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King of the Court - 5

by yosh

Chapter 5


Alex had never once thought he would ever curl himself into a clump of self-pity. It was something that had never occurred to him. He always saw himself as perfect the way he was. Of course, by perfect, he doesn’t think he can do anything, but at least, he knows he’s pretty good.

I loved basketball. I love basketball. All I ever did was have fun and play basketball. How come everything turned out this way?

How did it end up like this? Alex thinks to himself, curled into a fetal position on his bed. No doubt his teammates are having fun. He wants so desperately for one of his teammates to come to his house to check on him. He wants someone to pity him, to sympathize with him, to encourage him to return to practice.

But Alex waits for days until a week passes by and no one came. As he walks around in school, his teammates avoid his eyes and won’t make conversation with him, not that he tried to do so either.

Does this mean . . . my team doesn’t even care about me?

His legs are still a little sore from the hour-long run that Coach forced him to do. He starts cursing his coach, shouting insults at him, but only his bedroom wall stares back at him.

Finally, Alex realizes that it’s not Coach Miller that he hates. It’s not Fernando that he hates. It’s not Colin, Dwayne, Spencer, or Chris that he hates.

The only person deserving of this hate . . . is me.

. . .

"Spencer!" Dwayne calls out to his friend. In a moment, Spencer walks over to him, having done a bit of shooting practice.

"Looks like you’re practicing hard," Dwayne remarks, and Spencer nods proudly.

"I wanna get better so I can play at the same skill level as Alex!" he replies, miming a shot with his hands. Dwayne pauses, remembering their recent game, where Alex hogged the ball for the last quarter to eventually win the game for them. At first, Dwayne was mad. After all, the game was terrible for everyone. However, after their captain disappears, Dwayne begins to realize how much they need Alex.

He is a focal part of their team, and with him missing, it seems like the entire team had lost a chunk of themselves.

Noticing the awkward silence, Dwayne quickly speaks.

"And I wanna get taller so I can play at the same height level as you guys!" Dwayne says.

Spencer nods with mock seriousness, "It appears we both have some very reasonably achievable goals."

They laugh, and Dwayne nearly forgets that they’re in the middle of practice, just taking a break.

"C’mon, team!" shouts Coach Miller, standing on the sideline, and various members of the team scattered around the court converge. Some are playing a game of 3v3, and others simply chatting. Colin and Chris are casually shooting, but it’s clear that only Chris is making his shots consistently.

When everyone is gathered, Coach Miller crosses his arms and begins, "I’ve already given you guys some basic plays and defenses. For example, the two-three defense, or the box and one. You all remember it, correct?"

Everyone nods.

"Now, today, we’ll be learning a different kind of defense," Coach Miller explains, "Generally, defense means one thing: defending. One defense might defend three-pointers, and another one might defend the inside-- the paint. However, there is another kind of defense, that is often called an offensive defense. Does anyone know what this is called?"

The older players stay silent. Clearly, it’s a quiz for the newbies.

Colin immediately responds, "A press."

"Right," Coach Miller nods, "After a made shot, we might go for a press, which basically means, instead of defending our side of the court, we will encroach onto their side, and try to steal the ball."

"I want five players who know the Bread Press to get on the court," Coach points to the court. A few players snicker at the name.

Dwayne watches closely as they demonstrate the ‘Bread’ Press, moving back and forth on the court in various traps to steal the ball. After the quick demonstration, he raises his voice to ask a question.

"Coach? What part of this press has to do with bread?"

Coach Miller replies evenly, "What, you don’t like bread?"

"No, I mean, what does the bread mean?"

"It means that at the time, I was thinking of bread," the coach says with finality.

"Five of you who have no idea what we’re doing, come on out, " he then gestures to the experienced players, "You five can come off."

Dwayne is part of the five who go on. He and four others, Spencer, Chris, and Colin included, attempt the press. Of course, it’s a mess. Dwayne starts moving in the right direction while Spencer runs in the wrong one, and the two of them collide. Not only that, but at the same time, Chris accidentally runs out of bounds and nearly topples over the fifth player, Brody, who quickly dodges.

Colin seems to be doing it right at first, but he and Brody grow confused after there’s virtually no one left on the court, and they no longer know where to go.

The five of them dejectedly walk over to Coach Miller.

He pats them all on the back, and says simply, "Try again next practice."

The five of them, filled with resolve, vow to not embarrass themselves again.

They embarrass themselves again.

However, on the third day, during their third attempt at the Bread Press, they finally get it right. They don’t move in perfect unison, but each of them goes to their respective places, forming the press acceptably.

When they’re done, even their fellow teammates, who didn’t even participate in the press, start to cheer.

When the cheering dies out, Coach Miller smiles a very wide smile, "Now, let’s learn the Cheese Press."

. . .

Thea pauses, standing outside of Alex’s room. She can’t hear a sound, but she knows he’s in there, wallowing in his self-pity. She can’t bear to see him like that. She needs to fix it.

She knows of only one way.

Of course, Alex had been similarly depressed before, and there was often one surefire method that Thea often used to pull him out. Because if there's anything Alex can't resist, is the chance to help someone.

She slams the door open, and Alex, in his bed, sits up with a start. He looks excited for a moment, then sees her face and frowns.

"What do you want?" he replies, laying back down.

Thea resists the temptation to walk over and slap him for the reaction.

Standing in the doorway, Thea says, "Help me."

"In what?" he replies quietly.





"Why not?"

"I hate basketball," says Alex. He curls himself deeper into his covers. Thea tries to keep a straight face. My brother is so dramatic . . .

Thea continues, "Well I don’t! So help me!"

Alex stays silent for a moment, and Thea is about to continue bugging him when he finally says, "What do you need help with?"

She grins, but of course, Alex can’t see it.

"Everything?" she replies, and Alex gets up, dejected. He slowly drags himself out of the room, but Thea knows it’s all for show.

She knows that Alex is back on the track to return to basketball.

. . .

Spencer collapses on the floor in agony. Not only is practice filled with running, running, and more running, but they also review presses and offenses every single day, putting not just physical stress, but mental stress, too. Added to his additional shooting practice every day, Spencer always returns home completely fried.

I have to work harder than anyone else, he tells himself. Since he isn’t as good, he needs to practice extra to get to their level. Nothing can beat experience, but practice will help him get better.

As he starts walking home, he passes by a girl with a strikingly similar appearance to Alex. She has her black hair in a ponytail and a basketball at her hip, with her arm holding it in place. She walks with a confident stride.

"What are you looking at?" she says, and Spencer backs up.

"Sorry, you just look like someone I know."

She pauses, then asks, "You know Alex?"

"Yeah," Spencer replies, excited, "Are you, like . . . his kid?"

She kicks him in the shin, "What the heck?"

"Sorry!" he replies, clutching his shin, thinking woefully. This is gonna bruise. This is gonna bruise.

"So you’re his sister?" he asks, still clutching his shin.

She doesn’t respond at first, then replies, "Yeah. Why would you even say daughter in the first place?"

"So what’s your name?" Spencer asks.

"I’m Thea," she replies, "Yours?"

"Spencer," he then adds, "I’m on the basketball team–" noticing that she’s wearing a shirt from Marble Creek, he continues– "Are you on the girls’?"

Thea glances at her watch, then replies, "Yes. Alex is still over at the courts if you wanna say hi."

She runs off, waving goodbye, and Spencer waves, too.

After a moment, he clutches his shin again, finally remembering that it’s still in pain.

He continues home, passing the public outdoor courts where Thea presumably left from.

Taking a closer look, he notices Alex practicing by himself, taking shots and lay-ups, then running suicides, something that not even Spencer would be able to do by himself.

Spencer smiles. His captain may be too scared to return, but is also unable to keep himself away from basketball.

"We’ll be waiting for you," Spencer whispers.

He walks home cheerfully. Seeing Alex practicing hard made his day. However, the second he gets home and sits down on the couch, he feels a sharp pain in his leg, no, his shin.

How does it still hurt? Spencer screams to himself, rolling on the floor and clutching his shin.

. . .

Sweat drips down Colin’s cheek. He rests his weight on his knees, gasping for air. The suicides at the practice are already too much for him, but he adds his own shooting and dribbling practice.

Of course, Colin knows this isn’t the main problem. No matter how much he practices, he will still get nervous during a game. He’s already at a skill level on par with Alex or Chris, but he still can’t perform well under pressure.

Grabbing the ball again, he dribbles around a bit before taking another shot outside of the three-point line. He’s pretty confident in his inside jumpers, but three-pointers are still a bit difficult for him.

Before the tournament . . . I have to get better.

. . .

Chris frowns, staring at his dinner. His muscles ache. He hasn’t felt this fatigued in a long time. When there isn’t practice, his brother will force him to run, whether it be at Marble Creek’s gym, or even in their driveway. Obviously, out of the rest of the players, Chris knows he’s the one who needs to get the most in shape, and he’s not arguing.

Chris wonders if he should argue. After all, it hurts. Every day is filled with pain. He doesn’t even like basketball that much. Basketball causes pain. He would never like the sport.

"You should probably eat," Jacob pokes his brother on the shoulder. Chris doesn’t make a move toward his plate.

"And you should probably stop staying in your parents’ house in your thirties," Chris responds dryly.

Jacob doesn’t have a response to that. Of course, he’s only staying here at his parents’ house because of his coaching job. Their parents have bugged him about renting an apartment or something, but he doesn’t want to.

Why am I trying to get better? Chris asks himself. He can’t fathom why. He’s weak, skinny, and not the least bit athletic. He’s sort of tall, so he can manage to play middle school basketball, but he won’t stand a chance in high school, so there’s really no point in putting forth effort.

Chris stands up and tells Jacob he’ll be returning to his room. Jacob grunts in reply, gorging himself on the noodles that their mother had cooked.

I’m going to fail anyway.

I’m going to get hurt anyway.

A memory from many years ago. An elbow in his face. A knee in his stomach. He’s on the ground. He cries. He bleeds. Sobbing. Pain. Hurt.

What am I even doing this for?

. . .

Spencer rushes into the gym, slinging his backpack on the floor and running to the locker room, where he assumes everyone is.

I’m late! I’m late! he thinks, hearing voices inside the locker room. He enters, and everyone turns their heads toward him.

"Sorry, one of my teachers held me back for a while," Spencer says sheepishly. Coach Miller shrugs and returns to what he was saying.

"Like I was saying," Coach Miller says, "I think everyone’s progress has been very good. You’re all getting stronger, faster, more skilled, more–" he gives Chris a pointed glance– " in shape, and you are all starting to understand the formations better."

He continues, "Now let’s pretend I’m a player who hasn’t learned these plays properly. I’m pretty good, but I have no idea what the heck we’re doing."

Spencer immediately thinks, Alex. Even now, Coach is still looking out for their captain.

"So, what is a press?" asks Coach, squatting down to everyone else’s height, pretending to be a child.

"A very offensive defense!" Dwayne shouts, and Coach nods.

Coach Miller asks again, "What’s a press break? Is it like taking a break while pressing?"

"No," Spencer responds, "It’s a play that the offense makes to get around a press."

"By the way, what’s a box and one?" Coach asks. Everyone can see his visible pride; all the newest players understand everything so well now.

Colin says it this time, "One defender plays man-to-man on a specific attacker, and the others play a two-two zone defense."

"Alright," Coach then grins, standing up to full height, "And can someone name all of the plays that we’ve gone over during the past few weeks?"

The door slams open, and everyone swivels their heads toward it. A familiar figure steps through, and Spencer doesn’t recognize him at first. It’s a moderately tall boy with a very slim, but athletic build. He has a determined expression and some very recognizable bags beneath his eyes.

His hair is not very long and is even shorter on the sides.

"Bread Press, Cheese Press, Press Break Orange, Press Break Apple, Lemonade Offense, and Root Beer Offense," he says with no hesitation. The two stare at each other, sharing a glance that suggests a painful reunion, but also a deep friendship.

"You really had to name them all after food, didn't you, coach?" Alex asks, grinning.

Coach Miller smiles, "Welcome back, Alex."

Is this a review?



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639 Reviews

Points: 77074
Reviews: 639

Sun Mar 26, 2023 11:29 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...

Hi yosh!

Back for one last time before I retire for the night!

This was a much needed chapter, that I didn't know we needed until now. After the rollercoaster that was the previous chapter, this was like catching a breath after running suicides.

I liked the fact that you slowed the pace down here a little. This way we just got to catch up with the characters in the aftermath of the game. It also gave us a glimpse into their perspectives, especially because I wasn't sure where they stood with Alex after the last chapter. I liked the group interactions as well the separate focus on each of the characters. However, Colin's narration was the only one I thought was a little lacking. Especially as I don't think we have spent as much time with him as we have with Alex or Chris or Spencer.

She can’t bear to see him like that. She needs to fix it.

I really loved this short moment between the siblings. I have liked Thea since she was first introduced to us and I feel like there is a lot of potential in her character. I won't mind seeing her around some more, especially considering she is into basketball as well. In this case though, I only wish we got a glimpse of behind the scenes. Thea helped Alex get back on track but we really did not get to see any of it. As a result, Alex's return feels a little incomplete, because we didn't really get to witness the transformation mentioned at the end. I think if you had included a short moment or exchange between the two where they address what had happened, it would have made us feel more connected to both the characters, and especially Alex whom we haven't seen be vulnerable with anyone but the Coach.

What am I even doing this for?

In this chapter, we got some more vague mentions about Chris's past injury. I like the fact that you exploring it, but at the same time all these little snippets make me anxious to find out what exactly happened. That single recollection during the game seems to have completely defeated Chris's spirit. Before, he had been unsure and nonchalant about basketball. Now, he just seems hopeless and depressed. It makes me empathize with him, even though I don't completely understand everything yet.

"Yeah," Spencer replies, excited, "Are you, like . . . his kid?"

This part made me grin so wide. Spencer's innocent excitement and complete lack of reason as he asked that question only made the scene even more hilarious. At the same time, it made me wish Thea was more included in the main story. This single interaction with one of the teammates had such chaotic energy that it makes me wonder what her impression of the rest of team would be like.

"Five of you who have no idea what we’re doing, come on out, " he then gestures to the experienced players, "You five can come off."

Another part which made me grin like an idiot. I honestly love how you incorporate humor into your stories!

That's all for this one!

Keep writing and have a great day!!

Until next time!

yosh says...

Again tysm!!!!! <3333

yosh says...

This was a much needed chapter, that I didn't know we needed until now. After the rollercoaster that was the previous chapter, this was like catching a breath after running suicides.

LOL I love that analogy! I see you're becoming quite the basketball expert yourself random :P

I think if you had included a short moment or exchange between the two where they address what had happened, it would have made us feel more connected to both the characters, and especially Alex whom we haven't seen be vulnerable with anyone but the Coach.

That's a really good addition I'm definitely gonna need to reread these revs so I can see these suggestions, because of all the characters Thea does not get very much screentime in the novel (Especially this bothers me because we're having an immense male-fest going on in this story and some girls will create some diversity)

At the same time, it made me wish Thea was more included in the main story.

nooooo not the woulda coulda shouldas. i'm being tempted to return but I know its gonna be a nightmare to create yet another draft for King of the Court.

But again, Thea does not get enough appreciation in this story. It's unfortunate.

thanks sm for the rev


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Sun Mar 26, 2023 8:24 pm
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Euphory wrote a review...

Hi yosh <3 this is a review brought to you by The Crimson Critics!

Quite honestly, I don't have a whole lot to say about this chapter, except that I can FEEL THE ANTICIPATION BUILDING AND I. CANNOT. WAIT.
This chapter almost feels a bit like the final shoelaces being tied up before a match - with all the characters hardening their resolves and getting closer and closer to the ends of their respective arcs!

We have Spencer, trying to match skill level, and Dwayne for height level, Chris, overcoming past traumas (again, his past is very vaguely explored here! Wonder if it'll finally reach its peak in next chapter), and Colin, attempting to work better under pressure!
AND WE SEE THEA ONCE MORE YAYAAYAYA <3 nothing like a little sibling to whip you into fighting shape again haha! And that moment between her and Spencer- golden! XD not to mention, Coach Miller's names for the presses xD

OFF TO THE NEXT CHAPTER, I can't wait!! <33÷

yosh says...

Tyyy Euph <3

yosh says...

Not much to say in reply but THANKS FOR THE REV

This chapter almost feels a bit like the final shoelaces being tied up before a match - with all the characters hardening their resolves and getting closer and closer to the ends of their respective arcs!

This and Random's analogy really made me smile haha. Really feels like all this basketball talk might be rubbing off on you :P

and Dwayne for height level,

poor Dwayne hahaa

thanks for the rev


We do have funerals for the living. They're called birthday parties.
— Jill Biden (fictitiously), Hope Never Dies