This is Chapter 3 of BENchwarmer, a serial novel published exclusively on this site. Readers are advised to read chapters 1 and 2 before reading this chapter.
As Coach Jones walked away, I thought about our five starting lineup positions. Maybe there was someone else I could replace…
Obviously, Gerald Moore was our new starting point guard, or “one”. Tall, strong and fast, his responsibility was to take the ball down the court, run our offensive plays, and make good passes. As Coach had mentioned, he also had the ability to drive through the crowded lane and score.
William Lee was our shooting guard, or “two”. William was an inch or two taller than I was, was super quick, and specialized in scoring. He didn’t excel in running the offense like a point guard, but when he caught the ball, he was a threat to score from anywhere on the court. While William himself wasn’t our best defender, he could dribble around almost any opposing defender, and had the most accurate 3-point shot on the team as well. I guess I couldn’t replace our biggest scoring threat. Besides, William was my best friend on the team, and I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to take away his starting spot.
Michael Lopez was our small forward, or “three”. Lopez was about 8 inches taller than I was, was a good defender and rebounder, and was a threat both to drive to the basket and score mid-range shots. At my size, I definitely couldn’t rebound or drive the lane like Michael could.
At power forward, or “four”, we had Josh Martin, and at center, or “five”, John Green. Both guys were around six feet tall and much stronger than me. Unlike my style of play, their job was to play on the inside on offense and defense, trying to score up close and getting tough rebounds against similarly-sized opponents. No way I could replace one of them.
I guess Coach was right. Still sad, I halfheartedly jogged back onto the court to join the team for the last few minutes of warm-up drills.
William, my best friend, came up behind me in the layup line and patted me on my right shoulder.
I turned my head back a little toward him and said, “Hey William, did you hear the news?” I tried to smile so that I wouldn’t start crying.
“Yeah, I heard that Gerald got the starting spot. It’s gonna be okay, Ben. You’ll still get your chance to show how great you are,” William said.
“Thanks, William,” I said, only half-believing him, and turned around to catch the ball as I moved up in the line.
It was my turn in the layup line. I dribbled toward the basket, jumped up off my inside foot, extended my right hand to gently shoot the ball off the glass backboard, and watched as the ball hit the backboard and the left side of the rim before bouncing out. I caught the ball and stood for a second before passing the ball to the opposite line and running to take my place in the back of the line. I was shaking my head. I had missed a layup. Me, Ben Taylor, who practices layups every day and never misses an open layup. But did it even matter any more? The team barely needed me, anyway, it seemed.
Now, shaking my head again as I sat on the bench during the first ten minutes of our game against the Sharks, I felt even worse. Watching the game, it was obvious that the team didn’t need me at all. Gerald really was quite good. He had already scored eight points of his own and assisted on several other field goals. Our team was winning 20-8, with a quarter of the game already in the books.
Suddenly, I heard Coach’s voice call out, “Ben, Allen, Kevin! Get ready! You guys are subbing in at the next whistle. Gerald, Michael and John are coming out.”
Subbing in? The words sounded so strange to my ears. I stood up, stretched a little, and tucked in my shirt as I waited at the scorekeeper’s table for the next whistle.
Less than a minute later, Josh, our power forward, tried to go in for a layup, and was hit on the arm by one of the Sharks. The referee blew his whistle to call the foul.
“Foul, Blue number 24. Two shots,” the referee yelled to the scorer’s table.
Still watching from the sideline, I saw as Josh shot his first free throw. It hit the back of the rim, then the right side of the rim and bounced out.
The referee blew his whistle again and gestured to us to come onto the court. We ran onto the court, calling out the names of the players we were replacing. I called Gerald’s name, and gave him a high-five as he jogged off the court and passed me.
I was finally in! It was time to prove that I deserve to have the starting spot.
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