“Pick up the pace!”
Coach yelled as the students ran up and down the football field constantly. It’s been three weeks since the first tryout, and nobody else tried out for the team. Due to this, Coach made the team official and started treating every day like a practice. Nobody on the team seemed to mind the change, and everyone was happy that they made the team.
The practices for the team followed a daily routine. They’d start out running up and down the football field constantly until Coach felt that they warmed up enough. This often took around five full trips up and down the field. Russ and Lory would bicker every day as they ran, trying to out-do each other, and giving verbal jabs to each other. At first, everyone was concerned about it, but eventually, everyone saw it as Russ and Lory’s way of motivating each other.
Lionel, Daryll, and Khris often stayed next to each other whenever they ran. Lionel simply wanted to keep pace with Khris, since he was an Expert, but Daryll had been making efforts to become friends with Khris. He wasn’t as starstruck as the others were at first, since he never heard of the Experts. the starstruck wore off the other students after a few weeks of practice. Seeing Khris every day got them used to his talent.
“We’ve been doing this for three weeks now. I’m so done.” Daryll complained.
“We need a lot of stamina to go against the Fletchers. I’ve never seen any of them get tired. They’re monsters.” Khris showed no signs of exhaustion as he spoke.
Michael was often ahead of everybody when they ran, doing his best to outperform everyone. Partly because he wanted to show superiority, but also because he wanted his father to acknowledge him. However, Coach Riley never said anything about Michael’s performance.
Opposite of Michael was Kazu, who was always in the back and struggling to keep up. He showed the least athletic ability throughout the three weeks since practice started, and always struggled to make it through the full practice, only showing little improvement to his stamina throughout the three weeks.
Not long after they were done running, the team was back into the gym, running small three-on-three games. On one team, there was Khris, Lory, and Kazu. On the other, it was Daryll, Lionel, and Russ. Michael sat out and switched in whenever Coach wanted him to, but it was only to check his chemistry. This was also part of the daily routine.
Kory read his book in the stands every day, his faith in the team was nearly nonexistent. Every practice he’d take some time to glance up and watch the team, and he could tell that the team wasn’t very coordinated with each other. He noticed their improvement but knew it wasn’t enough to compete against any of the Experts. Unexpectedly, though, on this particular day, Kory had gotten a text on his phone from a familiar friend.
‘Come outside, I’ll be waiting.’ It read.
Almost immediately, Kory packed all his stuff and walked out of the gym, unnoticed. He walked out the front door of the school, seeing a member of The Experts standing there, facing away from Kory.
“Well, if it isn’t The Villain himself. Been a while, Manny.” Kory’s voice had a clear disdain. Manny turned around to face Kory.
“You know very well not to call me that, quitter.” Manny had a sly smirk on his face, but his voice was completely normal. This shocked Kory slightly, knowing that Manny often changed his voice slightly to sound superior to others.
“What do you want, Manny?” Kory asked. Manny walked over to a nearby bench, sitting down.
“Sit with me. We need to talk.” Manny patted the seat next to him. Kory sighed, not wanting to sit next to him, but he did anyway. There was a moment of silence, with neither Kory nor Manny looking at each other. Kory, however, quickly got annoyed at the silence.
“If you’re here to try to convince me to play, you should just go home. I’m done.” Kory exclaimed, wanting this to end immediately. Manny pulled out a bottle of water and took a sip.
“Do you hate basketball that much?” Manny said in between sips.
“I never want to touch a ball again.” Kory looked at many, hatred in his eyes. Many scoffed but then smiled again.
“You’re such a waste of talent, you know that?” Manny laughed. Kory hated his laugh, with the clear cockiness. He knew that Manny believed he was superior to Kory in almost every way.
“You’re such a waste of my time, you know that?” Kory stood up, about to leave. Manny continued to laugh Manny couldn’t help but laugh.
“I’ll be there at the practice game next week. I hear that High-Rise and Macbeth will be there too. So, make sure your team puts on a good show. Try to score at least five points on them.” Many stood up and stretched. Kory started walking away.
“Goodbye, Villain.” He said as he walked.
“No no, while I’m here, I must ask. Have you healed from it? The embarrassment I left you in? Have you even touched a basketball since then? How do you feel? Knowing that no matter how hard you tried, how much effort you put, and how smart you were, even on your best day, you couldn’t score a single point, nor could you stop me enough. You could have been one of us, but you couldn’t stomach what I put you through, nor the fact that everyone ranked you at the bottom. I was going to be nice today, but not because I like you, or because I’m turning over a new leaf. You’re no longer a threat, and after this, you’ll no longer be worth my time.” Manny suddenly spoke out. Kory knew it was coming and wanted to leave before many could say anything, but failed.
Kory stood there in silence, as Many turned and walked away. Once Manny was out of sight, Kory walked back into the gym, visibly bothered. Khris noticed Kory walking back in, seeing the anger on his face.
“Timeout! Coach, I need a minute, please.” Khris raised his hand as he spoke.
“Sure, switch with Michael,” Coach responded.
Khris ran off the court and over to Kory, sitting next to him, while Michael took his place on the court.
“What happened?” Khris asked.
“Villain was here.” Kory’s voice was shaky, his anger was clear.
“Please tell me you didn’t call Manny that.” Khris’s pleaded.
“Multiple times” Kory sounded proud at that fact, but the shakiness was still in his voice. Khris face-palmed.
“Did he show that side?” Khris had a clear disappointment.
“Briefly. I think he quickly realized that I’m not coming back.” Kory took out his book and began reading as he spoke.
“Are you alright? I know how you two are together. And I know how he is.” Khris put more concern in his voice, but Kory knew that Khris was more disappointed in Kory than Manny.
“I’ll be fine, go back to practice. You can’t afford to take breaks like this.” Kory kept his gaze completely focused on his book, and Khris took the hint that Kory was giving off. Without another word, Khris got up, patted Kory on the shoulder, and headed back into practice.
After practice, that day, Khris stayed late to take extra shots, and Kory had to stay late as well because of it. Kory put the book away to watch Khris shoot, almost wanting to go and shoot with him. However, Manny’s words boomed through his head, causing Kory to lose interest again. He picked up a different book from his bag and read until Khris was done for the day.
A week went by and the day of the practice game had finally come. Everybody was excited about the game in their own way.
At junior lunchtime, Lionel was eating lunch with Lory. Lionel was reading from a folder in front of him, identical to the one that Kory had given coach on the first day of tryouts.
“You’ve become obsessed with this game. You need to relax a bit.” Lory spoke, eating a muffin as he did.
“This folder is crazy. Kory even added a page for each of us. It had our heights, styles, strengths, and even our weaknesses. Not to mention, it has every strength and weakness for The Experts. All of them even have nicknames and rankings” Lionel showed excitement in his voice.
“I thought you’d be more worried than anything. You almost seem happy to be playing him again.” Lory was disinterested in the folder, almost tired of Lionel only thinking about basketball.
“I have to get back at him. He blocked every single shot at the summer camp. Lory, we were top players in elementary, and throughout one summer, this guy made me look like I had no talent at all.” Lionel pointed down at the page he was on. The page about one of the Fletcher Triplets, Tyrell Fletcher.
In the folder, Tyrell and his brothers were all listed at six-foot-five with different strengths and weaknesses. Tyrone was an excellent scorer but lacked on defence. Tyler was excellent at defense and stealing passes, but lacked on offence. Tyrell, however, had an unusual description in the folder that Lionel took note of.
‘Inconceivably amazing on defence.’ The page listed under Tyrell’s strengths. However, the page stated offence as his clear weakness.
Lionel read the page over and over and over again, almost becoming obsessed with it. Lory was overly concerned, but he couldn’t snap his brother out of it. This was when two girls approached them and sat down.
“Hey, you’re the basketball twins, right? Which one of you is Lory?” One girl spoke, a sense of anger in her voice. Lory raised his hand. Another girl spoke.
“Oh, you guys are cute.” As opposed to the first girl, the second had a clear interest in her voice.
“Can you leave, please? We’re sort of busy talking.” Lionel was immediately angry. The first girl spoke again.
“About the game tonight? We'll be there. My brother is on the team, and he invited me, so I’m bringing Taylor.” The first girl spoke, showing no interest in listening. The other girl raised her hand.
“I’m Taylor.” She smiled at Lionel, but he didn’t bother to look up, completely submerged in the folder.
“Great, nice introductions, can you leave now?” Lionel yet again had anger in his voice. The first girl ignored Lionel’s comment.
“I’m Rachel, Russ is my brother.” The first girl said proudly. Lory immediately perked up.
“Your brother is an idiot.” Lory laughed as he spoke.
“I know, but he’s my brother, and a good one. Which is why I’m asking you to lay off him a bit. He’s in grade twelve, he doesn’t need a ninth-grader jabbing him every time he speaks.” Rachel glared at Lory. Lionel stood up.
“Lory, let’s go.” Lionel quickly packed up the folder, grabbed his bags, and walked away. Lory stood up and started packing his bag as well.
“Sorry about him, he gets really serious about basketball. Also, no, I’m not laying off Russ.” Lory chased after his brother. Taylor had a big smile on her face.
“I like him.” She said, clearly infatuated immediately.
“Who? Lory?” Rachel had disgust in her voice.
“No, the other one.” Taylor pulled out her phone, writing in her journal.
“They both seem… odd.” Rachel rolled her eyes.
Lory soon finally caught up with Lionel. He glanced back to get a quick peek of Rachel.
“Dude, Russ’s sister is so hot,” Lory said, excited. Lionel sighed.
“Basketball first, school second, girls third.” Lionel reached into his bag, grabbed the folder, and went back to reading.
While all this was happening, Khris was eating lunch with Kory and Daryll. Nobody was talking, but Daryll had something on his mind.
“Hey, Kory, you seemed upset yesterday when Khris took a break. Why?” Daryll asked. Kory stayed silent.
“An old friend visited him, but you know how things go sometimes. It’s not always a good reunion.” Khris interjected himself into the conversation.
“Was it another of the fourteen?” Daryll continued to ask. Kory remained silent but showed signs of being annoyed.
“Yeah, it was Manny Johnson, but we always called him ‘The Villain’ back in the day,” Khris replied.
“Why’s that? Does he play dirty?” Daryll wouldn’t stop asking questions. Kory finally spoke up in anger.
“We call him that because he’s a jerk. I hate everything about him, and I’m tired of this conversation.” Kory stood up and stormed out of the cafeteria. Khris simply sighed.
“Those two never got along, but to answer your second question, no he doesn’t play dirty. He’s as clean as a whistle on the court, rarely even fouling. He just has a way of talking. He likes to talk people down while he beats them.” Khris picked at his food as he spoke.
“Why would he talk to Kory if they don’t get along?” Daryll was confused.
“He probably wanted Kory to join the team,” Khris explained. Daryll’s eyes widened.
“He plays basketball?” Daryll’s voice slightly cracked while he spoke, which Khris laughed at before speaking.
“Think of it this way, and you have to keep this a secret, but when we were all introduced to basketball, there were twenty of us. Five had quit after around two years, but up until last year, fifteen of us trained. Kory was one of them, but that’s when he quit, so he wasn’t brought up when the rest of us were revealed. He quit because Manny finally got to him. Usually, it’s Cap that affects people majorly, but Manny and Kory were both point guards, and always played against each other. Years upon years of hearing Manny talk to you the way he does while he beats you, it can break someone.” Once Khris was done explaining, the bell rang, and the two boys stood up. Neither said another word. Daryll tried to process what he had just heard. Both the fact that Kory was a lost Expert and the fact that Khris trusted him enough to tell him.
The boys separated to go to their different classes, and senior lunch started. Russ and Kazu ended up sitting together. Kazu was nervous. The thought of playing in a game against such famous players was too much for him to handle.
“Look, neither of us got to play last year. This year, though, I’m the senior student, so I’ll be getting more playing time than anybody else. And even though you’re only in grade eleven, you’re still the second oldest, so you should get the second highest. Isn’t that cool? We’ll finally be able to play in a game!” Russ attempted to calm Kazu down, putting excitement in his voice.
“I don’t think it works that way this year, Russ. Plus, I’m the worst player on this team. I don’t want to make us lose.” Kazu couldn’t hide any emotion. He was scared and nervous. He didn’t want to lose his spot on the team, and he didn’t want to be embarrassed by the opponent.
“We’ll be fine, I just hope we get to impress the audience, I want everybody to cheer my name. Now eat, all this basketball talk is killing my mood. I have a date after the game and I need to mentally prepare.” Russ looked down at his homemade lunch and began eating. Kazu didn’t respond, eating in silence until senior lunch ended.
At the end of the day, the students went to the locker room to get ready for the game. Kory waited in the nearly empty stands, the only other fans being Rachel and Taylor. He wasn’t reading a book this time, wanting to watch his brother play. Soon, however, a tall figure walked into the gym, immediately noticing Kory and sitting next to him.
“Hey Genius, you aren’t suiting up?” The tall figure smiled as he spoke.
“High-Rise, I quit, remember?” Kory immediately regretted not having his book out, wanting to ignore anyone who came near him, regardless of who they were. Even if it was High-Rise, the tallest Expert, and one of the few that went to the summer camp.
“I was hoping that was a temporary thing, I loved playing with you.” High-Rise sighed, sadness in his voice. He couldn’t hide any of his emotions, always showing them on his face and in his voice. A voice suddenly came from the other side of Kory.
“Such a shame, it was like art on the court when you played.” The voice yelled in Kory’s ear. Kory jumped and looked over, seeing another Expert.
“Macbeth? I wish you’d stop sneaking up on people.” Kory regretted not having his book out even more, though he enjoyed Macbeth’s company more than anybody else.
“I wish you’d scream a bit more. It’s no fun when people just jump.” Macbeth tried to sit next to Kory, but Kory stood up and sat away from the two. That’s when Manny walked in, walking past Macbeth and High-Rise, neither of whom acknowledged Manny’s existence. He went and sat next to Kory.
“Long time no see.” Manny tried to put out a friendly voice, but Kory could see past it, knowing that Manny simply wanted to annoy Kory.
“I thought I wasn’t worth your time.” Kory was about to stand again, but he knew Manny would follow him wherever he went.
“As a player, you aren’t, but your analysis of games as they’re going on is still above watching the game alone. Plus, Macbeth and High-Rise aren’t fun to watch games with. They’re always so quiet when I see them.” Manny glanced over at the other Experts as he spoke.
“That’s because they hate you.” Kory
Just then, the Greenwich Guardians walked in, running to one side of the court. Their jerseys were a dark shade of green with ‘Greenwich’ written in black on the front. Tyrell, stared at Kory as he ran past, an emotionless face. Then the Guardians started their warmups. Manny laughed.
“He didn’t even look at me.” Manny pointed out. Kory didn’t respond.
Soon, the Montville Mustangs entered the court, led by Khris as they did their warmups. Their jerseys were white with purple writing on it saying ‘Mustangs’ in large font. Shortly into the Mustang's warmups, Tyrone walked to the middle of the court.
“Deadeye!” He called out.
Khris turned and ran over when he noticed who called him.
“Spark, how have you been?” Khris had a happy tone, clearly still friends with Tyrone.
“No, you know I hate that name. ‘Tyrone’ is fine. Do you think you can give me a challenge today? Slow me down?” Tyrone showed playful cockiness.
“I’ll hold you to less than ten points.” Khris showed the same tone as Tyrone.
“Sorry, but if you think that’s enough to beat us, you have a lot of trouble coming your way.” Tyrone smiled as the two did a special handshake, then turned and went back to warming up. Coach Riley watched the entire interaction, thinking about everything he had learned about the Fletchers from the Expert folder.
Tyrone, ranked ninth among the Experts. Nicknamed Spark for his ability to spark a fire under the offence. Tyler ranked tenth. Nicknamed The Interceptor for his ability to intercept passes. Tyrell ranked sixth. Nicknames The Gatekeeper for his stellar defence. Only ranked so low due to his lack of offence, but known as the best defender of all the Experts. The triplets had joined a team known for defence, to the point that the school renamed them the Guardians. Under Coach Riley’s brother, who excelled at coaching defence. Coach Riley knew this would be a hard-fought battle.
Soon it was time for tip-off. The starting lineup for the Guardians was the Fletchers, a short player named Cheng Huang, and a center named Viktor Romav.
The starting five for the Mustangs was Khris, Daryll, Michael, Lionel, and Kazu. Everybody got into position for the tip-off, and as soon as the ball was in the air, Kazu and Viktor jumped.
Next time, the game finally begins. Will the Guardians live up to the expectations that everybody has for them, or will the Mustangs be able to break their defence? Come back and find out!
Bio: Hi everybody! My name is TheMagnificentOne, but you can call me Mag. I am a film program graduate and want to try book writing instead of continuing scriptwriting. I usually write stories about sports, superheroes, or war. It's my dream to create comic books in the future, despite my inability to draw. I hope you all enjoy the stories I write and stay Magnificent everyone!