Let me start off by saying, this might just be the realest post I've ever written. It is coming directly from the heart and from my life experiences. Focus on that word, "life," for a few seconds. It will come to play a huge role in this post a little later.
People have often asked me why I love basketball so much. The simple answer is: Basketball has given me life. In so many ways, the Lord has used my passion and love for basketball to give me life. I didn't realize what life would be when I was spending countless hours in the gym as a kid but I'm thankful for what it has become.
So, how did this all start you may ask? Well, it started when I was about 4 or 5 years old and I remember getting a basketball as a birthday gift from my parents. We didn't have much growing up and that ball was likely one of the cheapest ones on the market at that time, but it didn't matter to me. That orange ball would soon become the object of my desire. I come from a football family (all of my cousins were big time football players) so basketball made me somewhat of a black sheep but it was all worth it.
You see, basketball has provided me with some great life lessons through some difficult and trying moments. It was there when I faced racial issues growing up. It was there when I experienced disappointment with the parents of the girls I liked. It was there when tragedy struck and one of my good friends from college passed away. It was there during any difficult family issues. The game has ALWAYS been there for me. What I didn't realize though, was just WHO was behind the game.
I have loved and cherished this game. I have respected this game and it has given back to me in so many ways. It took me to different places around the world to play and coach. It introduced me to people that continue to play a significant role in my life. It introduced me to a teammate who become my best friend who then introduced me to my wife. If that's not divine intervention then I don't know what is!
You see, the Lord has always been there behind the ball. He was there when I was crying angry tears in the gym while shooting because of some ignorant racist comments made. He was there when I was passing a ball against the wall over and over again emulating Magic Johnson. He was there when I chose to shoot instead of going to my Senior Prom because a young lady's mother didn't want her going with me because of the color of my skin. He was there when I was sprinting up and down the court with a ball determined to prove to everyone in my hometown that I could play college basketball. He was there on that fateful day my freshman year of college when I decided to transfer schools to continue playing basketball. And it was that moment that sticks out more than the others because it was that decision that ultimately gave me life.
I transferred to Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA to play basketball after a freshman year at Shepherd College (now University). This decision became the most important one I would make in my career. Yes, I was able to play college basketball but it was the relationships through basketball that ultimately revealed the Lord's plan for my life.
At SU I met Chris Lassiter who would quickly become one of my best friends simply because we were so much alike. I also met his cousin, Pede Kier, who would play a huge role in my life. Both men were from a place I had heard a lot about because I had family there - Staunton, VA.
Here's where the story gets interesting. It was through the relationships with Pede and Chris that I came to know the Lord. It was also through those two guys that I met my future wife. The backstories behind these life events are simply amazing and I can describe them in no other way than they were simply the Lord's will for my life.
So, in short, basketball led me to my wife (who was also a college basketball player) and to Christ. You think that basketball that received as a kid at 5-years old is meaningless? It was far from it. It set the wheels in motion for a life of joy, pain, hurts, laughter, grace and mercy. We never know what one small act will set in motion. So yeah, basketball means a lot to me.
With that being said, I'd like to take the time to thank some people that helped me in my basketball journey.
Mom & Dad - Thanks for always supporting me and encouraging me. Mom, thanks for telling me basketball was a soft sport and giving me the desire to prove you wrong. Dad, thanks for all the creative drills that you used to help me get better. I'm now using some of those same drills with my own kids and players.
Tarina Scotidas - Sister! As a kid I looked up to you more than you ever knew. I wanted to do great things to make you proud of me. I also wanted to be smarter than you but I knew you were too sharp. You always loved me and I knew you always supported me no matter what. You never judged me and you always looked after your little brother!
Mitch Webster - Coach, you always saw the good in me and you always pushed me to get better. I can't tell you how much I wanted to beat you in the shooting games you used at camp during the summer. Thanks for allowing me to practice with your girls when basketball was in the fall. I still think fondly of those days and how watching you coach your teams actually played a part in me coaching girls myself. I won't hold it against you that you're a UNC fan though!
Doug Lambert - Coach, you always believed in me and you never threw me out of the gym during the summers when you knew I either broke in or snuck in. You also realized that I was going to be there a lot so you just gave me a key to the place. You'll never know how much that meant to me. I appreciate all the discussions we had over the years!
Pat McGregor - Coach, you allowed me to be creative and pushed me through workouts. I had more freedom to be me as a player under you. You made basketball fun again. Your ability to play pushed me. I always wanted to beat you so I worked twice as hard to try to get there!
John Moyers - Coach, you taught me the old school, wily veteran moves. Basically, you taught me how to cheat and get away with it. Haha. I still use the tricks to this day. You also saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. You believed in me despite trying to get me to wrestle for you!
Al White (R.I.P.) - I miss you, homie! You gave me my nickname and you always pushed me to be better and to believe in myself. You never let me quit in pick-up games at the Civics and you punched me in my chest when I needed it. You also gave me the ball and told me to do my thing despite how much you could dominate a game. I miss you and love you!
Cameron Jones - Killa Cam! Love you, home boy! We spent so much time traveling around Mo County and PG County hooping. You challenged me to play hard no matter who we were playing against. Many times we ended up being J-Will and C-Webb. I miss those days!
Tyson Thompson - My brotha from anotha motha! Love you man. Even though we only played together for one season in college, our relationship only got stronger. You were the brother I never had. I thank you for always believing in my dreams and encouraging me to chase them. You know I always got you!
Kaye Roberts - Love you, Kaye! You took a chance on me as a coach when people probably didn't agree with your choice. I think it worked out pretty well, don't you?!
Dr. John Fahey - Dr. Fahey, you supported me through some tough early years in coaching and encouraged me to stay the course. Thank you for your wisdom and guidance.
Paul Hatcher - The Godfather! Coach, you always took the time to provide insight into the game for me. You never minded breaking down film or game situations with me. I am thankful for your support over the years.
Jerry Wall - What more could a man ask for in a father-in-law? The opportunity to talk about the Lord and basketball (many times intertwined) with you has given me a more introspective look on the game and on life.
Erin Hartman - My wife, my bestie, the other half of the marriage Dream Team! You were a baller too. I'm thankful for the sacrifices you've made over the years to allow me to chase my dreams. I'm even thankful for those nights you waited up for me after games to blast me for coaching decisions. You've been there through it with me and I'm thankful for that. May we continue to put a full court press on life together. I love you!
Quite honestly, the list of folks to thank is too long but just know I remember each and every person that helped me along the way. You have driven me by your praise, your encouragement, your negativity, your hatred, your laughter, and your support. My journey is far from over so there's more to be written.
I am forever grateful that the Lord put a passion for basketball in my heart. It is my hope that the relationships I have built and will continue to build through the game will provide glory to His name.