By Tom Z
10:51 AM EST, February 18, 2013
This weekend’s New York Times features the amazing story of Orlando student Julian Newman, who, despite only being in 5th grade, already plays for his school’s varsity team. For those of you who hate reading, here’s a YouTube clip of Newman dominating kids a foot taller than him.
Julian fills his days by spending time in a gym or at the hoop in his front yard, where his father, Jamie, the Downey Christian coach, has painted lines to approximate a college court. Julian sinks 100 free throws, 200 floaters and 200 jump shots every day. On 3-point attempts, he leans into the shots slightly, as if to guide the ball telepathically.
“You see more of him dribbling the ball than you’ll see watching an N.B.A. game,” [his father] Jamie said, allowing parental pride to get the better of him.
Invoking two of Julian’s favorite players, Jamie added, “He can do stuff that Chris Paul and Derrick Rose can’t.”
Back in college I was shooting hoops at the Marist gym with my friend Jolene, and she asked if I wanted to play a game of one-on-one. I was a little tentative. I wasn’t exactly a star player, but I knew a few moves and had a decent jump shot. Now, I’ll be honest, at this point in my life, I didn’t think that women were very good at basketball. This stems from the time one of my CYO games was delayed and I watched a game between 9th grade girls that ended with a final score of 8-4 and included a combined shooting percentage of 3%. It was nothing personal, I was just absolutely convinced that five randomly chosen dudes could beat the UConn Women’s National Championship team. After a little hesitation, I accepted the challenge and played Jolene one-on-one. Before I knew it, she was beating me 17-4. I went easy on her and she smoked me, draining shots from all over the court. Turns out I’m an idiot and girls can be really good at basketball. So what did I do? Did I give up? Did I complain and make excuses? Did I admit that I was wrong in my preconceived notions about female athletes, apologize and learn a valuable life lesson? Of course not. I started playing lockdown defense and posting her up every time I got the ball. I’m not proud it came to that, but hey, I came back and won 25-24 or something like that. What I’m saying is, these high schoolers have much better sportsmanship than me. I’d take it easy on this fifth grader for a quarter, but once he crossed me over for a few easy layups, I’d start throwing my body weight around. Listen, I don’t care if you haven’t hit puberty yet, you try to drive the lane and I’ll put you in the second row of the bleachers. Tough love, son!
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