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Gil Pound: Pound for Off the record, pt. 3

Mar. 19—In recent weeks I've written about the state championship-winning Baldwin Bravettes and the soon-to-be-playing Atlanta Braves. My viewership of college basketball is at an all-time low with March Madness beginning later this week, so best to stay away from that topic for fear of being labeled a fraud. In short, I'm short on ideas for the column.

No worries. It's at times like these a writer reaches into the Notes app on his or her phone to see what thoughts have been jotted down. Looks as though you get an old favorite of mine, a series titled "Off the record" where I share stories and comments from the sidelines that were never meant to be shared. For the student-athletes and coaches afraid of being outed, details will remain as vague as possible to protect all parties involved. We're going for entertainment value here, not to make anybody look bad.

Oddly enough all three stories in this piece center around the basketball court. First up is a tale from high school summer hoops camp. For those unfamiliar, summer basketball camps are really just a series of scrimmages held over the course of a few days. College campuses often play host to these practice games, as is the case locally with Georgia College & State University. I'll often set up inside the Centennial Center for a good chunk of a work day to catch our local teams in action as players figure one another out, run their offense, and play defense against a live opponent.

In order to maximize playing time, coaches, if they have the numbers, will often split their team up into two or three squads. With all due respect to Mr. T., the starters and first guys off the bench make up the "A" team, then the next few are the "B" team, and so on. In this instance I was watching one school's "A" team play on the main court, and they were getting beat pretty badly. Here's just how bad the beating was. A member of that school's "B" team — one who was a newcomer to varsity basketball — was enjoying a meal in the stands nearby, and someone behind the bench bet the coach the mighty sum of $1 that they wouldn't put the B-squadder in. With absolutely no hesitation whatsoever, that coach turned to the player and said, '(Redacted), get ready, you're going in.' This young student-athlete's way of getting ready was to put the food down, scoot forward a couple of rows and wait on their name to be called. When the player entered, the coach even set up a pick-and-pop for them to shoot from deep. Did the shot fall? No, but it was close, and the head coach perhaps built a little team chemistry that day by getting the team re-engaged in a blowout. The whole thing also earned a pretty good laugh from the peanut gallery.

Next up we go into the actual basketball season where the team from the previous story was ironically on the good side of a lopsided ballgame. I don't normally converse with coaches much during their games. Our time to speak comes after. I don't like pulling their attention away from the action unless I have a pressing question. You know, the opposite of those awful in-game interviews done on television broadcasts. "What do you need to see from your team?" "We need to play defense and shoot better from the free-throw line." Duh. Anyway, the home team is up big, and the coach had pulled their starters. I'm sitting near the bench taking photos, when I hear one of the starters ask the coach if they can go back in. Instead asking the questions, I suddenly became the person being interviewed as the coach turned to me. "Did you get your shot yet, Gil?" the coach asked, wondering whether I needed any more photos. I nodded my head, knowing I probably already had the picture I was going to use for that game story. Coach turned back to the player and told them to stay put. Sorry, you'll have to pad your stats another night.

Further on into basketball season we go. I heard tell that a local team lost a road game it wasn't supposed to, and the opposing fans stormed the court in celebration. My first thought was, 'That town is so small, wouldn't you just call it a court misting rather than a court storming?' I asked the local school's athletic director about it later. The response: "Yeah their concession stand was the only open restaurant in town, so they had a decent crowd that night."

Instant off-the-record classic.