is thrown in the air. Fernando jumps a second earlier, winning the tip-off, and the ball is sent to a short and skinny boy with glasses, whose height can compare even with Dwayne.

"What was that jump, man?" Alex complains quietly to Chris.

Chris retorts, "Shut up, we're in a game."

Glasses dribbles up right next to the three-point line. Since Marble Creek isn't very experienced, they begin with a two-three defense, which entails that two people stand further forward, and three people stand further back, in a trapezoid shape.

"Unfortunately, just like basically every defense, the two-three has some weaknesses," Coach Miller explained when he first introduced it to them.

"Logan! Here!" Fernando shouts. The boy with the glasses sends a strong pass to him, and Fernando grins, seemingly amused at the two-three defense, like an adult looking at a child condescendingly.

"In a two-three, the defense gives up defending far three-pointers. If any team has a good shooter, a two-three is doomed."

Four feet behind the three-point line, and with no one guarding him, Fernando jumps high into the air, as if floating, and shoots a three-pointer with a beautiful arc and perfect spin. His right hand curls down after he shoots, making a perfect follow-through. Chris can't help but gape at the shot.

Even though it's so far away, he already knows what will happen. There's no way that a shot with such majestic form could miss.

Chris can even hear Fernando barely whisper, "Splash."

And going through the hoop like a pebble into a pond, the net flies up as the ball drops through with a swish. With a splash.

The entire court is silent except for some obligatory applause from the audience. None of Fernando's teammates even cheer. Fernando himself begins to walk back for defense as if the shot is something that happens every day. Chris realizes that this is probably the case.

How much time did he have to spend to get to that kind of accuracy?

Chris glances at some of Pennel Creek's players, and none of them look happy.

Alex steps out of bounds to throw the ball to Colin. The score is 0-3, with Pennel Creek leading.

Colin brings the ball up very quickly, and Alex has to sprint to catch up.

Almost immediately after the two of them cross the half-court line, Colin sends a speeding bullet pass to Alex. Uh oh. Colin might be nervous.

Alex starts dribbling slowly, "Take it slow, guys!"

Fernando is clearly displeased by this, and he scowls in Alex's direction. Alex suddenly accelerates, getting past the first defender, and coming up against their biggest man. Unable to get around him, Alex dishes the ball out to Chris, outside of the three-point line, and wide open.

Instead of taking the three, he dribbles further in, readying himself for a jump shot. However, Fernando is in front of him and slams the ball right out of his hands. In the process, Fernando hits Chris. Whether the hit was intentional or not, it still stung.

Logan, the opponent with the glasses, gets the ball at half-court, and faced with no resistance, he dribbles down and shoots a lay-up. However, it misses. The other team's center snatches the rebound and throws it out to another player.

For some reason, they seem to be avoiding Fernando, who is wide open.

The player with the ball passes it back to Logan. He watches Marble Creek's defenders carefully before dribbling. However, before he can even dribble, Fernando walks up next to him and wrenches the ball from his teammate's hands.

Everyone, including the referees, pauses for a moment, clearly unsure of what had just happened. Chris sprints forward towards Fernando because he already knows what Fernando will do next.

Just as predicted, Fernando jumps up, shooting a three, but not before Chris gets a hand on it. However, Chris' block misses, and he ends up slapping Fernando's hand instead.


The referee whistles, signaling a shooting foul. However, the ball still follows its beautiful arc through the air, nearly touching the roof. It sails down slowly and splashes through the hoop, and Fernando gives Chris a smirk.

"Splash," he whispers, and Chris feels a wave of seething anger he had never felt before.


Fernando then steps up to the free-throw line as Chris glances helplessly at the sidelines. Coach Miller stands there with a stoic expression.

Fernando takes a shot, shooting the ball with an enormously high arc, and it, just like all the rest of his shots, go through with a splash.


Colin steps out of bounds, dismayed. Unfocused, he throws the ball to Alex in a slow arc, and Pennel Creek's center quickly positions himself in front of Alex and grabs the ball. The center scores.


Pennel Creek’s entire team cheers, surprising Chris. They pat the boy on the back and ruffle his hair. Fernando is the only one who is silent. One of the boys from Pennel Creek’s bench calls a timeout. They are so happy that this boy scored that they’re willing to kill their momentum to congratulate him.

With two minutes left in the first quarter, the referee motions to the scorekeepers that a full one-minute time-out is called for the green team. When Fernando reaches the bench, all of Pennel Creek’s players are silenced.

Everyone starts walking back.

"Run!" Coach Miller growls, "Get over here and hustle!"

For some reason, Chris already feels tired, even after only four minutes of play. With everyone standing in a semicircle, Coach Miller glares at them for a moment, but then his face softens.

"Alright, so obviously, they've got a hot shot on their team," Coach Miller explains, "The other players aren't that bad either, but you can compete against them."

"Don't look at the scoreboard," Coach Miller says sternly, "I don't care what that score is, it doesn’t mean anything. It might say 9-0, and maybe for some of you older boys, it’ll trigger some memories, but it doesn’t matter. Play at your 100%. Get out there and show me what you can do."

"We'll switch our defense up," says Coach Miller, "We'll play a box and one. Two people will play front, and two people will play in the back, in a square defense. The fifth player will guard the point guard or a dangerous shooter. In this case, we'll have Alex guard that cocky shooter. Alex, your main job will be to interfere, not block. Anything that will make him miss because we’ll put some more strength into the paint. Colin will switch out for Dwayne, and Malcolm will switch out for Spencer."

Colin walks back to the bench with his head down. He’s nervous and isn’t performing at his usual level.

"For the rest of this quarter, no, the rest of the game, I want you to give them a taste of Marble Creek’s strength!" Coach Miller grins, "Let’s break the huddle this time, guys."

Everyone puts their hands together, standing in a circle.

A few of the players smile, looking at each other, excited.

"We’ll do a cooler one than their little ‘Winner’ shtick," Coach Miller explains, "Theirs is too basic. I’ll say Marble Creek, and then everyone says ‘fight’, alright?"

Everyone nods. Chris hopes that Dwayne in particular will be able to comprehend these instructions.

"Marble Creek . . . Fight!"

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'They are afraid of nothing,' I grumbled, watching their approach through the window. 'Together, they would brave Satan and all his legions.'
— Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights