House of Sportsby Marisabina Russo
But Jim is short, and it's not easy being a short basketball player. He's worked hard to get onto the traveling team, and now he's determined to earn himself
For Jim, there's nothing in the world like dribbling a basketall downcourt, hearing the squeak of his sneakers, feeling the pebbled surface of the bouncing ball, flying for the basket. Basketball is everything.
But Jim is short, and it's not easy being a short basketball player. He's worked hard to get onto the traveling team, and now he's determined to earn himself a starting position if only his grandmother doesn't mess things up for him. Every weekend the family does something with Nana, and sometimes Jim is forced to miss his Saturday practice. Coach Mondini isn't the type to understand if a player misses practice or arrives late....
Jim's parents tell him he can learn a lot from Nana, but Jim is worried that his obligations to her may lose him the one thing he cares about his place on the basketball team.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Age Range:
- 8 - 11 Years
Read an Excerpt
Jim woke up seconds before the clock radio went off. He looked at the red numbers. Five forty-five. Abruptly a husky voice pierced the silence. "Baby, baby, baby-" A shadowy arm rose from the other bed and slammed down the top of the clock radio.
"Whatsa matter with you?" said Pete, Jim's brother. "It's friggin' Saturday! Why did you set the alarm?"
"Sorry," said Jim, trying to remember if he had set the radio or not.
Pete muttered something and tossed over and soon was snoring again. Jim lay there with one arm across his eyes to block the creeping daylight. Pete's snoring sounded like the broken muffler on Dad's old Volkswagen.
"Stop snoring!" Jim yelled. Pete didn't answer.
Jim stared at the wall of posters at the foot of his bed. Only sports posters: football, soccer, baseball, and, most of all, basketball. He looked up at the ceiling. There in the gray light he could barely make out the smooth, shaved head and the long, outstretched arms. Impossibly long. Jim often stretched out his own scrawny arms while lying on his bed and tried to imagine being as big as Michael Jordan.
Dad was tall, six-four. He said Jim had lots of growing to do. But Mom! Mom was a shrimp. Jim hated it when his grandmother Nana, Mom's mother, said, "But, Jim, you're already as big as I am, and you're only twelve!" Nana was even more of a shrimp than Mom!
There was no use trying to go back to sleep. Today was Saturday, but it was the most important day of the year. Jim couldn't stop thinking about the tryouts. He could see the shiny gym floor, hear the squeak of his sneakers, feel the pebbled surface of the ball hitting his palmas he dribbled downcourt. The coaches were sitting on folding metal chairs behind the basket. They were watching him approach. He pulled the ball back, then spun up like a corkscrew to lay the ball softly against the backboard before it dropped quietly through the net. Swish. A perfect layup. Today were the tryouts for the travel basketball team. The old days of town teams when everybody played, even Gary Bushnell, the spazziest boy around, were over. This was the next step, a team that played the best teams from other towns. Jim had to make this team. He had lived his whole life for this day.
Jim got himself out of bed. It was cold. The window over Pete's bed was broken, the wood rotted away. A pane of glass was missing, and Mom had taped a plastic bag from a package of English muffins over the space. It made a soft flapping noise.
When Jim pushed open the swinging door to the kitchen, he heard Jake yelping in his sleep. Jake, a yellow Lab, had his bed under the kitchen table. Jake was the warrior, the old fella, the great one. He had led a long, adventurous life: coming home with a porcupine quill in his nose, dragging a deer leg up to the back door, being caught by the animal control officer and sent to the shelter ten miles away. Jim crouched down to rub Jake's belly. "Hey, big fella!"
Jake raised his head and looked at Jim. In the old days Jake would have jumped up, banging into the table leg, wiggling his whole body with his wagging tail.
"You're so lazy!" said Jim. "Look at you!"
It was light outside. Jim pulled on his thick, white basketball shoes and laced them loosely. He grabbed his windbreaker from the hook by the door. Then he rolled up the bottoms of his pajama pants.
"Come on, Jake," Jim said as he unlocked the door. Jake stretched and yawned. "Let's go," said Jim, clapping his hands. "Time for some hoops."
The sky was a flinty gray, and a woodpecker was drumming away up in the maple tree. No cars were driving by, no snowblowers, no planes over the house, just the steady staccato of the busy woodpecker. Jim picked up the blue and white ball that was lying in Mom's snow-covered flower bed. It was the ball he had won last summer at basketball camp for being the MVP of his team. He held it in both hands and tossed it up a few times. It was cold and heavy. He dribbled it into the driveway over to the chalk marks still visible from yesterday's game of Horse. He set his feet, brought the ball up to shoulder height, and arced his wrists and hands as he released the ball in the direction of the basket. It hit the front of the rim and bounced out toward the flower bed. Jim ran to grab it, then took a quick jump shot and swished it. "He jumps, he shoots, he scores!" Jim sang out. Over and over, shooting from every side, listening to the wind in the trees, which sounded like cheering fans. He called to Jake, who was rolling on his back in the wet grass, "Watch this, old fella!" Jim played until his hands were numb from the cold.
When he went back inside, Jim found Mom up making coffee. "You're the early bird this morning," said Mom. "I thought you wanted to sleep late?"
"Not today," said Jim. "Today's the tryout. I've gotta be ready."
"Jim, it's only seven o'clock! The tryout's not for three more hours!"
"Take it easy, Jim," said Mom. "You don't want to wear yourself out."
"Mom, you never played sports. You don't understand. You have to get yourself psyched, pumped, ready to explode!!" Jim didn't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but let's face it, she was not an athlete. She was an artist! She spent all day in her little studio wearing one of Dad's old shirts, painting pictures, listening to that old-time music. When Jim and Dad were watching basketball on TV, Mom would come in and say something stupid like "Look at those uniforms...House of Sports. Copyright © by Marisabina Russo. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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