I’m standing there in the tunnel waiting for my teammates to exit the team room. I’m feeling nervous because I have never been in this big of a game. I know this because I could hear my heart beating and nothing else besides that. This is the state championship game. The game that decides who would be crowned “king” of the state. My teammates are hyped as I try to hide my nervousness from them because I was one of the best players on the team. I could not be having any of these feelings before such a big game. Our coach screams that we are about to run out onto the court.
I close my eyes. I imagine everything our team has accomplished this year. How we were the best team in the league, which was a surprise, how we had four all-state players, and how I broke the scoring record in state history. This was one of the best moments of my career. It might be okay with my teammates for just getting to this big of a game, but I for one wanted to go out there and win it all. After all, not only was it my last season, but it was also my last game ever for my school.
I wasn’t always this kid who was amazing at basketball. In the beginning of high school, I was this 5’5” kid who did not have much of a jump shot and below average ball handling skills. But in-between now and then, I had grown to 6’8” and worked harder than I had ever worked before. I had top programs knocking on my door now, and it came down to six different programs. So, I talked it over with my parents, and it came down to Duke, North Carolina, Villanova, Kentucky, Kansas, and Virginia. On National Signing Day, I decided that I would be attending the University of North Carolina. At the end of the day, I reflected on how I had changed so much over the past four years and how my hard work had really paid off.
At the beginning of the season, I did not expect us to do so well. Our practices were terrible because almost nobody knew the plays, and don’t even get me started on the games. So one day, my coach sat me down in his office, and he said to me, “Look, I know this is your last season and you want to go to the state tourney, so what you have to do is become a leader or else this season is a lost cause.” I was leading the practices, and we actually started to win games. By the end of the regular season, our team had secured a spot in the state tournament, finishing with a record of 18-5. It took a lot of hard work, sweat, and grit, but I was proud of this team and what it had accomplished this year.
I remember when my son started playing the game that my husband loved for so long. I remember the times when he could barely play, but he stayed out long past dark shooting the basketball in that hoop I bought him for his eighth birthday. One day, he came home from school, and he said, “Mom, I don’t want to continue playing this game because I am terrible at it.” I told him that to get better, you have to practice more. I could tell that he wanted to get better because basketball was his life and one of the most important things that he cared about. My son had worked long and hard to get to the place where he was now; and I’m not just talking about all these college scholarships. I’m talking about the state championship game. He had been talking about this since the first moment of his high school basketball career. And now here he was, just about ready to play in the state championship game.
I’m standing there, ready to take the floor. As I run out onto the court, I look at the section where my mom is sitting and see how proud she is of me. She is looking at me and is so happy to see what my teammates and I had accomplished. We were so pumped for this because I know for me and six of my other teammates, it would be our last basketball game for this team. For those other six seniors, it may even be their last competitive basketball game. We take our last warmups, and then our coach calls us in to give us one final pep talk. I’m not really paying attention because I can’t focus with everyone yelling in the stands, but he is probably saying “I’m proud of you guys. You fought hard all year long, and it’s a true accomplishment just to get here.”
Here I am, three minutes before the biggest game of my high school career, and I’m so determined to win this game. This might be because it’s my last game ever for the school or because I want to give the fans a game to remember. But as I waited for the game to start, I remember those three minutes being the most nervous moments of my life. Oh, how I will never forget those three minutes before the game began.