Busy times loom on the horizon. Our 15 year old grandson, Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) had just finished freshman football season. There was a bit of a dead zone, maybe 2 weeks, tops. Nothing demanding his time (besides schoolwork and girls) in the world of sports for the moment. But basketball tryouts were coming up. A grueling week of 2-a-days. This is his favorite and best sport since he was born.
|Landon, 5, shooting during halftime, 2005…|
Plain and simple, I was hoping he’d make the junior varsity team. I knew he would get the most playing time because he’s that good. How much fun is it if he makes varsity, but sits the bench most of the season? How does that make him a better player? He’s always played in leagues a notch above his age. Being pushed to be better by bigger, older kids. His dad (Tracey, former pro, then high school coach, teacher, now principal) thought he should strive and make the varsity team. Practicing everyday with juniors and seniors, maybe get a few minutes of playing time each game. There was also an option of the 2 combined. Play on junior varsity, then suit up with varsity. A rule where he would be allowed to play a certain amount of minutes per game on Varsity. I think it’s about 8.
|Hurts my heart. He’s just as good at baseball. But hates it…|
So, for one week in mid-November, we sweated (not literally, but anxiously) through the days wondering how he was doing. Fourth night after supper, I get a text from Shannon. A letter from Rex, the head Pioneer coach. Landon made the varsity team. Was that good or bad? I was skeptical. How do juniors and seniors treat a freshman who’s just made the team? If they have the best interest of the team in their hearts, I assume they would accept him unequivocally. If there’s a possibility he might snag some playing time minutes away from other players, who knows?
|Landon cocky? Surely you jest…|
A few weeks fly by and the season starts. A Tuesday home game. Pioneer is big, maybe 1800 students. I thought the place would be packed, but it’s not. Most of our family are in attendance, anxious to watch Landon. Though Tracey warned us, as a freshman, he would not get very much playing time. If any. Adam, Sarah, Graham and Sarah’s nephew Coyle, who’s a sports nut. Ari and Josh. Tracey had total knee replacement 5 days prior. Was determined not to miss any of Landon’s games, but this just wasn’t feasible. He was on powerful pain medication and transporting him was dicey enough, let alone getting jostled during the game. Shannon texted him throughout with updates. We were playing a non-conference team from Detroit, called Taylor Kennedy.
|Taking the ball down court, calling the offense…|
We sat on the wrong side, behind the scorer’s table. No cheerleaders for either team, which was odd. Learned later, half of Pioneer’s Cheerleader uniforms hadn’t arrived yet. The announcer is a hoot. Talks to the crowd, encouraging, cajoling, scolding. He has a litany down pat. “Please, no standing in the doorways. Find your seats. Show good sportsmanship to players and refs. Be courteous and respectful.” By the second game we would learn exactly why he says this over the microphone. With a sincere, but firm attitude. The game starts and Pioneer is handling their opponents with ease. Midway through the first quarter, Landon is signaled to go in. He plays the rest of the first quarter and half of the second. Scores a couple of buckets, defense is awesome. (He must have read the coaches letter). Comes back in midway through 3rd, and plays halfway through the 4th. Scores 7 for the night. We win easily 85-50. Good way to start the season.
|Running the plays. Adam in the background…|
The small crowd files out. We are waiting to give Landon a ride home, but he’s in the locker room. For the post game sermon from the coach I guess. I see a gal, about 40, writing furiously at the scorer’s table. I wander towards her. Bend over behind her as she’s writing and venture, “hi, I’m Landon’s grandma” (then I spot the stat sheet in front of her has him listed as Drew Lowder-sigh. Yeah, this is what I’ll have to put up with for the rest of his sports career, I guess). “I mean Drew’s grandma. I know he scored 7 points, but do you know the rest of his stats for the night? I think he had a couple assists, maybe a foul. Did you chart that one rebound? And exactly how many minutes and seconds did he play? I should have jotted some of this stuff down, but,” my voice finally trailed off. I stopped and sucked in a big breath. She turns towards me, looking perplexed and says, “sorry, I don’t have any of that information except his point total. I’m actually from Taylor Kennedy. I’m the coaches wife. So most of my stats are on our players, not Pioneer’s.” Well, color me embarrassed. I slink away, slightly beneath the court floor.
|Getting so much better at D…|
I didn’t know game # 2 would be so different. Neither Shannon or Tracey could attend, which has only happened a couple times in a decade of basketball for the kid. Shannon’s office (she’s the CEO) Christmas party has been scheduled for months, not knowing that Tracey would be having surgery the week prior. He’s still not up to going, so it’s just grandpa and me on a Friday night. And Pioneer’s playing one of their 2 biggest rivalries. Skyline High School. Who knew? Not us. You would have thought after sticking my foot in my mouth over the stats issue, I would have learned. But I didn’t. Wouldn’t be until game 4 where I would devise a makeshift stat sheet of my own. Only on Landon’s efforts and the team score by quarters.
|Yup, he’s had a couple of blocked shots …|
I know this is selfish, but this is kinda like I felt when I bowled (with purpose) for 20 years. Yes, I wanted our ‘team’ to win, but more importantly, I wanted to bowl well. If we lost, but I had a 550, which was about 75 pins above my average, well, meh, I did my part. This is how I felt about Landon. I wanted Pioneer to do well and win, but my main concern was Landon’s stats. This game I would document however, in a different way. Since both mom and dad were missing it, I texted them. Scores once in a while, but mostly stuff when Landon was in and what he was doing. So far his best game of the season. This time, we were sitting across from the bench (far away from the scorer’s table too) and facing the Pioneer student section. They showed up in droves for this game. At one point, when Landon swished his second 3-pointer, they all stood up and screamed in unison, “he’s a freshman, he’s a freshman!”
|The student section who are boisterous…|
Landon was freaking awesome. The 6th man. Usually goes in mid-1st period, stays in until mid-late second quarter. Goes back in about the same time in the 3rd and stays until mid-4th. After he went in, he scored a 3-pointer, followed by a lay-up. Went down hard during a fight for the ball, and the two did some trash talking. Ref said something to them, soon after Landon went out. But back in a couple minutes later. Played most of the second half which ended at the buzzer with a tie. He did not play in overtime, but Pioneer won by 7.
|Landon, in white, scrapping for the ball…|
The student section got a little rambunctious and may have disagreed with one of the refs foul calls. In ear splitting unison, (and I’m deaf) the group shouts, “bullshit, bullshit.” The bouncer-announcer stands up, turns around to face these kids and sternly yells into the mic, “hey, knock it off. Now.” At the buzzer of the emotional overtime win, the student group fly through the air, off the bleachers to give high 5’s and hugs to the players. B-A (bouncer-announcer from here on in) screams, “get off the floor. Get off the floor. Now.”
|Landon, ready to go in. Bouncer-announcer behind on the left…|
This is part of the Ann Arbor News sports article the following day: Pioneer 71, Skyline 64 in overtime. Junior Cedric Benton led the way for Pioneer, scoring a game high 22 points. He was followed by freshman Drew (sigh) Lowder, who came off the bench to tally 14 points, looking more like a seasoned veteran. Wow, just wow. The wow, just wow part was not in the paper. Why, I do not know or understand.
|Not bragging, he’s a pretty good ball-handler…|
This is one of the reasons we moved 160 miles east. To be able to go to the games, concerts, recitals, school programs of our grandkids. Meet one of our kids for pizza and not have to drive 3 hours first. So I won’t bore you over every detail of each game. Although if you ask, I still have most of the stats in my head. Although I am learning, jotting them down is a better way of tracking how my boy (ownership issues) is doing.
|Going in for a lay-up…|
The Ann Arbor Pioneers are 8-0 for the month of December. Two were overtime wins, one, a squeaker by just 3. They won a holiday tourney last week with ease. But one of the starters just broke his foot, so the team dynamics will change for the next few weeks. Landon has played about the same number of minutes in each one. Averaging about 14 minutes (seconds played are still unknown to this gram) out of 32 per game. His scoring has been a bit sporadic, but his ball-handling, defense, passing and assists have been spot on. He has been consistently hitting team mates in the head, chest, and shoulders over the years with his unbelievable passing ability. Looking the other way, yet somehow manages to thread a pass through 3 bodies to the dude under the basket. Sometimes they’re totally caught off guard, just not ready for that sneaky pass. Well I’m sure you’re just as excited and anxious as I am to see how Pioneer (ok, let’s be honest, Landon) does in the month of January. Not to worry, I’ll post up…
|Landon, never shy with a basketball in his hands…|