The sun was setting over Hickory Heights as we started picking teams.
“I’ll take Art.”
We’d strung together 2 goals and placed them on opposite ends of the driveway. We’d carefully and colorfully lined off the free throw line and the 3 point perimeter.
“Aight cool… I’ll take… Nathan.”
The flood lights flipped on. Almost game time.
“I’ll take Alex.”
Nate starts dribbling the ball towards the middle of the court and looks back at me.
I rolled my eyes and said “I guess we got Jess.”
My lil sister Jessica cheerfully bounded over to my side and snuck me a low five. She knew my eye roll was for show.
The tip off didn’t go our way and they quickly scored. Jess passed in the ball and I slowly started dribbling down the driveway. I cut my eyes towards Jess. She knows what’s coming next. A quick AI cross over and I’m launching towards the basket.
*no look pass out to the perimeter*
Jess catches the ball and smoothly releases a shot from just beyond the 3 point line.
I don’t even bother watching her shot and start jogging towards the other end of the court.
Money. Nothing new. Jess is typically lights out.
The game carries on and Jess and I seamlessly display an array of baller behavior… everything from no look passes to pick and roll alley oops. We’d played and practiced so much together that we almost instinctively knew what the other’s next move would be.
Art’s mother flashed the flood lights. Time to call it a night. Everyone exchanged high fives and Jess and I strolled back to the house under street lights dissecting the game we love.
Since day one, Jess and I have always been close.
We were always playing together and quickly developed a close knit, lifelong friendship. We’ve always joked around about yin and yang… how she’s the “Golden Child” and I’m the “Black Sheep” of the family. While this may ring true in a lot of ways and we may filter the world through a different set of lenses… most of our core values remain the same.
Even though we were born into the same family and we’ve got the same blood flowing through our veins… blood doesn’t always make you family. Family is who you choose to make a life with. Family are those that bring you joy and happiness… ones that will challenge and hold you accountable… ones that have your back when everything goes to Hell and will stand by your side as you claw your way back from the depths.
Jess has always been a die hard competitor.
Her love of the game has brought her from the made up team names in rec league basketball…
To starting point guard as a Tiger for Hartselle High School…
To playing college ball as a Lion at Wallace State…
To currently COACHING the women’s basketball team at Wallace State.
Jess is one of the hardest working and most dedicated individuals I’ve ever known. She’s worked tirelessly to build a specific culture at WSCC. She’s developed a culture not only dedicated to playing the game of basketball at a high level through passion and work ethic, but also a culture of compassion, loyalty and perseverance… one that feels more like a family than a ball team.
Sure, team sports teach you a great deal about consistency, team work and what it takes to be a successful player…
But Jess’s scope has always been sighted further than the painted lines on the court.
She’s setting an example and showing these girls what it means to be an exceptional human. She’s showing these girls what it takes to make a difference in their community…
She’s given them opportunity, encouragement and the tools needed to be successful OFF the court.
She celebrates their wins, stands hand in hand with them in their defeats and prays for them when they’re not around. She’s showing them the real definition of family.
I’m proud as hell that I can claim Jess as a part of my family. I know the impact she’s made on my life and have seen the impact she’s made in countless lives of others. It’s always been bigger than basketball for her.
Happy birthday Jess. Know that you’re an amazing human and are doing great things in this world. I love you. Stay Golden 😉