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King of the Court - 0

by yoshi


Prologue

Alexander Song, 11, 6th grade, Regional Basketball Tournament

The feet of his teammates and his opponents pound on the court as loud as volatile cannonballs. Sweat rolls off his cheek, his legs burn, and the volume of the ball’s bouncing increases as the pressure begins to enclose on him like a vicious serpent. Fear and stress cloud his vision, and the only thing Alex can see is the vitriolic gaze of the defender.

"You’ve got five seconds left!" screams his teammate, as if Alex doesn’t know– as if Alex can’t hear the roaring crowd in the bleachers, counting down the time in unison, applying pressure so intense that Alex can feel himself shaking.

Alex increases his speed, plowing past the defender’s unsuccessful attempt to get in front of him. He barely even notices the burning pain in his legs– he’s too focused on getting to the hoop.

His heart rate matches the speed of the ball. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom.This is the most important shot of the game— the final shot. If Alex doesn’t make it, his team will lose, ending their chance of winning at their regional basketball tournament.

Alex had never been that good at lay-ups. Lay-ups were the ultimate shot. For most people, lay-ups should be at an 80% accuracy. For Alex, it's more of a 30% accuracy. To be honest, he isn’t good at anything— a jack of all trades, master of none.

Today, ‘master of none’ describes him more.

After rushing himself down the court at top speed, Alex jumps too early and throws the ball too hard.

It bounces off the backboard with a thump, and erases all chances of scoring— and winning the championship.

[Marble Creek Middle School - Eliminated - Round 1]

. . .

Alexander Song, 12, 7th grade, Regional Basketball Tournament

This is the day. This is the day that we will win and take the championship, Alex tells himself. He resolves that he will win today’s game. After all, Alex is going into eighth grade next year. It will be his last year, and his final chance to reach for the victory that he always wanted.

"Stay on your man! Defense!" Alex shouts, his throat starting to feel scratchy from the shouting. It’s not enough. It won’t ever be enough. But what else can he do but grit his teeth and push himself further?

Just one step.

Just one more step. One more inch, one more centimeter closer to the victory that he’s desperately trying to grab. Maybe that one step won’t amount to anything. Maybe it’ll result in some free throws that won’t even get in the hoop. Maybe it’ll even be a shot or a three-pointer, but what then?

No matter how many shots we make.

The other team will make more.

Alex feels a whisper in his mind, slowing his adrenaline-filled legs to a walk. The crowd’s cheers die out and seem to echo around in his ear as if he is simply evaporating away.

At that moment, Alexander Song can no longer see himself with a trophy in his hand, or even a medal around his neck.

The only thing he sees is a loss.

Nothing more than a simple defeat.

[Marble Creek Middle School - Eliminated - Round 1]

. . .

Alexander Song, 13, 8th grade, Regional Basketball Tournament

There’s no way! Alex thinks to himself, watching as the ball flies up from the half-court line to the hoop.

It hits the backboard and goes through the hoop. The opponents laugh, and the audience joins in as well. Alex swallows hard as the cacophony of sounds hit him like full-blown punches. Why are they playing like this? he asks himself, and not for the first time that day. For the entire game, their opponents have only been shooting constant half-court shots. Finally, they made another one.

With only a few minutes left on the clock, Alex starts to worry.

He slowly takes a deep breath, calming himself down. It’s the last moment of the game. He can’t afford to let himself lose control. The team, Pennel Creek, has forced Marble Creek into a strangely difficult situation. 

By ‘difficult’, he means that halfway through the fourth quarter, Marble Creek is only down by nine points.

However, by ‘strangely’, he means that despite being down by nine points, Marble Creek has not scored once.

With one minute left, Marble Creek is losing 9-0.

For the entire previous part of the game, Alex had raged and fought as hard as he could, but it was hopeless against a team like Pennel Creek. They only shot half-court shots and barely took the game seriously. Even the referee looks like he wants to retire.

However, their opponents are monstrosities on defense, because individually, each player is quite talented. On the other hand, Marble Creek is an embarrassing first-round elimination school. Alex knows this, but he still can’t stand those terrible players on Pennel Creek’s team.

I will defeat them.

How can I defeat them?

What . . . what would Hunter do?

Alex suddenly grows red with fury. In the heat of the moment, he thought about the ex-captain, Hunter Thornberg, who went on to graduate middle school. Alex couldn’t stand worthless players like him, abandoning his friends like its nothing. Hunter didn’t even think when he decided to go to high school, as if he never even considered staying with his teammates. Who does that? Who just . . . leaves?

Alex clenches his fist. Forget about him. I need to win this first.

The timeout ends with no real plan created, but Alex already feels a flame within him that cannot be quenched. I will crush them! They will feel my wrath! I’ll show them why they shouldn’t mess with–

When the ball hits his hands, time stops.

It doesn’t really stop, but it feels like it stops, Alex articulates to himself.

He can feel his heartbeat thumping slowly, so slowly. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

His breathing is almost like a gust of wind. Fwoooooo . . . Shhhhhh . . . Fwooooooo . . . . Shhhhhhh.

The ball bounces slowly, so slowly, and his opponents move even slower. As he dribbles around his opponents with ease, he compares this feeling to what he would imagine playing basketball on the moon would be like.

Finally, it’s the last defender. Alex notices that he can jump considerably higher. He can do some crazy moves in the air, and maybe, just maybe . . .

Alex gasps, holding on to his teammate, Jonah, with both hands. Time has started again.

"Dude, are you okay?" asks Jonah.

Alex pushes off of him, "C’mon, we need to get back in defense."

"Are you dumb? Jonah raises an eyebrow, "The game just ended. Did that shot knock your brains out or something?"

Alex whirls around to see the scoreboard showing a score of 9-0. Then he groans. While he was off in moon-land, he had spent the final moments of the game not even making a shot? He burns with embarrassment.

Coach Miller calls them in and says some sentimental garbage about moving on to the future. Alex ignores it. He won’t abandon this team. Not now, and not ever. This story isn’t over for him yet. It doesn’t matter how many years it takes, Alex will stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal.

He stares at the audience, walking away with their concessions and their children. They have no idea how much this game means to him. They have no idea how much he’s invested in this.

They have no idea what measures he will go through to become the king of the court.

[Marble Creek Middle School - Eliminated - Round 1]


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Fri Jun 30, 2023 2:33 am
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OrabellaAvenue wrote a review...



Hello! This is a random weirdo here to review.

You started this a long while ago, but I saw chapter 14.5 in the green room, so I decided, Why not? Let's read from the beginning.

And wow, I'm sure glad I did.

This is amazing! I love this so much! I'm not usually into sports, though I did play basketball also at one point. But this hooked me right from the beginning.

The tension is wound tight, and wound good. I'm right there along Alex, rooting for him, wishing for the possible and the impossible. Biting my nails as it seems like he's just about to make it - but doesn't. And then he tries again. And again. Every year, he works so hard, and every year, he (along with the reader) is thinking he's going to win. But then he doesn't, and it's more than just him that are sad about it. But he gets up and keeps going.

I love the very end.

He stares at the audience, walking away with their concessions and their children. They have no idea how much this game means to him. They have no idea how much he’s invested in this.

They have no idea what measures he will go through to become the king of the court.


It's got foreshadowing, and I love the way you made the last line tie into the title. It's always so satisfying when that happens. And the fact that he brings attention to the unknowing audience hits me in a way that's so sad. They don't even know how much he worked for this. They don't even know how much it meant to them they he lost. And you do that all in a single paragraph. *claps*

There's a bunch more that I could say about the pacing and the description, the action and the internal conflict, though I won't, as I need to hurry and read more chapters!

Anyways, bravo, and hats off to you! Amazing work.

Keep writing!

Image




yoshi says...


thank you sm for the review <33333



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Sun Mar 05, 2023 8:59 pm
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dragonight9 wrote a review...



Hi, I love the passion that went into this story about basketball.

First thing I wanted to mention was that I was a bit confused at first that 7th grade was the Alex's last chance. In Alberta (Canada) it goes to 8th grade so that actually helped me get a sense of where this was taking place. (likely BC Canada or USA)

The story itself was captivating in that it was able to grab my attention and hold it throughout. I normally don't enjoy watching or reading about sports but despite that I was hooked.

The passion and drive of the main character was the strongest point of the story though it also made me worry for them since they seemed to be teetering on the point of obsession if they haven't already gone over.

This could result in injury for both Alex and the other players if his desperation to win causes him to take drastic measures. Or it could result in massive depression if he can't achieve his goals.

I have a feeling others may call Alex insane for being so affected by 'just a game' especially in elementary/high school.

I have no real corrections to point out as the grammar and spelling were all on point, and I was never really confused about what was going on either. It looks like you've already gone through some revisions and it shows. Good job.




yoshi says...


Thanks for the review dragonight!

First thing I wanted to mention was that I was a bit confused at first that 7th grade was the Alex's last chance. In Alberta (Canada) it goes to 8th grade so that actually helped me get a sense of where this was taking place. (likely BC Canada or USA)


Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh im so sorry you read that wrong lmaoooo

i guess i wrote it in a way that was a bit confusing haha. dw i'm in america and we also end middle school at 8th grade.

I normally don't enjoy watching or reading about sports but despite that I was hooked.


I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

This could result in injury for both Alex and the other players if his desperation to win causes him to take drastic measures. Or it could result in massive depression if he can't achieve his goals.


You might be onto something ;)

Thanks for the review!



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Thu Mar 02, 2023 12:50 am
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Horisun wrote a review...



Hello! I hope you're doing well today!

First off, I loved this as a prologue. I'm contradicting the prior reviewer here, but I don't think it would work anywhere near as well as a first chapter. It serves to briefly establish the characters motivations before moving onto the bulk of the story. I also really like how it's formatted; each segment being dedicated to a different year and a different game.

I also like how you made each game distinct from one another, so even though we're reading about similar situations with similar outcomes, it doesn't wind up repetitive and remains really enjoyable!

You did an excellent job putting us in your main characters shoes through the use of figurative language, (particularly in the first game, though it was present all throughout) my favorite example of this is here, in the opening lines:

The feet of his teammates and his opponents pound on the court as loud as volatile cannonballs. Sweat rolls off his cheek, his legs burn, and the volume of the ball’s bouncing increases as the pressure begins to enclose on him like a vicious serpent.


However, I'd recommend veering away from onomatopoeias. I think the boom, boom, boom of the basketball works well, because it's like you're comparing it to explosions, but here:

He can feel his heartbeat thumping slowly, so slowly. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

His breathing is almost like a gust of wind. Fwoooooo . . . Shhhhhh . . . Fwooooooo . . . . Shhhhhhh.


It feels a little awkward and unnecessary.

However, other than that minor nitpick, I thought this was a super solid prologue! I didn't notice any spelling/grammatical errors, and you did an excellent job setting up the character and his motivations! I look forward to seeing what the next few chapters hold!

With that said, keep on writing and have a great day! :D




yoshi says...


Thank you so much for the review! <333



yoshi says...


So sorry I'm this late at getting to a detailed reply.

First off, I loved this as a prologue. I'm contradicting the prior reviewer here, but I don't think it would work anywhere near as well as a first chapter. It serves to briefly establish the characters motivations before moving onto the bulk of the story. I also really like how it's formatted; each segment being dedicated to a different year and a different game.


<333333

It feels a little awkward and unnecessary.


Ahaha I guess it did look kinda . . . over the top. But mostly it looks weird so the reader will remember it when I reference it later.

Again, thanks for the review!



Horisun says...


No problem! <3



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Wed Mar 01, 2023 12:52 pm
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VengefulReaper wrote a review...



Hello, hello, Yosh! Just here to leave a quick review!

I saw your work floating in the Green Room for a while with no reviews so I decided to pick it up. Anywho, let's get started.

First Impressions

Well, we're starting with a bang here! This feels more like a first chapter than a prologue but I'll have to save that judgment until I see the actual chapter 1. There are some setups done here that I think could be saved for the next chapter. I'll get into that later. In brief, I liked the character introduction, his motivation, and the general descriptions of the setting and his emotion.

Alex

Our MC comes off as very motivated. I love how you convey that in the first few paragraphs. You describe his character traits (master of none, determined, hot-headed, and loyal) in this chapter which gives us enough information about Alex to get behind him by the end. It creates alot of tension here when you slow things down for a bit:

He can feel his heartbeat thumping slowly, so slowly. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

His breathing is almost like a gust of wind. Fwoooooo . . . Shhhhhh . . . Fwooooooo . . . . Shhhhhhh.

The ball bounces slowly, so slowly, and his opponents move even slower. As he dribbles around his opponents with ease, he compares this feeling to what he would imagine playing basketball on the moon would be like.

Finally, it’s the last defender. Alex notices that he can jump considerably higher. He can do some crazy moves in the air, and maybe, just maybe . . .


The character introductions, their motivations and goals, their traits, and a bit of setup with Hunter leave me thinking this is a really good first chapter but not necessarily a prologue. Prologues usually serve the purpose of giving background info, future info, or foreshadowing but my opinion on this may change when I read the next one.

I also enjoy the consistency in just this chapter. In each game, Alex always has this internal monologue/dramatic slow-mo moment at a critical moment only for it to lead to his defeat each time.

It also gives us an idea of how his mindset progresses year-to-year. He's lost two years in a row and his frustration builds up until he has this unwavering drive to win. Like this:
At that moment, Alexander Song can no longer see himself with a trophy in his hand, or even a medal around his neck.

The only thing he sees is a loss.

Nothing more than a simple defeat.


vs this:
Coach Miller calls them in and says some sentimental garbage about moving on to the future. Alex ignores it. He won’t abandon this team. Not now, and not ever. This story isn’t over for him yet. It doesn’t matter how many years it takes, Alex will stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal.

He stares at the audience, walking away with their concessions and their children. They have no idea how much this game means to him. They have no idea how much he’s invested in this.

They have no idea what measures he will go through to become the king of the court.

It's an interesting three-match character arc that puts some feel behind his goal. I wouldn't mind you extending this prologue and giving us a little more of the first two games to hit that point home.

Some nitpicks
he compares this feeling to what he would imagine playing basketball on the moon would be like.

You can reword this by cutting out the "he compares this feeling to". We know it's strictly his POV so you could just say:
Like playing basketball on the moon.

and I think it would have the same effect.

"Are you dumb?" Jonah raises an eyebrow

Just close that speech mark in bold. That's the only grammar error I picked up, really.

Overall I think it's a good place to start your story. I've got a good feel for Alex and his character and his "whatever it takes to win" mindset. There are hints of bad blood with Hunter and some very vivid descriptions and imagery. I really felt in the moment.

As always, take what you find useful and discard the rest.
Keep writing and keep well!
The Reaper sends his regards...




yoshi says...


Thank you so much for the review! <3



yoshi says...


Hey VengefulReaper! So sorry that it took this long to get a detailed reply.

The character introductions, their motivations and goals, their traits, and a bit of setup with Hunter leave me thinking this is a really good first chapter but not necessarily a prologue. Prologues usually serve the purpose of giving background info, future info, or foreshadowing but my opinion on this may change when I read the next one.


That actually kind of makes sense. I'm pretty sure that this was part of the first chapter in the first draft of this novel, but I eventually turned it into a prologue, because there is yet another timeskip between the end of this and the actual first chapter.

Just close that speech mark in bold. That's the only grammar error I picked up, really.


Whoops! lol

Again, thank you so much for the review!




He began to wonder why he had felt uneasy at all. It was like a man wondering in broad daylight why a dream had appeared so terrible to him at night.
— Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart