How many of you (especially you men) have ever dreamed of playing collegiate athletics? I have always resented the fact that I was not a foot taller and a bit more talented, because one of my dreams has always been to play NCAA Basketball. However, recent events have led to…….
Me playing collegiate basketball at Ivan Franko University!!!!
What??!!!?? Okay, this requires a little explanation. Shannon and I are full time language students at Ivan Franko University. They have an entire department for international students who come to study here and Shannon and I are briefly part of that group while we are in language training. I have been looking to get some exercise lately and I heard it through the grapevine that the school had a basketball team. At first I just figured I would try to find a hoop to play on. However, my ambitions stepped up a notch thanks to the boldness of my Lebanese classmate, Khalid, who decided to ask the dean if we could try out for the University team. Our dean, apparently a man of action, responded immediately by looking up the basketball coach, calling him, and arranging a tryout for later in the day. I was floored.
Our tryout was interesting. We went to the school’s sports complex, which turned out to be an aging, gigantic Soviet facility on the other side of town, found coach Ihor, and ended up having our tryout on half a basketball court while about 75 students were running around for some sort of physical education class on the other half. Coach Ihor spoke no English and gave us no directions. He simply gave us a basketball and watched, half watched really. He kind of turned to the side and watched us play in his peripheral. Being a little nervous and not knowing exactly what to do, Khalid and I decided to shoot a little bit and then play one on one. I guess it was a good choice because after one game coach Ihor came over and told us our first practice was going to be on Saturday.
Since then we have had a couple of practices. They have been both familiar and foreign. Because I understand basketball, I know what to do and where to go. I have an idea about what the coach wants. But because I can only understand maybe 20% or less of what he says, in a mix of Ukrainian and Russian, I really don’t know exactly what is going on and that makes everything a little bit strange. Also foreign to me has been the enforcement of rules. One blatant difference is the rule on carrying. The point guards on my team pretty much carry the ball almost every time they dribble and I am not talking about a slightly excessive palming of the ball. These guys handle the ball like running backs.
As far as my teammates’ skills, these Ukrainian guys are pretty much what you would expect: really tall, talented, and not tremendously familiar with the game. I think my knowledge of the game and my experience is the factor enabling me to play, it certainly isn’t my height.
As far as my first game, I have no idea. I am a little worried everything will fall apart before I get to play in a game. I lack some of the necessary student documents right now. The English speaking players assure me not worry: “If you are good, we will make a way.” Whatever happens, I can’t believe what an amazing thing this is. I used to joke with my friends at Asbury about playing ball here in Ukraine. Now, in God’s marvelous creativity my dreams have been realized and I am a college basketball player (however measly the context). What a great Christmas present. Thank you Jesus.
If a game occurs and I get to participate I promise some pictures. Here is a picture of our Chancellor at Ivan Franko.