The kid shooting the free throw, that's Jared. He's a rapper. And this is kind of about him, but also about some other people. Because this is kind of about rap, but also about some other things.
Jared's father is Trae tha Truth, which means a few different things:
1. He's probably very well-behaved. I mean, how could he not be? His dad is basically a tank with tattoos. You know what you do when your dad is a tank with tattoos? Whatever the hell he says to do, that's what. 2. He's probably very tough. (See: No. 1) 3. He has grown up in and around rap.
The last one is the important one.
Jared is a budding rapper. He released his first proper song in 2009, a charming, baby blue-light track called "Ballin', Smashin'." About three weeks ago, he put out a new one; the heavier, more advanced assault called "Wood Doe's" that features Pimp C's son, Lil' C.
He's gotten better quickly (not that surprising, really) and people are excited for what he's going to do in the future. But this is about what he's doing right now.
In addition to rapping, Jared, like a lot of young boys, plays sports for his neighborhood's YMCA. Currently, they're in basketball season. And apparently, his team is kicking all kinds of... you know.
The team is coached by EZ, the longtime videographer for ABN.
When EZ started messaging me about them maybe three weeks ago, he billed them as a tiny Dream Team of sorts, the YMCA ten/11-year-old division's Miami Heat. He said they'd been blowing teams out, winning by 15, 20, 30 points.
I've coached that age group in the past, and I coach an older age group now, so I was skeptical. I mean, several of the teams I've had would have trouble scoring 30 points in a game if every bucket they made was worth 30 points.
So, this past Saturday I went and watched.
The Scouting Report:
** It seemed pretty clear early that the Tiny Nuggets were better than the team they were playing (Tiny Bulls) from the start: Prior to the game, the Tiny Bulls warmed up by either rocketing the ball at the goal or doing nothing at all.
In contrast, the Tiny Nuggets ran layup and shooting drills. The Tiny Bulls did have two tall, athletic kids on the team, generally an equalizer at that level, but they were overwhelmed. The Tiny Nuggets came at the Tiny Bulls like a swarm of killer wasps. Before anyone even noticed, the Tiny Nuggets were up 10-2.
** The game never got better for the Tiny Bulls. The referees actually decided to restart the score at halftime because they were getting throttled so handily, a practice I'd heard about but not never actually seen in person.
When the third quarter started, one of the members of the Tiny Bulls encouraged the crowd to cheer for them. The crowd responded and the Tiny Bulls got keyed up. It was a sweet moment. Then the Tiny Nuggets held them scoreless for the next 15 minutes. They are basketball machines.
** EZ has a nickname for every player on the team. More importantly, that's how he refers to them during the game. That type of thing is beyond important when you're dealing with kids. So long as it's positive (and all of these are), they love it.
If you give a kid a nickname, he'll eat through steel for you. The players on the team: BuggaBean, Gabby Girl, Dani Boy, Lil Jared, Rupert, Skillz, Tiff Tiff, Tall, Flat, Kentucky, Marge, Speedy, Puppet, Joker and Quatro. Pretty perfect, I thought.
** Almost every kid on the team understands what's supposed to happen in the game, and that's important, but every single one of them is fearless during gameplay, and that's more important. If there was a loose ball to be had, the Tiny Nuggets won it. Even their smallest player, a girl that maybe weighed nine pounds, played like an unleashed pit bull. Some of the other kids that stood out:
Speedy: He is an absolute terror. He moves like light moves. Towards the end of the game, the Tiny Nuggets were up by 30. Speedy was still in there running around like a madman. At one point, he tapped the ball away from a kid, saw it rolling out of bands, hit his rocket boosters, then did a full body extension dive and saved it in.
He slid a good four feet after he tapped it. People legitimately applauded him. Shortly thereafter, he stole the ball on defense, charged down the court, got hammered by a defender in the lane, went flying to the floor, popped up, smiled, fixed his jersey, then swished two free throws. It was like they were following a movie script.
BuggaBean: He's thin and wiry and naturally athletic. Everything he does is fluid. His arms hung down to his knees and his knees went up to his neck. The second play of the game, he hit a step back jumper from 17 feet. The next time down the court, he did it again. He could've gone for thirty if he wanted to. He's going to be a basketball powerhouse by the 9th grade, easy.
Skillz: Absolutely dominated defensively. For the first few minutes of the game, the Tiny Bulls couldn't even get the ball past midcourt. He patrolled the middle like a great white shark. As long as he was in the game, everything the Tiny Bulls did offensively was completely stymied. If we all find out in a few weeks that Skillz is really 16-years-old, nobody will be surprised.
Lil' Jared: He was expectantly aggressive. I think he had 7,000 rebounds, remarkable considering he didn't show up until the second quarter. There was one segment of the game where he drove in, got fouled, missed the free throw, grabbed his own rebound, got fouled again, missed his free throw again, got his rebound again and then got fouled again.
His drive was impressive. One of the members of his cheering section shouted, "That boy's like Kobe!" Jared looked over at the sideline and smiled. Then he missed the free throw. He's a sweet kid.
After the game, everyone shook hands and then headed out. Trae was there, so he took pictures with everyone. The Nuggets are still undefeated this season. (The score of this particular game ended up being 48-14.)
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During a pause in the game, Joker (called that because he's funny; when I showed up he introduced himself and said, "Cool, what channel are we gonna be on?" then started laughing) seemed to mimic LeBron James' famous hand-powder ritual. It seemed silly at the time. But it seemed appropriate afterwards.
Follow EZ on Twitter at @EZACCESS.