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Authors: Matt Christopher

Hook Shot Hero

BOOK: Hook Shot Hero
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Y
o, Daniels! Think fast!”

Tim Daniels dropped his sleeping bag and whipped around just in time to catch the basketball. He grinned when he saw who had thrown it.

“Dick Dunbar! I can’t believe you’re back here at Camp Wickasaukee!” Tim lobbed the ball back.

Dick, starting center for one of the best college teams in the country, plucked it onehanded out of the air and palmed it by his side. “ ’Course I’m back. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Tim rolled his eyes. “Uh, gee, I dunno! Because you’re the hottest NBA prospect in the universe? You should be sitting by the phone, waiting for the offers to pour in!”

Dick tossed the ball over his head and caught it with the other hand. “Maybe I’ll enter the draft after I graduate next year.”


Maybe?
” Tim echoed incredulously.

Dick gave a short laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Don’t get me wrong, Tim. I love playing basketball, but there’s more to life. I’m not ready to put all my eggs in one basket.” He dribbled twice and added, “Even if the egg is a basketball and the basket is a hoop ten feet above the ground!”

“Hey, Tim, you gonna get the rest of your stuff or what?” Billy Futterman, Tim’s best friend, called. Billy’s mother had driven them to camp; Tim’s remaining belongings were still in the trunk of her car.

“Be right there!” Tim called. To Dick, he said, “So, I’ll see you around camp, right?”

“Just try to avoid me!” Dick replied. He shot Tim with a finger gun and sauntered off. Tim hurried back to the Futtermans’ car.

“Thanks again for the ride, Mrs. F.,” Tim remembered to say as he pulled out his gear.

Mrs. Futterman peered anxiously into the empty trunk. “Now, you boys are sure you remembered everything? Maybe we should look over—”

Billy cut her off. “Mom, we doublechecked everything before we packed up the car this morning. And before you ask, yes, I have plenty of self-addressed stamped postcards, and yes, I promise to write you and Dad every other day! Come on, Tim,” he added, picking up his belongings and heading toward a two-story cabin marked Eagles Nest. “We better hurry if we don’t want a couple of newbies to grab our bunk.”

Tim hid a smile as he shouldered his bags. To hear Billy talk, you’d think he’d been coming to Camp Wickasaukee his whole life instead of this being his second summer. And what a difference a year made! Last summer, Billy moaned about everything, from mosquito bites and the lack of video games to his sunburn, the rigorous basketball practices, and the pranks the other campers played on him.

Not that Tim blamed him for that last complaint. A few of the pranks, like running a pair of Billy’s oversized underpants up the flagpole and putting shaving cream on his pillow, were pretty rotten things to do to a homesick guy.

Tim had been the victim of a few nasty jokes, too. The worst was when he’d gotten a “kiss” from a whoopee cushion instead of the pretty girl he thought he was smooching!

He and Billy had gotten their revenge, however. In the dead of night, they’d pulled the classic hand-in-warm-water trick on the chief prankster, Mike Gruber. Mike woke up to discover he’d wet his bed, a fact his cabinmates had never let him forget.

I wonder if Mike’s back this year,
Tim thought as he pushed open the door to the Eagles Nest. He got his answer a second later.

“Oh, jeez, look what the cat dragged in.” Mike was stretched out on a beat-up old couch. Perched on one arm of the couch was another camper from last summer, Brian Kelly. The two exchanged loaded looks and smirked.

A third boy, Donnie DeGeronimo, rose from a nearby chair. “Dude, let me give you a hand with that,” he said. Donnie was one of the tallest fourteen-year-olds Tim had ever met. Judging by the new low pitch of his voice and the shadow of a mustache above his upper lip, Donnie had matured a lot in the past year. Compared with him, Tim sounded like one of those singing cartoon chipmunks!

Donnie and Tim found Billy unrolling his sleeping bag onto one of the beds in room sixteen. “When you’re done, come down to the court,” Donnie said, dropping Tim’s bag and heading for the hallway. “We’ll get a pickup game going with the other guys.”

“I’ll be there,” Tim promised. After Donnie left, he turned to Billy. “You want in on the game?”

“Nah, I’m heading to the waterfront.”

Tim nodded. Last year, both he and Billy had participated in Camp Wickasaukee’s basketball program. But Billy hadn’t liked it very much. So this time around, he was focusing on earning his junior lifeguard certification. It made sense because he was a natural in the water. Tim liked to swim, too, but he was so skinny that it took all his energy just to stay afloat. Billy was bigger and wider—although some of his weight, Tim noticed as Billy changed his T-shirt, had turned into muscle since last summer. Tim wondered if that meant that Billy, like Donnie, was maturing physically.

He also wondered—for the millionth time—when he, too, might see some changes to his own physique. He wasn’t concerned with his weight, but he’d grown only an inch during his eighth-grade year. Was he doomed to be a shrimp forever? And if so, could he really be competitive against taller basketball players like Donnie?

“Hey, Daniels, you coming to play or not?” Donnie called from the floor below.

Guess I’m about to find out,
Tim thought. He hopped off the bed and hurried to join the others.

T
he Eagles Nest basketball players gathered at one of the several outdoor courts on the grounds of Camp Wickasaukee. There was an indoor gymnasium, too, but it was used only when it was raining or when the boys’ and girls’ camps met for a social. It was at one such dance that Tim had received his “kiss.”

He grimaced as the memory of that embarrassing moment flashed through his mind.

A curly-haired man with dark eyes caught his look and laughed. “Whoa, did you eat something nasty, or is that your game face?”

“Hey, Tito!” Tim greeted. “Are you our counselor again this year?”

Tito threw a muscular arm around Tim’s shoulders. “Yeah, I drew the short straw and so got stuck with you punks,” he deadpanned. “Come on, we’re about to choose sides.”

Tim counted nine players waiting at the court. Dick was there, too, as was Jody, another counselor from the year before. Tim knew most of the players, but a few were strangers. They might be new to the camp, since they didn’t seem to know one another or anyone else. Plus, they were casting hopeful looks at Mike Gruber, Brian Kelly, and two other boys. But Mike and his crew were too busy laughing about old times to be bothered with them.

Tim understood how the newbies felt. He’d wanted to be a part of that “in” group so badly the previous year that he’d almost turned his back on Billy just so they’d accept him. Well, he wouldn’t make that mistake again this year. And he decided he wouldn’t let the new campers waste their time trying to get in good with them; if those boys wanted to be your friend, they’d come to you. It didn’t work the other way around!

Tim walked up to the closest newcomer and stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Tim Daniels,” he said. “You a first-timer here at Wicky?”

The boy nodded and introduced himself as Sam Livingston. Sam was about Tim’s height, with a buzz cut and a sprinkling of freckles across his nose.

“Let me guess,” Tim said, “you play guard back home. Right?”

“Shooting guard,” Sam acknowledged.

Tim grinned. “I play point. Maybe we’ll be paired up on the court.”

“That’d be cool.” The two bumped fists and then turned to Tito, who was clapping for attention.

“Jody and I feel like getting our game on,” the counselor said, “so we’ll be captains and pick our players.”

One of the new campers pointed at Dick. “Is he going to play, too?”

“Nope,” Tito answered. “He’s here to observe each of you. That way, we’ll know what you need to work on to become better players.” He motioned to Jody. “You’ll be skins, so you can choose first.”

“Mike Gruber,” Jody said without hesitation. Mike peeled off his shirt and planted himself next to Jody, a smug expression on his face.

Tito surveyed the remaining choices. His eyes stayed on Tim for a long moment, but he ended up choosing Donnie. He selected Tim in the next round, though, and Sam in the one after that. When all the players were on a team, positions were assigned, and the game began.

Tim played point guard opposite Mike. They found spots around the center circle, where Donnie and Bobby Last, another tall eighth grader, faced each other for the tip-off. Dick acted as ref and lofted the ball between them. Donnie leaped just a bit higher than Bobby and tapped the ball into Tim’s waiting hands.

Tim took off, dribbling toward the basket. Mike dogged him every step, clearly hoping Tim would make a mistake. But Tim kept his cool—and his dribble.

Not this summer, Gruber!
he thought as he reached the top of the key. He turned to shield the ball while he looked for an open man. Merrick “Cue Ball” Jones, a lanky forward with a shaved head, cut to the hoop with his arm raised. Tim hit him with a pass. Cue Ball caught the ball, spun, and shot. Two points!

“Yow, that was so sweet, I’m getting a cavity!” Cue Ball crowed.

Tim and his teammates laughed as they raced to the opposite end of the court. Mike brought the ball down fast and drove in to the hoop. Donnie slid across the baseline to challenge him. When Mike jumped for a layup, Donnie jumped with him.

Whap!
Donnie denied the basket with a powerful block. Mike reeled back dramatically and looked at Dick. But the block had been clean, so no foul was called.

Sam snared the ball on a bounce and found Tim waiting near the sideline. Tim dribbled quickly, but Mike caught up to him just as he crossed the center line. Tim drew up short and bounced a pass to Tito. Tito sent it to Cue Ball, who immediately relayed it to Donnie at the low post. Donnie jumped high and fingerrolled the ball into the hoop.

“Moses, smell those roses!” Cue Ball bellowed.

The comment was pure nonsense but uttered with such glee that Tim and his teammates cracked up. They stopped laughing when the “skins” sent a long bomb to Jody, who was waiting under the hoop. Jody was well over six-and-a-half-feet tall. He slammed the ball two-handed through the basket, drawing cheers and whistles from both shirts and skins.

Tim inbounded the ball to Sam, and the action moved back to the other end. Elijah, another newcomer, sprang forward to challenge Sam at the corner of the key. Sam panicked and stopped his dribble, a classic mistake since now he was forced to pass or shoot.

Tim darted forward to help out. Sam dished the ball to him. Tim took two dribbles and then set himself up for a jump shot.

It wasn’t a shot he’d have attempted the year before, because more often than not, it would have ended as an air ball. But he’d been working hard to improve his shooting since the past summer and had gained confidence in his ability.

That confidence didn’t help him now. As he went up, Mike sailed across the paint and practically stuffed the ball down his throat!

BOOK: Hook Shot Hero
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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