Kody held his jersey in hand and tried not to get sick. His heart pounded. Game time was in about an hour. His hands shook a little and he couldn’t stop his mind thinking about the “what-ifs” and horrible scenarios that would end his career tonight.
He needed to get a grip. You got this, Kody, he told himself. But did he really? Kody was never one for getting his hopes or dreams up. That was more Derek’s and Brandt’s thing. Kody saw the world as-is. But this…to possibly play in the SBA? Kody never even dreamed that this could be a future for him.
He wanted it. He wanted what everyone else wanted for him—a chance to play pro-ball.
“Lamb, you okay, man?” His buddy and teammate, Nick Rice asked.
He turned his head and smirked. “Just trying to get my head in the game.”
Nick laughed. “Yeah. I feel you. You nervous about the draft?”
Kody’s stomached rolled at the thought of the draft. Was he nervous? Shit, he was beyond nervous. He got sick just thinking about the upcoming draft picks.
Kody didn’t even have to answer. His face had said it all, and he knew it too. Nick smirked. “You’re turning a bit green.”
“Just don’t mention the D-word, and I’ll be okay.”
Nick laughed. “I got you.”
Kody put his jersey on after a few more deep breaths. He could do this. Sure, the whole state was probably watching this game. His family was in the bleachers, and it wasn’t just his brother and Mom, but the Ryders too.
“All right, Bears. Listen up. Before we go out there, I got some words to say,” his head Coach, Ryan Crest called out. “First off, I just want to say that I am damn proud to be coaching this team. You all got us to this point. Tonight’s game is a big one, and I know many of you are nervous, excited, freaking out. Don’t be. This is like any other game we’ve played all season. Championship or not, you all know what it takes to win. So, let’s go out there, play some ball, have some fun…and win a championship game.”
The entire team roared and cheered. Kody, however, felt all the nerves in him knot up and twist. This wasn’t just any game for him. The scouts were out in full force tonight. Tonight, for Kody, meant his future of the draft.
“I think I’m gonna be sick,” he whispered.
Nick laughed. “Man, just relax.”
“Easy for you to say, Rice. You don’t have a dozen scouts frothing at the mouth for you to play for their team. This game—”
“Is just a game,” Nick stopped him. “Dude, you’re the best Center in college. Win or lose, you’re still going to be that. Just have fun man.”
Fun, yeah, sure. Basketball had been fun up until he heard the word: draft. Now, it was something more. Sure, once the draft was over, Kody would go back to shooting hoops with Brandt and Derek or something. Until then, he had no time for fun.
Derek took a bite into his hotdog and watched as Kody made another three-pointer. The Bears were winning so far.
“Come on, Kody!” Brandt yelled. Again.
Dad was just as bad, yelling at Kody and then yelling some more at the other players to play the game. Derek had never seen his father so into basketball. When Kody made a huge play for the ball, Eli and Brandt high-fived.
Mom pulled Dad down to sit. “Sit down. You’re going to wear your throat out before the second half if you don’t shut up.”
“This is an important—Yeah! Woo hoo! Kody!”
Derek was also shouting and cheering and up on his feet. Now that was an epic play. They were gaining an almost fifteen-point lead now.
Derek and Brandt were practically jumping for joy, as Kody landed another dunk shortly after scoring.
This game was one for the pages, that was for sure.
“There is no way he’s not getting drafted,” Dad said. “Not after this game.”
“Eli,” Mom sighed. “You don’t know that. Don’t put that kind of pressure on him.”
“It’s not pressure. It’s a simple fact. That boy is going to the pros. I know it in my soul.”
“Dad’s right,” Derek agreed and took a sip of his soda. The game was going into half-time. “Kody is totally making the SBA this year.”
“Oh, holy mother of sin,” Brandt said and grabbed onto Derek’s shoulder.
Derek turned to see the cheerleaders perform their act.
“I want one.”
Derek laughed and Dad snickered.
“Brandt Lamb, behave,” both Mrs. Lamb and Mom practically scolded in unison.
“Boy’s got a point. Those chicks—”
“Finish that sentence, Eli, and you’ll be finding how cold the couch is tonight.”
“What I meant was…Brandt, behave yourself.”
Derek and Brandt took one look at Dad, and howled with laughter. Derek had tears in his eyes. “Mom, you’re awesome,” Derek snickered. “Dad,” he couldn’t help but laugh more at him.
Kody spotted his family after leaving the stadium. He somehow got away from the cameras and the TV crews. Immediately he was hugged by his mother. “So proud of you!”
“Dude, that was the greatest game I have ever seen,” Brandt said.
He smirked over to his brother. “Thanks.”
“You’re a total shoe-in for the—”
“Don’t say it, Mr. Ryder. Please. It’s bad enough my stomach’s been in knots all day.” He didn’t want to hear that word again.
Derek sighed. “You cannot possibly still be nervous, Kode. I mean, did you not see that you helped your team win a championship game?”
“And made MVP?” Eli added.
“Again,” Brandt reminded him. “Kode, dude, broooo, you are so fucking in, man.”
Thank fuck for Sam. “Boys, leave him alone. It’s bad enough he has the pressures of the media and the school, he does not need you three hounding him.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Ryder.” He gave her a hug and a soft peck on the cheek.
“You just be you, Kody. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. And if Derek or Eli give you any more shit about being picked-up, you just call me.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Kody asked after a bit.
“You tell us,” Mom replied. “Is there a party you’d like to ditch us parents for? Or would you like to join us for dinner?”
Kody knew plenty of parties that would be happening. Just leaving the locker room he got invited to two, not to mention the other dozen he got invited to as he made his way out of the stadium.
“Party? Is there a party?” Brandt asked. “And hold the phone, are the cheerleaders going to be at said party?”
“You have to take us. It is your brotherly duty to get your twin laid.”
“Brandt,” Mom, Sam, and even Kody groaned.
Derek laughed. “Dude, you’re hopeless.”
Kody sighed. “There are a few parties, I guess.”
“Then, we are off. Ciao Mom, Eli, Sam. Come along, Derek. Kody.” Brandt pulled Kody and Derek away from their parents. “It’s time to get our party on.”
As much as he rather not party, he knew that there was no point in denying his brother. He took one look at Derek, and they both laughed. At least Kody wasn’t alone where his brother was concerned. Thank fuck.