The first thing I noticed about Dan was his size. The guy is grizzly bear big; my hand disappeared into his like a ball in a glove as we introduced ourselves with a firm handshake. The second thing I noticed was that he is a good listener and almost always has something helpful or kind to say in return. I also noticed very quickly that he is a sure shot on the basketball court.
I met Dan while participating in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Marbridge Villas and Ranch, a semi-independent living community for adults who are developmentally disabled or mentally challenged. Marbridge is trying to raise enough money to construct a new gymnasium that will be known as the Victory Hall Athletic and Event Center. Marbridge’s existing gymnasium, built in 1959, is a 1,200-square-foot cinder block building that could pass for a sauna in the summer and a meat locker in the winter. The heavily worn equipment likely was the latest on the market when Arnold Schwarzenegger was considering a career in bodybuilding, and there’s only enough space for half a basketball court, which makes for an extremely tight and fast-paced game.
When completed, the 19,000-square-foot Victory Hall Athletic and Event Center will not only be a place to host sports, fitness and wellness programs for Marbridge’s 240 residents, but it also will be accessible to the public for athletic competitions, workshops, performances, you name it! It’s a grand and noble vision that will benefit the residents of Marbridge, as well as the surrounding community.
So, back to the 3-on-3 tournament, which unfolded on the half court in the Marbridge gymnasium over the course of a Saturday afternoon.
- Each team consists of two volunteers and a Marbridge resident.
- Each game lasts 10 minutes (with the clock continuously running).
- A coin toss at the beginning of the game determines the winner if the game ends in a tie. The loser of the coin toss in-bounds the ball to start the game.
- Any time you get the ball on the rebound or intercept a shot, you must take the ball back to the 3-point arc before starting your offensive possession.
- All baskets made from inside the arc are 1 point; any made beyond the arc are 2 points.
- I’m sure there are more rules, but I never understood them.
I volunteered to participate in this tournament upon the request of Tom Leyden, whom many of you know as the associate executive director for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. He also happens to be a board trustee for Marbridge and the facilitator behind the Victory Hall Committee. Most importantly, his son, Kyle, is a resident at Marbridge.
My initial thought when Tom asked me to participate was that it didn’t matter that I’d never played basketball. After all, it was for charity. Just showing up is good enough, right?
Enter 6’2”, goggle-wearing Mike, a Marbridge resident who embraces the game of basketball like I embrace my morning espresso – with intensity, mister! Joe’s arms and legs have no beginning or end. He had a freakish reach that enabled him to grab the ball away from anyone, anywhere. He was like a Go, Go Gadget Globetrotter. But wait, there’s more.
Joe was matched up with a quick-footed father-son duo that could communicate intricate plays with a slight raise of the brow or nod of the head. Oh, did I mention that the son plays high school basketball and that somehow I ended up being the one to cover him? And let’s be clear about this: When I say cover, what I really mean is “run in circles underfoot like an untrained, excitable puppy.”
But enough about the opposing team. Allow me to introduce the Park Place Piranhas. We had 5’9” Adam, my Park Place Publications teammate who knows his way around the court and can talk strategy like a pro. Adam and I were fortunate to be matched up with Dan, a point-scoring Marbridge favorite with fast footwork and a singular focus. He also plays on the Marbridge Longhorns Special Olympics basketball team. (I asked Dan how tall he was and he told me matter-of-factly: “I’m 5’11” but I play basketball like I’m 6 foot.”)
And lastly, there was me – very enthusiastic, occasionally spastic, mostly ineffective. I have to hand it to my teammates. Adam and Dan played really well together — so well, in fact, that I often felt like a spectator who had a courtside seat that was really, really close to the action.
I think the funniest thing about the game was my attempt to cover and block the high school kid. Wait. Am I even using the right terminology here? Do people cover and block in basketball? I’m suddenly self-conscious about my b-ball lingo. ANYWAY, I think you know what I’m trying to say.
Despite High School Boy’s speed, power and ability to change direction so quickly that I swear he was pulling a G-force, I did manage to stay in the near vicinity of him at all times. I mean, we were on a half court. I could have never moved and I’d still be within a few feet of him.
The only time I really got to handle the ball (which is a Court Highlight, thank you very much) was when the ref called “Piranhas ball!” and I got to stand on the sideline and throw the ball to Dan or Adam to start the offensive play. Yah, that was really cool. Sometimes I’d delay throwing the ball just to relish the temporary power I held over everyone in the Marbridge Gymnasium. Will I throw it to Dan? Will I throw it to Adam? It’s anyone’s guess, people! Only I know what will happen next! Bwahahahahahaaa!
It’s the little things in life, you know.
Other highlights include Dan making several amazing, crowd-pleasing shots from all angles of the court and Adam intercepting the ball and scoring several times too. At least I think he did. I know I should know these things. I mean, I was there and I was on his team, but I was so caught up in trying to be the best Piranha I could be that frankly many of the details of the game were lost on me.
Here’s what I know for sure: Whistles were blown, baskets were made, baskets were missed, passes were blocked, passes were caught, a ball was dribbled multiply times, there was gratuitous sneaker squeaking on the floor, High School Boy called me “mama” at one point (as in “Come on, mama! Whatcha got?”), and then suddenly the 10-minute buzzer rang.
Hidden Talent 12
It was a nail biter, folks. You should have been there. Although we didn’t make it to the playoffs or win a trophy, Marbridge gave us medals and treated us to a Rudy’s BBQ lunch. Best of all, we got to meet some really sweet people who live and work at Marbridge. If you ever have the inclination to learn more about Marbridge’s dream of building the Victory Hall Athletic and Event Center, contact Michelle Levy at (512) 282-1144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.