Sunday, February 15, 2015
A Gift That Keeps on Giving
Four years ago today, I got one of the best birthday presents of my life. Behind "The Wolf", as Jerry Beach affectionately calls him, Charles Jenkins hit not one but TWO buzzer beaters to defeat William and Mary in overtime. It was during that magical 2010-11 Hofstra season which provided Hofstra fans with so many memories, especially of the best player ever to don a Pride/Flying Dutchmen uniform.
The Pride accomplished that 14-4 conference record and 21 win season arguably with lesser talent than the season before, as CAA All Rookie team members Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic tranferred after the 2009-10 season. It was due in large part to Jenkins, a better team effort and better coaching by first year coach Mo Cassara. I will say to my last dying day that what Cassara did that season was one of the best coaching jobs I had ever seen.
Matthew got hooked on basketball that night. He thought basketball was the most exciting sport next to his beloved baseball
Matthew would start going with me to basketball games. A lot of basketball games. In fact, the next season that I covered fifty nine Division I games for my site and the Mid Majority, Matthew went to thirty three of them with me. He was my ever present sidekick along with his little brother at Iona Women's basketball games. The kid rooted for Hofstra, Iona (loves Scott Machado) and VCU.
When we moved to South Carolina, Matthew became very involved in his first love, baseball. He has played baseball ten months of the season for the past two years. It's left him little other time for other hobbies and passions like basketball.
Matthew has become a very, very good baseball player, who has made his Little League All Star team twice. He also won a Minors Championship for his team I co-head coached last Spring by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning of a truly fantastic championship game that we won 4-3. He started that bottom of the sixth inning with a hard double down the third base line. As a dad, there is no prouder moment than having your son cross the plate to win a championship and then having him jump into your arms.
But that night of February 15, 2011 is equally a proud moment. And four years later, Matthew finally got to play basketball in a league. He plays for the Upward Bound basketball program at Shandon Baptist Church here in Columbia, South Carolina. Matthew actually plays with one of his travel ball teammates, Wil on his basketball team. They were also teammates on the District 3 Champion Coach Pitch All Star team last Spring.
In his first season of playing basketball, Matthew was not as experienced as some of his teammates. But he caught up very quickly due to his athleticism, which he certainly didn't get from his Dad. Matt is one of the better defenders on his team, likes to set picks and he loves to pass. So much so, his coach has Matthew bring the ball up the court now.
So I have a nine year old point guard. How cool is that?
But until yesterday, Matthew had not scored in a game all season. Matthew had numerous opportunities, but his shots wouldn't go in. A few unkind rims and a few rushed opportunities.
But yesterday was different. Almost four years ago to the day where he got introduced to his love of basketball. Matthew stole a pass and went coast to coast. He laid the ball up and kissed it off the glass for his first basket. Someone jumped up from his seat, pumped his fist and yelled "YEAH!" for everyone to hear. You can guess who...
Matthew wasn't done however. He would hit three more baskets, one on a pretty feed from his teammate Mark that found Matthew all alone in the paint for the easy deuce off the glass. Matt finished his day with another coast to coast layup. He had eight points, a few assists and one very proud mom and dad. The video is Matthew getting a pass from a teammate and hitting a jumper for two of his eight points. His team won going away and his friend Will added twelve points. A good day for the Columbia Thunder baseball teammates.
Not anymore. Matthew beats me regularly. After the game yesterday, we drove home. As his younger brother Jonny and his mom went inside, Matthew grabbed a basketball and hit a layup on his home court hoop. H-O-R-S-E game on.
Four years ago today I got a birthday gift that has kept on giving, my older son's love of basketball. It's a gift that I hope keeps on giving for a long, long time.
Charles Jenkins, Mo Cassara - Thanks.
PS - It was a birthday Tweet from Jaden Daly which included a reference to the Feb 15, 2011 game that inspired me to write this post. Thanks so much, Jaden, for the inspiration. Yesterday made it come full circle for me.