Tryouts were coming up soon and I had to make sure I was ready to ball. I was in history thinking about every shot, move, or trick in basketball as I watched the clock slowing tick and tock. The last bell finally rang and I ran out of the classroom. Walking through the hall, teachers were telling me I’d be okay. Those calmed some of my nerves but the rest of the jitters grasped on for dear life. I saw all these girls shooting the lights out the gym in awe. Since there were good players, I had to show out to make the team.
At the bleachers, I took off my black Crocs and threw on my shoes. Before I could even start anything, the coach came in. I stared off into space until I heard something about cuts which caught my attention: no one would be getting cut, but tryouts would determine if I’d make JV or Varsity. No cuts, thank goodness. Varsity as a freshman, almost too good to be true. We started drills and I shot with confidence. I was watching the girls shooting consistently and making tough shots. This was nothing like middle school. Half the girls there couldn’t even lay up. I ran the hardest and did my best. The Varsity and JV coach watching put a lot of pressure on me. I got out of my head and kept pushing. After I was done sweating up a storm, he called me over and told me I made Varsity. I did it. My first step to my journey of becoming Alani. The real Alani.
Basketball season was here so I got serious with my grades. I knew highschool ball was going to be different. New team, new coaches, new competition. I’ve only been playing since 6th grade. The horrid Mr. Pandemic canceled our season in 7th grade and 8th grade was a weird year. This was the real start of a new chapter in my hooping career.
My first few games I wasn’t starting, averaged about half the points my teammates did, until my coach told me to start the game against Brighton. I had to make sure I played great to stay in the starting line up. I got things to prove. I have to make my mom proud. Plus I have to show my brother I’m better than him. Whistle blown, I come down the court and BOOM, three me. Next possession had a TOUGH layup. I was feeling good and ended the game off with about 16 points. We blew the team out of the park. All my teammates were proud of me and I felt GREAT. Told my mom about it who praised me for the game I just played.
The next few games I play, I do great. I get rebounds, nice passing, good team work. I’m feeling myself. Only a freshman on Varsity and I’m killing it. Outside of basketball, I am maturing and doing way better than before, maintaining A and B grades, working, even keeping my room from looking like a jungle. I am becoming me. I’m maturing and becoming confident in who I am. My mom and my coaches kept me on track, making sure I was staying on top of my game, on and off the court.
Here comes one of the biggest games of the season, we play John D. O’Bryant. Last year Varsity went on to the City Finals looking for their 4th championship in a row. They played their butts off against O’Bryant and came through with a win. We knew they were coming back for revenge. I was starting that game, so I was nervous. I had to be my best and make good decisions on the court. Jumpball! We go back to back buckets until we’re up 20. I grab the rebound and start to head up in the air. I get hit. AND ONE! The crowd yells as I make the shot. I celebrate like I just won the lottery. The game ends a few possessions later. I had only 10 points but they felt like 50 from the way I played. Had me feeling like MJ on the court. My mom gives the “good job” look and my coach congratulates me.
At home, I’m doing my homework and I get a ding on my phone. It’s my team. I opened the chat and saw the words “Boston Globe.” As my eyes skim across every word something catches my eyes at the end: “Alani Hoilett also had an And-One lay up that had the bench roaring, she ended up with 10 points.” I reread it, making sure I wasn’t going insane, snatched my phone, ran downstairs to my mom like a crazy person. I showed her the article and she started smiling from ear to ear. I was ecstatic! I went from being nervous to even try out to being a star. Being in The Boston Globe made me feel like the sky’s the limit. I wasn’t scared about messing up or playing how I want. I became comfortable in who I am — I’m not nervous to try new things anymore. If I never tried out I’d probably be shy. Now I just take a deep breath and wish for the best. I’m going to keep working and look forward to seeing my name in a million more articles. Even after the season ended, I still put in work at the gym and make sure I put some shots up every week. No one is stopping me from making it far. Only I can mess it up for myself, and I don’t plan on it. I’m going D1, baby!