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Authors: Eric Walters

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BOOK: Home Team
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The previous day's game had been a good win. Kia got a whole lot of points from the line. She was repeatedly fouled, partly because she was good, partly because she was a girl, and partly because the other team had a bunch of goofballs who couldn't handle being schooled by a girl. Three of their starters were gone before the half ended. If they'd been smart and not fouled—or if their coach had been smart and pulled them off when they got their third foul— they probably would have won the game. This was another game we probably should have lost that we somehow managed to win.

What we did lose was another jersey. One of their guys grabbed Bilaal's jersey and practically ripped it off his back. It wasn't that he'd pulled that hard, but the jerseys were so old and worn that they were paper thin. The guy was left with a fistful of jersey and a shocked look on his face. Nobody on our team was shocked. We all knew how old and worn they were. Mr. Roberts said he'd be happy to get us new ones, but the playground repairs were taking all the extra cash that would have been used for things like that. Well, the repairs and all the new computers. Anyway, if we kept losing jerseys like we'd been doing, we might be playing skins and shirts by the end of the year. That wouldn't work so well for Kia.

Lailah had come to the game and cheered me—I mean
—on. She was very—

There was a knock on the door, breaking the silence in the room. Before anybody could react, the door opened and Mr. Wills, our caretaker, came in. He was holding a really big brown envelope.

“Special delivery,” he said with a big smile.

I liked Mr. Wills. He was a nice guy. I always got the feeling that it was a toss-up between him and the head secretary for who really ran the school. I knew it wasn't the principal or vice-principal.

“This was just brought by a courier and it looks important,” Mr. Wills said.

“Just put it on the back table and I'll open it later,” Mrs. Orr said.

shouldn't open it at all,” he said, “because it isn't for you.”

She looked surprised.

“It says it's for the students of grade six, care of Nick.” He pointed at me.


“You're the only Nick we have in grade six, so I figure it must be you. Here you go.”

He handed it to me.

“Can I open it now?” I asked Mrs. Orr.

“Well, I'm sure that until you do, nobody is going to be able to concentrate on their reading.”

It was a big envelope and it was very stiff, not bendy. I opened it and reached in and pulled out a piece of paper. It was a poster of some sort—a Raptors poster! And there was a second and a third!

“It's from the Raptors,” I said, announcing the obvious as I held it up so everybody could see what they had sent.

It was a big poster of all the Raptors players doing different things. In the center was Wayne Dawkins throwing down a dunk and…wait… there was writing on the poster.

“Oh my goodness…they actually signed it,” I gasped.

On each picture was a personal signature, all authentic signatures by the Raptors!

“This is amazing! Truly amazing! But who sent them?” Mrs. Orr asked.

“Umm, probably the Raptors,” Kia said.

“I sort of guessed that, but who from the Raptors responded?” Mrs. Orr questioned.

I looked deeper into the envelope. Toward the bottom, there was a piece of paper. I pulled it out and started to read.
Hello Nick and the grade-six students. Thank you all for—
“Read it out loud!” Kia said.

“Oh yeah, sorry. ‘Hello Nick and the grade-six students. Thank you all for sending the emails…all seventy-one of them. Your name kept coming up in many of the emails, Nick, so I decided to address this package to you. I hope you like the posters, one for each class, signed by all the players. I told Wayne about what your school did and he was very impressed.' ”

Wow. We'd impressed Wayne Dawkins. This was unbelievable. I looked at one of the posters. There was Wayne's signature. He'd actually
this poster.

“Keep reading,” Kia said.

“Oh, yeah.” I ran my finger down the page to find the spot where I'd stopped. “‘I will be sending an email to everybody who emailed us. You really are a school of true Raptors fans, and I am so disappointed that we can't fit you into this year's Raptors visit schedule, but hopefully, by putting up these posters in your classes, it will feel like you all are part of the Raptor family. Take care, Christina Allison.' ”

“Congratulations, Nick and the rest of the class,” Mrs. Orr said. “You could have given up after that first letter but you didn't, and now you have something to show for all your efforts.”

“So what do we do next, Nicky?” Lailah asked.

“Next?” I asked.

“Yeah, aren't we going to do something else to convince them to come?”

I didn't have any ideas. I looked over at Kia.

, tell them your idea,” she said, saying “Nicky” in the same tone that Lailah had used. She never called me Nicky. Which one of us was she making fun of? Probably both of us…and what did she mean about me having an idea? I didn't have any ideas.

“Go ahead,
, tell us all your idea,” Kia said and then smirked at me.

She seemed to be enjoying giving me a hard time—but why? I'd just have to get rid of that smirk. Two could play this game.

“I'd like to tell you, but really it's Kia who had the idea, so maybe she should share the surprise with everybody,” I suggested.

Kia's expression went from amused to surprised to angry to blank, all in the space of three seconds. I got her back!

“Go ahead, Kia, tell them.”

Kids called out for Kia to tell them her idea.

“I think if I told everybody right now, it wouldn't be a surprise. Besides, it really was
idea as much as mine, so when the time is right, he'll tell everybody.”

“I was thinking about some ideas too,” Lailah said.

“So was I,” Greg added.

“Maybe we could all get together and combine ideas,” I suggested. If they both had one, then between the four of us we'd have two ideas instead of none.

“Brainstorming is always a good way to do things,” Mrs. Orr said. “But not right now. Right now it's time to go back to silent reading.”

Chapter Nine

“Is that everything?” Kia asked.

“I checked the list twice. Everything is in there.”

The whole team had got together and come up with ideas. Kia and Lailah had sort of been the cocaptains of the committee. Strange how different the two of them were but how much they had in common. Not that I'd mention that to anybody—especially not them—but take away the extra-long nails and hair products from one and the basketball shoes and jersey from the other, and they had a whole lot in common. Both were very confident and very opinionated. And I wouldn't want to get either of them mad at me. That's why I wouldn't mention the similarities.

After we'd come up with the ideas, we got Mr. Roberts on board as our teacher representative. Having him take part was like having another kid, but one with adult powers. He was more excited about the ideas than we were, and he seemed to be good at getting the other teachers involved.

It had taken almost two weeks to get our ideas together. And now they were all inside the big idea box. I ran my hand down the side of it. Inside this box might be our best chance of getting a school visit.

“Well, if all the ideas are in there, then let's seal it up,” Lailah said.

“Okay, let's just—” Kia stopped and pointed at me.

I looked down. I was still holding the letter that was supposed to go in the box to explain everything.

“Sorry.” I went to hand it to her and then pulled back the letter. “Let me just read it through one more time.”

I unfolded the letter.

Dear Ms. Allison,

I wanted to write to thank you for the awesome posters. They are up on the walls of all three grade-six classrooms. It was really cool that they were autographed.

Because you sent us some Raptors stuff, we wanted to send you some Raptors stuff we made. Please find enclosed things created by our school for the Raptors.

To show our Raptor spirit, we are sending you original drawings of the Raptors that were done by all of our kindergarten students. There are Raptors paintings that were painted by all of our grade ones. The grade-two students all made posters. The grade-three students all drew portraits of the Raptors players—some are really, really good. The grade-four and grade-five students wrote poems about basketball and the Raptors. Finally, every student in grade six wrote a story called “ The Day a Raptor Visited Our School.” I guess those are fictional stories, but they would become nonfiction if you send some Raptors to our school.

Maybe you can tell by this letter that we are still hoping that we could become the one school.

There is also a cd of a song called “Raptor Mania.” It was written by our music teacher, Mrs. Carson, and sung by the school choir. It is very good. You can use it at halftime or during time-outs if you want. Mrs. Carson has given permission.

There is also one other thing I couldn't put in the box but wanted to tell you about. Last year in grade five we studied government and how democracy works. Recently we decided to test what we learned by having an election. We weren't trying to elect anybody. Instead we held a vote to decide if the majority of our students were in favor of changing the name of our school teams. And they were! Starting next school year, we will have a new name. We will be known as the Clark Raptors—and we will finally have new jerseys in cool Raptors colors.

We would still like to have the Raptors come to our school. And we still have lots of pizza they could eat. And my mother is still willing to make you something else if you don't like pizza.

Your friend,


“It's good,” I said and handed it to Kia.

“So that's everything.”

“Yep, everything.”

It was everything we'd talked about but not everything I'd hoped for. I was hoping that we'd have something from Jerome—maybe a letter or a promise that he'd call the Raptors himself— but there was nothing. Not even an answer to my email. Nothing.

That was strange. He
answered my emails. Was he upset with me that we hadn't asked
to come to the school, or maybe because he thought that I was asking for another favor or…? No, that wasn't like Jerome. He must be busy, or maybe he didn't get the email, or maybe he was on vacation.

I was just glad I hadn't told anybody that I'd emailed Jerome. I'd kept it a secret even from Kia. That way, if something happened it would be a surprise, and if nothing happened, then nobody would be disappointed…or think that I'd failed again.

“Do you think this is going to work?” Lailah asked.

“You miss every shot you don't take,” Kia said. “So what have we got to lose?”

Kia was right. There was nothing to lose… except wasting our time, getting people's hopes up for no reason and having everybody blame me when it didn't work. Other than that, there was nothing to lose.

Chapter Ten

I just lay there, in the dark, thinking about our game. We'd won our fifth in a row. I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't have bet on us winning two games the whole season, but here we were five games in and we still hadn't lost. I had to shake my head. Once again we were down by a couple of points with less than a minute to go and we'd pulled it out. Well, Kia had pulled it out. Two baskets and two free throws had turned a potential loss into a win.

I always had trouble sleeping after a game— even if it had been hours and hours before— and tonight was no different. I turned over and my computer made a sound to signal that I had received an email. My mom had told me to turn the computer off so I could get to sleep, but I liked to leave it on. I really didn't like to be in complete darkness. I was too old to have a night-light, but not too old to have a computer that worked like a night-light.

I rolled out of bed and went over to investigate. Maybe I should just check the message. It could be from Kia. No, it was almost midnight and she'd be in bed and asleep.

That made me even more curious. Who would be emailing me at this time of night? I clicked on the screen.

Hey Nick,

It's me, JYD! Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, but I'm on the other side of the world right now. Far, far away from home. I'm writing to you from South Africa! Johnnie and I are here with the NBA Basketball Without Borders program. I am now an NBA Cares ambassador who travels to different countries to promote this game we both love.

I am sure that you have seen the commercials during NBA games that say
NBA Cares
. Well, small groups of former and current players visit
different countries to support young people, meet political figures and open learn-and-play centers.
We dedicate basketball courts in some communities as well as host a basketball camp for the best young players from all across that country.

Johnnie spoke today to some American and Canadian students attending the private school that is hosting our Basketball Without Borders camp about serving others, just like their parents who represent their countries as diplomats.

We also talk a lot to the kids who live here all the time. Over here the young people have so many challenges that get in the way of them reaching their dreams. But what has shocked me is that even though so many kids here have been affected by aids and lost their parents, they still smile every day and ask for very little. There's one kid, his name is Tulani, and he's been like a guide to us. He plays basketball in bare feet because he and the other kids can't afford shoes.
He really loves the game but has no shoes to wear to school or to play ball in. There are so many young kids here with no shoes. If my feet weren't three times as big as his, I'd give him my shoes. I wish there was some way to help him and the others.

BOOK: Home Team
11.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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