I’ll always remember my mind flashing back to playing alone in the driveway, my mom calling me inside for dinner way too early. I’d yell back ‘Not until I win this game!’
As a kid, I always dreamed about hitting the “big shot.” Night after night, I would hit one game winner after another until mom’s voice got a little more serious. And so when the stage was actually set for my chance to hit a “big shot” in a meaningful game, I had already been there. I had already thought about that moment and what move I might make and the feeling I was going to have after the shot went down.
Before every game in the last half of this season, I would pray that I could play as if I was outside on my court. It’s a place where I played because I loved the game and had no worries or fear (except the neighbors telling me to go inside because they wanted to go to sleep). With just over a minute left on the clock in our game against Northwest Christian, I found myself praying that same prayer. I wanted to forget the pressure, the reality that this could be my last game, and simply go out there and act as if nobody was watching.
The time difference between the game clock and shot clock on our last offensive play of the game was 7 seconds. With a 2 point lead, I knew that if we scored, the game would be sealed. As I dribbled the ball at halfcourt, my mind drifted back to all the times I hit that shot in my backyard. There was no fear, no worry--nothing--just me and a ball, playing the game I love.
I made one of my favorite moves going to my right and shot a semi-fade away, a shot I had practiced again and again. I wish I could tell you exactly what I was thinking as I made the move, but I don’t believe I was thinking anything. I was simply re-living what had already happened so many times before…only this time the feeling of moving on to the Elite Eight was a little sweeter than walking inside to a home-cooked meal.