Tag Archives: basketball

remembering nate

the last 13 years have come and gone so fast.  it seems time slips by faster and faster the older i get.  it seems like just yesterday i was an 17-year-old teenager, living at home with my parents and trying to finish up my senior year of high school.

where does the time go?

i remember older family members and friends telling me that time went by faster as you got older.  i thought that was just something old people told young people like me so we would appreciate our youth more.

i guess not.

i met nate when i was 12 years old.  instead of attending the junior high my elementary school classmates went to, i was forced to go to another junior high since my mother and i had moved districts.  i had to make friends all over again.  nate was one of those friends.

i cant remember the first time i met nate but id wager it was during a game of pick-up basketball we often played at lunch time.  i wasnt much of a basketball player at the time, having spent much of my childhood playing baseball and soccer.  basketball was nate’s sport.  he would dribble circles around all of us and score whenever he felt like it.  the rest of us were pylons.

by the time we were in grade 9 nate had really come into his own.  40, 50, 60-point games.  he single-handedly won us basketball games and even tournaments.  i remember watching from the bench in awe of the things he could do with a basketball.  after seeing him dismantle other teams, we didnt feel so bad that he did the same to us during practice.

we knew nate was special, but he acted as if nothing he did was out of the ordinary.  there was no arrogance or ego to him.  sure, he carried himself with confidence but he had a humility about him that kids at 15 arent supposed to have.  at a time in life when most kids are forming clichés and singling other kids out, nate wouldnt have anything to do with it.  he was mature past his years.

nate was also the first authentic christian i ever met.  i remember when we would travel to play tournaments, either on the bus or in the hotel room, guys would ask nate all kind of questions about his faith, church and God.  regardless of the question, he always took the time to give an answer. by the way he talked and walked, nate gave us all a compelling reason to believe him.

like i said, nate was special.

after grade 9, i moved to comox and went to a different high school than my other junior high classmates.  once again, i had to make new friends.  if that wasnt hard enough, when basketball season started i didnt have the luxury of having nate on my team.

i now had to play against him!

id have to lie through my teeth to say i won any battles him and i had during our grade 10 and 11 years.  i didnt.  nate had my number.  to be fair to myself, he had everyones number.  as improved as the rest of us got, nate got even better.  it frustrated me like nothing else in my life at the time.

so i decided to dedicate my life to basketball.  i ate, slept, breathed and dreamed basketball.  evenings after school and my entire weekends were spent at the gym, often by myself, running, shooting, dribbling and passing to myself off the walls.  i would dribble my ball the 5 or 6 kilometers to the gym and home.  my fingertips would crack and bleed from overuse so i would  have to tape them up so i could keep playing.

i was determined to get better.

more than that, i was determined to beat nate.  every time i went to practice by myself i pictured him practicing at his gym getting better.  when i got tired and wanted to go home and eat, i would tell myself that nate was still practicing.  that mental image forced me to stay longer and keep playing.
come hell or high water, i was going to beat nate.

over the summer between grades 11 and 12 i had a breakthrough.  my skinny body put on some well-needed muscle and my skills really came together.  all my hard work was finally paying off and just in time for my senior year.  i knew that this was my year.

i felt ready.

nate came to my church for the christmas play that we put on that year.  i was chosen to be joseph and had to perform a large monologue that i was nervous for.  i nailed it on opening night and felt pretty good about it.  as i stood in the church lounge accepting congratulations from people in my church, nate surprised me with a handshake and a hug.  we caught up on each others lives and talked basketball.  our schools were playing each other in a few weeks at his schools annual tournament.  my first chance to go head-to-head with him.

i still remember what i was doing when i heard the news.  i had just come up the stairs from my room and was going to the fridge to make a sandwich.  the phone had rung and my mom answered it.  she hung up the phone and told me the news: nate had died in a car accident on the way to his basketball game.  he had fallen asleep at the wheel and his small car had crossed the center line and collided with a large truck.

everything in my life came to a standstill.

i remember looking out the window at the tree in my backyard as my mom told me the bad news, wishing that this was somehow an awful dream that any moment i would awake from.  as the tears rolled down my face, much like they do right now, i couldnt believe what i heard.  this couldnt have happened to nate.  of all the people in the world..

i cried everyday for the next several months.

in my anger i wanted to give up playing basketball.  i had worked so hard to get better and finally beat nate and now he was gone.  i wanted to kick all the basketballs i owned into the forest behind my house and never play again.

but i didnt.

i found that basketball, unlike anything else in my life, brought me the peace my hurting and angry heart needed. i found comfort and joy in playing the sport nate and i both loved.  it became my place of escape.

it still is today.

more than an escape, basketball became a way for me to build life-long friendships, receive university scholarships and teach young kids life skills through sport.  for all the injuries it has incurred on my body, it has paid me back many times over in blessings; blessings i would have never experienced had i not met nate dasilva.

13 years later as i sit here at my computer, my left ankle still slightly swollen from a sprain i received the last time i played, writing about the friend that changed my life in more ways than he ever knew, i remember that mid-january day as if it were just yesterday.

thanks for everything, nate.

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trash talking and my hate of rubber floors

my mind seems extra focused these past few days. kind of like when you take a telescope and look at the moon. details you didnt see there before pop out at you. im generally a good focuser (im sure thats a word, right?). this type of focus seems more fine tuned, like my focus got a tune up. not sure how else to describe it. if i win the lottery or predict the next tsunami (heaven forbid) we’ll know somethings up.

my fine tuned focus aside (if only for a moment), today treated me generally well. at least right up until the end.

i was the first one at the gym. i knew there was going to be trouble the moment i stepped on to the gym floor. rubber. i hate rubber floors! i know at least one of my torn up knees (that required surgery) was hurt on a rubber floor. ive rolled many an ankles playing on rubber. i can still remember the rubber burns id get on my body playing ‘first one to the ball’, where we dove for the basketball during a summer camp.

we had eight guys show. that meant no subs. only breaks we took were in between games for maybe a minute. i got tired. thats what happens i guess when you dont play any real games for a while. lesson learned. again. hopefully..

the guy who would guard me for most of the night was naked lark or larq or maybe even lairke. ill stick with lark. lark identified himself as a trash talker right away. the other guys smiled and one said to me ‘enjoy larks mouth’. boy, did he like to trash talk. dont get me wrong now, i have no problem with a little talk. heck, i usually initiate it because i enjoy it. makes the game a bit more interesting. problem here was that lark couldnt do much on the court. he was athletic and strong, but a shooter or dribbler he was not. kind of key to being good to basketball. kinda.

i planned on just coming out and playing some friendly ball with some older guys and build some connections in the community. passing the ball lots to make them like me(duh!) and score a few buckets to show them i wasnt some stiff. all good intentions come to an end, some more noble than others. mine died when i started listening to lark talk. and talk. and talk! nope, something had to be done. i was growing more and more annoyed with each passing word. so i did something. i went at him. hard.

now i can hear someone saying ‘be the bigger man, lucas and ignore it’.

no.

the court can be a place to practice humility, i agree. not every time someone talks trash to me do i go full tilt with them. like i said before, i usually initiate it with others. especially my friends. this case was different. i was annoyed by it and to be honest, im pretty sure a lot of the other guys were too.

ok, enough justifying. it happened. it was fun. it worked!

kinda.

coach oliver taught me something pretty valuable when he coached me at queens, besides respecting your coach and jumping to the ball. he taught me, and im sure lots of other players, how to box out your opponent well. if you box out your opponent well, youll have a better chance of getting the rebound. pretty simple stuff. this is where basketball starts to get physical. see, ive heard from far too many people that basketball is a soft sport. this simply isnt the case. i have had more concussions and more bruises playing basketball than in all my years playing football. most of the bruising coming from rebounding and bashing into other players in a calculated scramble for the ball.

lark liked to crash the boards and get rebounds. considering his inability to shoot or dribble this was a good idea on his part. only problem is that ive been brainwashed by my past coach to box guys out and do it in a physical manner so they reconsider next time if they want to try again. its perfectly legal but some guys dont like it. lark didnt like it. his quieted talk came roaring back to life after a particular box out where i bumped him pretty good. he got mad and started complaining about cheap play. i assured him that he was mistaken (in a polite way) but he would have nothing of it. my hand shakes were ignored as were my words. seems i just couldnt win with him. maybe next time.

while my run in with lark didnt go so well, the other guys were great. had the chance to talk with a few of them over the course of the night and most of them were really friendly and engaging, easy to talk with. many of them gave back to their community in halifax. i got chatting at the end of the night with one guy named doobie. doobie was on the other team all night. quick, aggressive player but smooth. we get to talking about what he does in halifax and he reels off a laundry list of jobs his does. all of them has something to do with helping the community. he was leaving the gym to head home for a quick shower before going to his job at a home for youths without other options. cool guy.

im lying here at home now, my back and knees sore from all the running, and a bag of frozen peas resting on my ankle. another roller ankle. chalk up another win for the rubber floor.

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stirring

my blogs are a day behind right now because its only when i wake up the next day do i have time to write. yesterday was no different. seemed as soon as i was out the door life grabbed hold and wanted me to be a patient observer and participant. i love it when that happens.

chuck didnt make it to the hangout spot yesterday, which was a bit disappointing. fortunately i was able to catch up with donnie, one of the guys i had been working with when i was with pax. donnie, a short little guy with a diabetic problem and a penchant to get into the sauce a bit too often, caught me up on his life while ive been gone. hes lost a considerable amount of weight which isnt a good thing when hes already a small guy. we talk about his addiction a bit but hes not ready to seek further help. he cant seem to get past denial.

as i leave i run into paul, one of the men that sit on the board at the out of the cold shelter. hes a fairly prominent figure in the community, having given the past 30 years to helping the community in halifax. great guy. we talk about different projects hes involved in and what the out of the cold shelter hopes to accomplish for next year. he encourages me by saying that he can tell people on the street and in the community enjoy engaging with me and that hes glad im here. coming from a man of his standing im pretty left pretty speechless. we shake hands and i float off. thanks, paul.

again i head into uniacke square to play some ball with simo. we train for a couple hours and call it a day. kat shows up and we talk a walk through the square, towards the water. we hit brunswick st as hope cottage is finishing up their dinner for those on the street and catch beaver as hes heading home. we exchange hugs and catch up with him. he bugs me about looking skinnier and i bug him about the big belly hes acquired since ive been gone. i ask him if the baby is kicking yet and he howls.

on our way home, i decide to stop in at the local ymca to see whats going on. i greeted by a couple friendly older men from the community who happen to work there. i ask how one goes about getting involved at the y and we go from there. i get the whole meal deal speal from terry, who tells me everything id ever need to know about the facility and the community. his passion for the kids and his desire to see his community changed is so apparent in the way he talks. i love talking with people like that. we exchange contact info and he invites me out on friday to play ball with some of the older men in the community. nothing like some basketball and community connections.

i leave the north end feeling more connected, feeling a greater potential for change than i have in the past. something is stirring..

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hoops in the hood

past couple days have been lived pretty tired. sleep apnea is probably flaring up. so last night i crashed for about 11 hours. ya, no kidding! yet, when i woke up, i was still tired. the day waits for no one, tired man or not, and i popped out and ready to dance.

a new hangout spot in the city opened up recently so i figured id make a stop in and see what its like. on my way i see a familiar face but without a recollection of the name. i can be really bad with names sometimes. even worse with birthdays. chuck tells me his name after i apologetically ask him and he tells me about life. chuck has been sleeping on the streets for the past few days because one of the only two shelters in the city is full, the other one isnt free. men dont have many resources in this city when life pulls the rug out from under them. its a cold hard reality that doesnt hold many options or potential for hope. it sucks to see, even worse seen in the eyes of fallen men.

chuck and i part ways but make plans to meet for lunch tomorrow. something doesnt seem right about his story. doesnt make all the connections. hes either lying to me or its mental illness. most of the guys suffer from some type, multiple mental illnesses not being uncommon. i hope hes just lying.

theres a couple guys i know hanging out on the front steps as i make my way up them to the new hangout spot. a chat with them briefly, pretty eager to check out the new place. after i get to the top of a dozen stairs or so, i follow a side hallway that brings me back down another pair of equal stairs and into a large, cozy room occupied by some familiar faces and some new ones. i start talking with peter about a treasure hunt hes going on soon. hes not really though. he suffers many delusional dreams he believes to be reality because of the schizophrenia that plagues his brain. his delusions are pretty harmless to himself and others but i still worry that could change. i pray it doesnt. hes a pretty cool old man and i like his stories, regardless if theyre real or not. he needs help but doesnt have the support to help him.

next im off to the basketball ball courts in uniacke square to meet my moraccan friend, simo, for a training session. he wants to make the team next year at one of the universities in the city so ive offered to help train him. his english is getting better and so is his game. i think hes got a fair shot at it.

uniacke square has a dirty history to it..

africville was a small community on the southern shores of halifax populated mostly by african nova scotians. it was a small, poor neighbourhood that the city wanted to move. completely. so they did. they bulldozed their community and placed them in a 250-unit housing project. uniacke square is an impoverished part of present day halifax thats home to 60% unemployment, gangs, violence and plenty of drugs. when you hear about a shooting, its usually at the square.

a couple young ballers start shooting hoops and i can tell they want a game with us. i ask them to play and they say yes faster than a fat kid on cake. i was pretty eager to play with the older guys, too, when i was younger. igor, the skinny white kid with a good jumpshot was on my team. kerbie, a 15 yr old black boy who reminded me of me the way he played (he played well) ripped it up. good kids. polite, good sportsmanship and good teammates. after two hours on the pavement my back says ‘nope, no more’ and i tell the kids the next game will have to wait till another day. they understand and we shake hands. they ask when we’ll be back to play some more. i tell them ill see them tomorrow afternoon. they smile and i smile back.

something needs to give here. community needs building and people need hope. need to find more like-minded people who feel the same.

is that you?

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