Write Again … Ricky and his team

Published 3:08 pm Monday, June 19, 2017

He would come by the Seventh Street Recreation Center (now the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center) several times a week.

It was always in the morning, because that’s when I worked there as a part-time employee.

Ricky would ride his bicycle to the center, and would usually meet his team — his basketball players — outside, and they’d come in together.

He would come up to the sliding glass window in the office, where I would already be waiting with a ball. He only used, needed, the one ball.

Sometimes I’d go into the gym and watch Ricky and his team practice. Also, I could see him from inside the office on the TV monitor. He spent much of his time working on his long-range shot, from his point guard position.

I remember seeing him make all the team sit over on the bench beside the court, while he talked with them. Once, even, I saw him slam the ball down and storm out of the gym, quite angry, as he headed for the door.

“What’s wrong, Ricky?” I asked.

“The boys won’t listen to me.”

He went out the front door, mounted his bike, and off he went.

One time when they were practicing I went into the gym, and suggested a couple of offensive plays he could use. I told him he could signal them to the team by holding up the number of fingers that corresponded with the designated play.

From then on, you could regularly see Ricky communicating with the team by using his fingers. Just like basketball teams do everywhere.

Once when he was outside with the boys, the trash pickup truck came up a bit too fast. Fortunately, none of the players or Ricky were hit. Close call.

Sometimes when someone came by the center, they would inquire if the gym was being used. I would tell them only a half-court was, because player-coach Ricky kept to only half of the court. And that they were free to use the other half.

They — if it was their first visit — would note that only one person was in there. Not so, I’d say. Ricky had his whole team in there. But it seems that only Ricky and I could see the players.

Ricky lived in a group home. He’s no longer there, for he passed away several years ago. I like to think he now has a first-class basketball court available to him, and he is working hard on his three-point shot.

I also like to think that the Lord drops by on occasion to watch Ricky play.

CORRECTION – In my listing of departed classmates in last week’s column I mistakenly included the names of Kitty Ellington and Milton Hodges. To them I offer an apology. May they both have many, many more “topside” years. (Thanks, Pat.)