The First Of Many Lasts…

I was surprised by the lump in my throat. It started forming the closer to Fort Wayne we got. I knew there were going to be lumps this coming year, just didn’t expect it last weekend. Nothing really special about the time or place, yet there it sat. The lump. All weekend.

It’s pretty electric watching him on the court. Landon, 2017…

Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) has been on a travel basketball league half of his life. He’s always played a click above where he was supposed to. First only age wise. When he was 10, he was on a team of 11 year olds. That’s just always the way he played. It didn’t take watching him very long, although he was younger, he was already better than most. So playing above him made him a better player. He was shooting hoops when he was 2 and Tracey was a coach. He knew how to run the floor when he was 5. And could outshoot much older kids on free throws by the time he was 7. 

Look at how little our favorite hoopster is strutting his stuff, 2007…

But the real basketball competition started when he was in junior high. Not so much playing with the school team, but these travel teams/leagues started in earnest during 7th grade. And there have been some awesome players we’ve watched through the last few years. Landon included. Duh.

Landon showing one of his many trophies, 2011…

We first went to Fort Wayne, Indiana 5 years ago. Not a quick or easy trip when we were living in North Muskegon. Maybe 5 hours of driving. To watch our 11 year old grandson tear up the court. Spiece Fieldhouse sits right off interstate 69. A funky, massive structure honoring basketball in general and Indiana hoops in particular. (That whole state of Indiana is wacko for basketball, think the movie, Hoosiers). Glass framed-used-sweaty-worn-out-uniforms (but famous like Larry Bird) adorn the walls. Men’s basketball shoes from sizes 10 to 20 fill glass display cases in the halls. Lots of quotes and autographs hanging around. Part health-club, part sports arena but we notice very little of that when we show up, along with hundreds of other parents, friends and grands shelling out big bucks to watch teenage boys sweat, jump and score.

New team and number this summer. Same great shooter….

My only complaint. The cost. I know it’s expensive to host one of these tournaments. Eight courts, games from 8 a.m. until 9 or 10 at night. Just think of the number of refs needed for 3 days of hoops. Scorekeepers, supervisors, maintenance, gals who run the concessions, complaint department, T-shirt/sports paraphernalia shop. I get it. Still. We see one game on Friday night. Ten bucks a piece. Saturday it’s 15 bucks each for the day, which is usually worthwhile because Landon’s team is good. They’re scheduled for 2 games, but because they win them both have to play another 2. My butt is sore from the bleachers but I get my money’s worth. Sunday is another 10 dollars each but as long as they win, they keep playing. Landon’s team wins the first one, then loses in the semifinals. They’re done this weekend.

What I’d like to see is a senior special for 20 bucks. I almost went up to the main desk to complain. (The ticket gals are sick of seeing me walk up and give them my spiel for 5 years in a row now). But then Landon introduced me to the owner. I wanted a T-shirt like Landon wears for warmups, but didn’t see one at the kiosk or pro shop. The owner (about the age of Joshua, our middle kid) said they were out of long sleeves but thought he might have some short sleeved ones in the office. (Might have helped that Landon now plays for the Indy Heat Gym Rats from Spiece Field House, so he’s on the owner’s home team). Yeah, there’s that. Owner didn’t ask our names, where he could find us later, or if he would even recognize this retired couple 2 minutes later. He knew exactly where we’d be. Watching Landon’s next game. He saunters up right before the game starts, hands John 8 Nike, Indy Heat Gym Rats T-shirts in various sizes and colors. Smiles and says, “here ‘ya go, enjoy them.” Are you kidding me? Damn. He just had to be so stinking nice.

The Spiece Fieldhouse owner with the cool shirt giveaways…

Last summer I blogged about a weekend in Fort Wayne at Spiece Fieldhouse. Landon wasn’t even supposed to be there. His travel league team had committed to a tourney in Florida, so Shannon and Tracey decided to make it a family vacation. Rented a house for the week. At the last minute, Landon’s lame-ass coach at the time nixed flying to Florida and said they were going to drive to Fort Wayne instead. The Lowder’s, minus Landon went on the vacation and we got to tag along with Landon for the weekend. It turned out to be one of our most memorable weekends and Landon’s best basketball ever. (I seriously thought it was a conspiracy. Something about an easy going weekend with the grandparents, no high expectations. And he did it all. Just sayin). He had a superb tournament, scoring 29 points in the first half of a game, winning the 3 point shootout in his age division. Then his team went on to win the whole tourney. 

It’s going to be strange not going to tournaments here…

This season is different for Landon. New team, several different players, new coach (thank heavens). Which in turn means learning all new plays, signals, teammate’s personalities etc. Since he’s the new kid on the block he’s been playing catch-up for a month. This Fort Wayne Run N Slam tourney certainly wasn’t the best he’s ever played, but he did have his moments. During the first game Sunday morning against a tough Chicago team, the score was tied with 4 minutes left. Landon zipped off 9 quick points to ensure the win, putting them in the quarterfinals. Can’t keep a great player (even if he’s new to the team) down for long.

So this lump I carried around all weekend. Why? Probably the last time Landon will play at Spiece. I feel like I’m losing an old friend. I’m comfortable at Spiece. I like watching him play there. I know my way around town. Sort of. I don’t want this part of Landon’s basketball to be over yet. 

Winning the 3 point contest last July. And he gave me the trophy…

There’s a couple more tournaments in May, then AAU takes off the month of June for individual high school things. July, they’re back on the court, hot and heavy. Flitting all over the country, Virginia, Nevada, too far for us. 

There will be no more AAU basketball for Landon after July because his  junior year is the last time he can play. This winter will be his last for Pioneer high school basketball, and time for serious decision making on which college basketball scholarship to accept. (We’re hoping for several more than the 5 he has now). Seems like I just started watching him play. How can this part be almost over? I’m not ready. I mean, I’m really not ready. I’m gonna be a mess during basketball season this winter. More lumps to get used to. Sweet and precious but a little painful too…

My new favorite team shirt, thanks to the owner…

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