CULTURE

“I grew up with strangers. I wasn’t even with my parents from…

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“I grew up with strangers. I wasn’t even with my parents from first to fifth grade. All the people that were supposed to care for me, and teach me, and guide me, they all failed me. It caused a lot of anger and honestly, a lot of heartbreak. I even wondered if my family was cursed. Like all we do is come into this world and we struggle. From the age of twelve I had to go straight home from school and take care of my baby sister. I was the one making sure she was OK: feeding her, changing her, bathing her. It’s like my life was in shackles. I didn’t even start playing basketball for real until I was sixteen. That was the summer I was like: ‘I’m done. I’m not y’all’s babysitter.’ I started waking up early and going to the park for hours, doing drills. Basketball gave me a sense of control. The more I worked, the better I got, and it was like: ‘Wow. I can really do this.’ It’s like I was finally the one writing my story. I ended up trying out for the school team my senior year: no skills, no talent, just starting to understand the game. But the things I could do, I did better than everyone else: diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds, and hustling. It was mainly hustle. And I think the coach saw that, or maybe he just felt sorry for me. Because he created an extra spot on the roster just for me. There weren’t even enough uniforms, I had a different uniform than everybody else, and during the away games the crowd would let me know. They let me hear it, but I didn’t care. I was just so happy to be there. I couldn’t shoot, but I’d go one hundred percent on defense. The coach would put me on the other team’s best player. I’d stay right up under his jersey. I’d chase him all over the court. And by the end of the year I was in the rotation. We won the city championship that year. During the final game our starters got off to a slow start, and the coach wanted some energy. So he looked down to the end of the bench and said: ‘Rey, go in.’ Right away I got a steal. The crowd was going wild. Proudest moment of my life. I took it all the way back down the court, and unfortunately, I missed the lay-up. Would have been a perfect ending, but man. I was just way too excited.”

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