Palo Alto Weekly 20th Annual Short Story Contest
Third Place Teen

Like Father, Like Son

by Nils Gilbertson

About Nils Gilbertson

     "So you have your big game tomorrow," Jacob's dad said, "The coach of Wakefield is coming to watch you play, right?"

     "Yeah," Jacob replied, "I got to make sure to play real well."  

     Then his mom cut in, "Maybe you want to watch your ankle, I think Wakefield's coach already knows how good you are."   Jacob had pulled a tendon in his ankle after snatching a rebound a month ago and had to sit out for a couple of weeks.

     "Actually," his dad argued, "Wakefield is an extremely good basketball school, and Jacob already sat out for two whole weeks, and has played in three games since then. Also...

     "You know what?" Jacob interrupted, "I think I'll just do what I want to do, ok?"   His

parents always argued when it came to Jacob and basketball, and it was the usual dinner

conversation.   Jacob's family lived in a nice prairie style house in the suburbs.   Their kitchen was decorated with many paintings and plants.   Their was rarely a night where it didn't come up for at least a couple of minutes.   Jacob was an eighth grader who was being recruited by many different high schools, but had his mind set on going to Wakefield, one of the best basketball school in the state.   As the family got up from dinner Jacobs dad realized how tall he was getting.

     "Wow Jacob, I'm no more than a couple inches taller than you."

     "Yeah, I'm about 5'10"." Jacob answered.   Jacob had long, solid arms, which are very

beneficial when it comes to basketball.   Many coaches marveled at his perimeter shot.   Not many players could hit more than 40% of their shot from behind the arc as a seventh grader.

     "The doctor said his ankle was fine for him to play," his dad remarked.

     "Yes, but what if he injures it again, who knows how long he'll be out for.   After all, an

injury did end your athletic career."

     "Yes, but I didn't get injured while, playing sports.   Anyway, if the coaches see him play like he did last time, he'll be a shoo-in for the basketball team at a great school for basketball and academics," his dad retorted.   Jacob's dad played basketball when he was in high-school, but never at a great basketball school like Wakefield.   He had gotten into a car accident when he was nineteen years old, and had shattered his knee.   It ended his sports career, and also had an impact on his relationship with Jacob.   He could never practice with his son, because he would be in to much pain.   His dad always wanted his son to do what he couldn't.

     Later that night, Jacob and his dad had a talk.   "Son, I just want you to realize that this is a huge chance for you to get into a great school and onto a great high school team.   You know I never had a chance to do that."

     "I know dad, I'm going to play well and get into Wakefield."

     "Good, just make sure you don't hurt your ankle again, but just play your game, and I'm sure you'll get on that team."

     "Yeah, I get it," said Jacob getting a little impatient.

     "Ok son, just making sure.   Now get a good nights sleep for your game tomorrow."

     "Ok, goodnight dad."          

     At that point sleep was the last thing on Jacobs mind.   He thought a lot about what his

parents were telling him.   What if he played poorly and didn't make the team at Wakefield?   He would just half to play to show off his skill to the coach.   Then again, Jacob really did want his team to win one.   They were playing the schools rivals, who they haven't beat in a very long time. The last time they played them they won on a three-pointer at the buzzer.   He ran these thoughts through his head over and over again, and decided that the teams would have plenty chances to win, but this was his only chance to get on the Wakefield team.

     The next day at school Jacob met up with his friend Brian on the way to their first classes.   Brian was also on the basketball team with Jacob, even though Brian was the last person you would think played basketball at the height of five feet, four inches tall.   But his quickness made up for his lack of height.   He proved this in a close game a couple weeks ago.   Their team was down by four points with 30 seconds left on the clock.   The opposing team just had to keep possession of the ball, but Brian had other plans.   He came out of nowhere for the steal on the inbounds pass and made the basket.   He then stripped the point guard of the ball, and they went on to win the game.

     "You ready for the game tonight?" Brian questioned.

     "Yeah, I guess.   I'm just getting kind of sick of everyone just wanting to know if I'm

ready for my basketball game." answered Jacob.

     "Dude, I thought you wanted to get into Wakefield?"

     "Well, I do, it's just my mom and dad, as usual, are fighting over my life, and what I

should do.   And to tell you the truth I don't want to hear it anymore."

     "Come on, just play in our game tonight, talk to your parents, get into Wakefield, and

everything will work out just fine."

     "Yeah, your probably right, I'll talk to them about it.   Hey Brian, I have a question."

     "Don't take to long, class starts in 5 minutes."

     "Yeah, well, we really want to win this game, and I'm not sure it will be that easy if I try to impress the Wakefield coach."

     "Well I think you can show off a bit, and we can win at the same time."

     "It harder than you'd think."

     "Look Jacob, all the teams wants to do is win this game, so I think you should help us do that".   Jacob thought about this as they continued there walk to their classes in silence.   He looked at the brick walls with no posters or anything.   He always wanted a school where everyone was at the basketball game, just like at Wakefield.    

     Before Jacob new it the school day was over and the game was fast approaching.   He had decided that he would show of his skills in the first quarter or so.   Then after that he would start to move the ball around a bit more.   Another part of his game plan was hustle.   He new how coaches admired a player with skill who could also take a charge.   It was then time to head to the game.

     During warmups Jacob explained his idea to Brian.

     "So let me get this straight, you want me to get you the ball in the first quarter, and then for the rest of the game you'll share the ball more?"

     "Exactly." Jacob said.

     "Ok, fine," replied Brian,"But don't get carried away."

     Jacob then scanned the gym for the Wakefield coach, even though he new he wouldn't

recognize him.   At that point the buzzer rang, and the game was underway.

     The jump ball went to straight to Brian, and he took it down court.   He then passed it

straight to Jacob.   He pump faked and drove to the hole for the lay up.   A couple possessions later he was set up for a wide open three-pointer, and made it.   He smiled on the way back down court, and thought to himself how everything would go perfect.   Throughout the rest of the first quarter Jacob continued to play well, and ended it with ten points. They were down 18-14, but at that point they could easily come back.

     "Ok, you got what you wanted," Brian said, "now you have to keep your part of the deal so we can win this game."

     "Yeah I got it."    

     The next quarter Jacob kept his promise and passed the ball around more, and it seemed to be working, because at halftime the score was 32-30, and they were winning.   Also in the 2 nd quarter, Jacob had racked up six more points and then had 16.   In the third quarter Jacob's team started to run away with it by opening up the 3rd quarter with a 10-2 run which made the score 42-32.   Jacob at that point had 20 points and had given the Wakefield coach what he wanted.   But Jacob saw the perfect opportunity to take a charge.   A player on the opposing team had gotten a steal and was going down for a breakaway lay up.   It looked like an easy play, but around half court he mishandled the ball, which gave Jacob enough time to catch up to him.   He beat the man to the basket and set up to take a charge.   The opposing player slammed into him and he fell backward.

     "Charge!" the ref called out, and the crowd started to cheer.   Then everyone realized that Jacob wasn't getting up.   Pain shot up through Jacobs leg.   His coach rushed out and kneeled down next to him, and his dad ran down onto the court to tend to him as well.   The ref sent the players back to their benches.   The gym went silent, and no one else could do anything but watch.