If you know me, I love basketball. I love March Madness (that is an American college basketball tournament for my non-American friends). So when I got an opportunity to play in a basketball tournament in Nigeria, I jumped at the chance.
You may also know that Meredith is not writing this blog. Her lovely, hard working, good providing, sweet husband is writing. Ok, I went too far with sweet. I’ve been called many things, but never sweet.
Growing up in Chicago, I dreamt of being Michael Jordan…. Game 7 of the NBA Finals, 4 seconds remaining in the game and down by one. Quick inbound pass, two dribbles to the top of the key, doubled-teamed… and then shoot a fade away as time expires. The crowd erupts when the ball finds “nothing but net”.
I started playing basketball in college as a study break and fell in love with the sport. It was the first time I discovered that good team play always beats good individual play. I’m not a great basketball player, but over the years, I learned how to screen for my teammates, move without the ball to create open space for a shot, out-hustle for a lose ball, drive to the rim to draw a double team and pass to the open man. I usually don’t score many points… my shot is terrible.
I was not sure what to expect in the tournament. All I knew is that I lived in Nigeria for almost three years and I was going to combine this….
Our team had a handful of practices before the tournament started. We had about ten Nigerians and three expats at practice. I practiced only twice because of a previously scheduled trip to Port Harcourt and rain. We practiced on a tired court on Victoria Island. The rim was bent forward, leaning to the left, and made of rebar. Not many of the team members played basketball before but they shared the same love for the game as me. So, three weeks later, we all piled into a bus and headed to Gbagaba on the mainland.
On Monday, we arrived about 3pm to warm up for the 4pm game. I’m in Nigeria… and we are playing outside. After warming up and sweating for 2 hrs, we started at 5pm. The guys setting up the portable scoreboard and game clock did not know where to get electricity. After discovering that an electrical extension cord was needed, someone mysteriously found one. They even had a shot clock… but it did not work. For some reason, they set it up everyday… don’t ask me why. Here is a pic of us warming up. See the shot clock in the grass, supported by a rock?
You can’t see it, but the fence to my back has barbed wire… that’s my life. I travel to and from barbed-wire compounds everyday. Very odd at first, but now it blends into the background. Our tournament results will be posted in Part 2.