WOSTER: Future looks bright for scrappy point guardIf you had seen my granddaughter Frankie play her first varsity basketball game four years ago, you wouldn’t have thought she’d stick around long enough to walk off the floor of the gym in Stephan last Tuesday after the final game of her senior season.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
If you had seen my granddaughter Frankie play her first varsity basketball game four years ago, you wouldn’t have thought she’d stick around long enough to walk off the floor of the gym in Stephan last Tuesday after the final game of her senior season.
You probably wouldn’t have bet a quarter that she’d survive her freshman season of basketball. She was so tiny out there that first start. I hope that doesn’t offend her, because perhaps it is just the faulty memory of an old grandpa. Gosh, though, she looked young and fragile compared to the junior and senior girls playing for the other team in that very first varsity game.
Frankie, like her big sisters before her, played for the Chamberlain Cubs. She and her teammates were hoping to go a ways into the playoffs this year. Crow Creek’s Chieftains had other ideas and more points on the scoreboard when the buzzer sounded to end my granddaughter’s highschool basketball career. That was the opening game of the district, and her team finished something like 12-9. That’s a respectable season. Still, it ended in a loss, as does the career of nearly every kid who plays for a team that isn’t a state champion when it’s over.
It happened to Frankie, and half a century ago, it happened to me. My Cubs lost in the first game of the playoffs my senior year, too. Like Frankie’s Cubs, we won a dozen games during our regular season. I shared that bit of Chamberlain basketball history with her the weekend before the district game. She smiled. She does that frequently when she and I get together. A cynic might say she’s humoring her foolish old grandpa. I prefer to believe she likes hearing some of the old stories, even if they go back to prehistoric days when glaciers were starting to melt and create the Missouri River trench.
Frankie is a point guard. She’s a keen outside shooter, and she plays steady defense, but at the bottom of it all, she’s a point guard. She runs the offense, brings the ball up the court and generally takes responsibility for what happens between the out-of-bounds stripes. That means she handles the ball quite a lot, and that means she draws attention from defenders on the other teams.
Well, that first game, she drew huge amounts of attention from older, taller and stronger girls. They hounded her all over the court, trying to force her to mishandle the ball, throw bad passes or simply give up. Frankie mishandled the ball now and then. She made a few bad passes. I never once saw her give up. Sometimes, as I sat in the stands and watched my kid getting pounded, I almost wished she would give it up and take a seat on the bench. In one particularly brutal game, I recalled how upset my mom used to get as she watched her grandson knocking around under the boards.
“Why do the officials let them hit him like that?’’ she’d whisper to me in frustration, never mind that he was 6-5, thick of upper arm and chest and mixing it up himself. If she thought her little Andy was being pounded, she should have lived to see my little Frankie. Andy survived, and so did Frankie.
She celebrated the victories with a soft smile, and she accepted the losses with a tear or two. There were some tears after her last game the other night, but there was a soft smile, too.
I waited for my turn to hug her, and I told her, as I did after every game, how well she played and how proud I am to be her grandpa.
She hugged me back, and she thanked me, as she did after every game, for coming to watch her play.
I said I wouldn’t have missed it for a nickel, which always makes her smile. She squeezed my arm and said she had to get going. I stood and watched her walk off toward the team bus, the rest of her senior year and a future that simply must be without limits for a little point guard who won’t quit.