Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder | Five-feet nothing
No bricks here
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 09:10
Alex here, and after writing about football and baseball in my first two columns, I figured I might as well continue the streak and pick another new sport for this week.
As a short, skinny kid who didn’t hit any semblance of a growth spurt until high school, my middle school basketball days were all based on dribbling and shooting. I could handle the ball pretty well and started at point guard for two years, seventh and eighth grade.
If I couldn’t drive it to the hoop without facing the 6-footers that would toss my shot to the stands, I had to be able to do one of two things consistently: take and make outside shots or make my free throws after creating contact down low. The hours we spent in practice over the years on just the latter eventually paid off.
If one can nail down the proper form and technique, a free throw is exactly what it’s intended to be — an easy, open shot. Shaquille O’Neal, for instance, is notorious for his ugly “push”(I’m still not sure it’s really a “shot”) that would hit the rim and bounce all over the place, only finding the bottom of the net 5,935 times out of 11,252 chances. This mediocre 52.7-percent mark from the free throw line translates into 5,317 points that Shaq didn’t score.
Superman surely made up for this down low with two scoring titles and four championships among countless other accolades, but it’s a facet of his game that, if it were improved, would’ve made him that much better.
Free throws are often pointed to as a key factor in whether a game is won or lost. Making your foul shots down the stretch can prevent a late comeback when the enemy is fouling out of desperation, but missing them gives the other team a second chance, a new life.
Then there are the moments where all you need is two free throws in the final seconds to put the game just out of the reach of your opponent.
Enter my seventh grade year, an away game midway through the season. The away games in school sports are either awesome or terrible. You either have no homework and come away with the win making the bus trip home a cacophony of jokes, songs and overall celebration, or you travel an hour and a half only to lose and have to come home with an essay to write.
We were up by just one point with around 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter. We inbounded the ball under our own hoop and the opposing team did the logical thing and fouled me while we were in the bonus. That put me at the line with two shots that could all but end the game.
It’s a nerve-racking position to be in. You have as much time as you need, but all of the crowd and players at the line are staring at you in silence. I even remember a kid on the other team walking by me on his way to one of his spots down low, and telling me sarcastically, “Don’t miss.”
Well, at least I didn’t disappoint him. I sunk my two free throws, they inbounded the ball, got off a last second desperation three, but to no avail. We celebrated the victory, and I got to sit through the JV game with a satisfaction that practice did pay off and the little things do matter.
Needless to say, that was one of the better bus rides home.
Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder are both sophomores who have yet to declare majors. Ross can be reached at Ross.Dember@tufts.edu, and Alex can be reached at Alexander.Schroeder@tufts.edu.