Four feet, ten inches. I reached that height when I was about 12. Maybe 13. Then I stayed there. I knew I wasn’t going to be tall as an adult. My mom was short – 4’9″.
As a kid in elementary school, I always watched the kids playing basketball on my way home from school. It looked fun.
It was probably all the bouncing. Bouncing on the court. That’s called dribbling. Bouncing off the backboard. That’s called lucky. It looked like it took a fair amount of control. Even at that age I liked the idea of being in charge like that.
I tried out for the basketball team in 8th grade. I stayed after school for tryouts. Running the mile before drills. Layups, passing, calling plays. Sprints the length of the court.
Not too many other girls tried out, and it didn’t seem too far-fetched that I would make the team.
I made the team. They announced the names the next morning after a week of tryouts.
I didn’t have all that much skill. All the bouncing I watched when I was younger took much more control than I had. Still, I dribbled halfway decently and could weave around people just fine.
My height required me to be scrappy. I chased after the ball, even when we played man-on-man. I’d manage a steal sometimes.
My foul shot was pretty solid.
It was fun being on a sports team. I’d come home from practice and do my homework and practice the clarinet and then spend the rest of the time until I fell asleep going over plays and thinking of ways to improve.
I was in the best shape of my life then. That was the year I actually earned the Presidential physical fitness award. I didn’t even feel sore or fatigued after practice. 8th grade. 13 years old. Almost 20 years ago.
We won our first game that season. It was a nailbiter, and we were behind at halftime, and Coach Gilmore gave an amazing speech to us in the locker room.
I sat the bench this game. It was too close to let a first-year player go in. The other team stayed ahead for most of the second half, but we steadily caught up.
It got down to the wire, a one-point game, five seconds left. Our ball. Pass, dribble, pass, dribble. Drive to the basket. Shoot. Score. Buzzer. Pretty incredible. One of the coolest experiences of my life.
All-county auditions happened to be the same night as that first game. I tried calling my parents to let them know I’d be at the game instead of auditions.
They’d already taken off to the school holding the auditions, Orange Park Junior High. And I didn’t have a way to get over there from Wilkinson Junior High.
The game ended, and Dad walked into the gym looking pretty angry.
I was off the team. I had to quit.
My first and only school basketball game. Pretty awesome from the bench.
I left my uniform in the locker the next day. I told Coach Gilmore I couldn’t be on the team anymore. Then I had to explain to Mr. Coleman why I didn’t audition for All-County Band.
If I had to do it again, I’d make sure my parents knew I’d be at the game instead of auditions. Then maybe I would have gotten to play later in the season. Then 10-15 years later, I’d be the only 4’10” player in the world playing professional basketball.
The photos are from Tracy (Rood) Zang’s yearbook. She scanned them into facebook.