On the last day of Matt Harpring’s basketball camp I’m listening to Matt, paper in hand, lecturing 85 campers with his NBA experience. Joaquin had asked me to come today 20 minutes earlier than pick-up time so I could be there for the granting of awards.
I don’t expect him to win any of them; he didn’t last year. But Bollo tells me he may get one this time:
I’m one of the best ones in my age group! And tomorrow I’m going to be tough and I will win an award. I promise to him that I’ll come; not to see him win, but because he wants me there—award or not.
So Matt has been going on for what feels like eternity on his lecture before announcing the three winners of the Free Throw Award (one for each age group). I watch him show and tell the kids how he does it: He flexes his knees, relaxes, bounces the ball four times, then he pauses. He doesn’t just throw the ball right after bouncing it, no. He. Pauses. He breathes. All the anxious energy leaves… Then, he throws.
We hear some more from Matt, and then he’s finally ready to look at the names on his paper. He announces the “High School” group winner. Then he moves on to the “College” group.
The winner of the Free Throw award for college is [incomprehensible sound].
Nobody stands up.
Matt repeats: —
[incomprehensible name], come up! and he claps his hands.
Matt checks with his team: —
Did I say that right?. He tries again:
[short incomprehensible sound]-een
My mind perks up and asks “Joakeen?”
Matt corrects himself: —
My mind jumps “Joaquin!”
And my gordito stands up beaming, takes his award, forgets about Matt but somehow ends up shaking his hand and (more importantly to him) high-fives his coaches. Across the distance he looks at me and gives me the brightest I told you smile ever.
I don’t care much about awards, but my eyes got misty.
He wanted this.
And he got it.