Blogger's Warning: Despite every effort to avoid bragging about my grandson's basketball season, I'm about to do so. My only defense is that I have nothing but good things to say about the young men and women who play basketball.
On Tuesday night, it was snowing. But I traveled from Easton and along Route 22 and up 145 to Whitehall's gym for the final boys basketball showdown of the season between Allentown Central Catholic and Whitehall Zephyrs. The Zephyrs, at 15-3, are perhaps the most underrated team in the Lehigh Valley. They very nearly won both the Stellar and Sportsfest tournaments over the summer. Though Allen is the best high school basketball team I've ever seen, Whitehall is very capable of sticking it to anyone on a given night.
Mikey Esquilin is without a doubt the most dangerous and explosive point guard within a 50-mile radius. I began watching him when he was in first grade, and he is pure poetry. His mom and dad are two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Mikey also left the court briefly just to shake hands with me.
In addition to Mikey, the team is packed with other top and often overlooked players, like Charles Hudson, Zach Gilbert and Kasai Harrison. Those young men always have time to say Hi. Kasai actually came over and talked to me, an old man wearing a Central sweatshirt, before the game. Prior to that, he was sitting with my grandson, Dat Lambert, as the freshmen teams played. They both predicted they would score 100 points against each other.
For the past two years, Whitehall has been kicking Central's ass on the court. Even with Zay Jennings last year, Whiteall had our number. And Central (8-8) has struggled this year. We still needed two wins just to qualify for districts. Most had written Central off, but they forgot to tell Central. The team had finally come together, and proved it with an amazing upset of Becahi on Friday night. Could it do it again?
In a very exciting game, Jay Vaughan won the game on the line with 2.8 seconds left on the clock. His brother Sammy also scored the go ahead points in the JV game just before the Varsity took to the court.
Though Jay and Dat are half of team's offense, they will be the first to tell you that's only part of what has finally become Central's solution. That answer has been a stingy defense and a team in which everyone contributes. A Kevin Kern steal. A Jake Partridge rebound, a Chris Ocasio layup. A Jordan McChristian assist. Teamwork.
I used to tease my grandson that he was half black, half Vietnamese, half Irish and half Martian. I'll tell you what he is - 100% samurai. He is a stoic who approaches the game with the same philosophy as Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's greatest ever samurai and author of both The Five Rings and Dokkōdō. I send him Musashi quotes all the time. He tells me he likes them, although I concede he might just be humoring me.
Here are some principles of what I call samurai basketball. I caution everyone that I have no real understanding of basketball. But I think Miyamoto Musashi would have starred in the NBA. The only downside is he would have killed everyone. Literally.
- The way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death. In basketball terms, that means you play every game as though it is your last. To win any battle, you must fight as if you are already dead.
- Mushino. This is "no mind." It is the same as the Nike motto, "Just do it." This principle applies to free throws and 3s. Most basketball players can shoot in their sleep, but are distracted by crowds. If your mind is on the crowd or the score, you have no place to put your mind. No mind.
- Absence of self is your sword (In other words, you subtract yourself from the equation. It is not about you, but the team, and winning)
- "There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” All the tools you need to win are already inside you. That's why the coach put you where you are. Have confidence.
- You never let the enemy see you get upset or happy.
- You must watch the enemy's timing and disrupt it.
- If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you.