Authors: Matt Christopher
Copyright © 2003 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
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permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
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THE #1 SPORTS SERIES FOR KIDS: MATT CHRISTOPHER
im Daniels lifted the basketball high over his head. The kid who was guarding him kept reaching out, swatting at it, trying
to knock it out of his hands. But Tim was too quick for him. He pivoted first one way, then the other, looking for someone
to pass to. No one was free. In that split second, Tim made up his mind to go for the hoop. He faked a pass. The defender
took the bait, flailing at the imaginary pass while Tim spun around the other way and drove to the basket.
If he’d been about a foot taller, he might have gone for the slam dunk. But at five feet five inches, there was no way. Tim
settled for the layup. “Yes! Five — zip!” he yelled, pumping his fist in the air as he back-pedaled down the court on defense.
At least he wasn’t the shortest player on the court. Deivi Alvarez was only five two. But that didn’t make
Tim feel any better. Deivi was what, twelve? Tim was almost fourteen, and who knew if he had any more inches left in his growth
spurt. Yeah, sure, it was cool to be called little sparkplug on the basketball court, but he wished he could lose the little
part. It was getting old really fast.
Actually, if it weren’t for the fact that he was a good athlete — especially at basketball — most kids would probably have
called him a nerd. Slim and compact, with wavy red hair and freckles, Tim was always told he was cute by girls. But the few
times he’d actually asked them out, they were never available. He couldn’t help feeling they were secretly laughing at him.
It made Tim feel even smaller than usual.
He felt best about himself when he did well in school and, of course, when he was on the basketball court. No confusion then.
There wasn’t another kid his age in the whole neighborhood who could dribble, pass, and drive the lane like he could. Plus
he was good on defense — he always had a few take-aways, and even a rebound or two.
So what if he couldn’t shoot to save his life? He knew how to sink a layup — and since no one could stop him when he drove
to the hoop, what more did he need?
Sure, he’d ridden the bench on the Cougars the past two years. But that was because six-foot-tall Hakim Butler was the school’s
starting point guard. Butler was graduating in two weeks, though — and come September, Tim had high hopes of moving into Hakim’s
spot. After all, hadn’t he grown five inches just this past year? He understood Coach keeping him on the bench when he’d been
five feet tall. But now? Hey, he wasn’t that short anymore!
The kid he was guarding got a little careless with his dribble, and Tim was on it like a cat. Tipping the ball away, he raced
after it, grabbed it, and tossed it down-court to Kevin Oster, who dunked it with a roar of triumph. Kevin Oster had to be
six two, minimum. Dang, thought Tim. What are all these kids eating?
The game ended up 11–2. Of course, it was just an after-school pickup game in the school yard. It counted for nothing, even
if it was fun. What really mattered, when it came to basketball, was making the Cougars starting lineup in the fall:
Tim heard a car horn beeping and looked up to see his dad in the minivan, waving. “Coming!” Tim shouted, waving back. He said
good-bye to his friends, grabbed his book bag and cap, and ran to the van.
“Hi, Pops,” he said, buckling up. “Home from work already?”
“Your mom’s got a meeting with her boss, so I took off early.”
“So how’d it go?”
“How’d what go? Oh, the game? We won 11–2.”
“Wow. Brutal. You ought to take it easy on those poor guys.…”
“Dad,” Tim said, fighting the urge to smile, “it was just a pickup game. No biggie:”
“So listen,” his dad said, giving Tim a quick look before he flicked his eyes back to the road. “I’ve got an idea for you
this summer. Wanna hear it?”
“I’m working this summer,” Tim reminded him. “At Lotsa Pasta, as a busboy. Remember?”
“Why don’t you hear what I’m talking about first,” his dad suggested.
“Fine. What?” Tim said, sighing. “I am not going to college-prep camp, Dad. I’m only in seventh grade, okay?”
“I’m not even gonna tell you what it is, if you’re going to be so closed-minded.”
“All right, all right. What is it?”
“Come on. Tell me!” Tim demanded, really curious now.
His dad had a distinct twinkle in his eye. “How’d you like to go to basketball camp for the summer?”
“Wh-what do you mean, basketball camp?”
“You learn skills, you compete, I understand the NBA sends some players and coaches to do clinics with the kids … oh, never
mind. You wouldn’t be interested …”
“Yes I would!” Tim said. “Are you kidding? The pros come there to teach?” He could see it now — he’d go to this camp whatever-it-was
and come back ready for the NCAA, if not the NBA! The Cougars would make him starting point guard for sure.
“You could actually still chill for part of the summer,” his dad said. “Mom and I can’t afford to send you for the full eight
weeks, just for four.”
“Fine! Whatever. Just sign me up,” Tim said. He was already imagining himself hitting ten foul shots in a row, ten 3-pointers
in a row, sinking shots from half-court … nothin’ but net …
“You sure now? I mean, you’ve never been to sleep-away camp before.”
“So what? I’ll be playing basketball all day, right?”
“Well, now, I don’t know about all day …”
“You said it was a basketball camp!”
“Yes, but they have other stuff, too — swimming, softball, arts and crafts, you know, that kind of stuff.”
“Oh.” Tim considered it for a moment. “Yeah, well, I guess that’s okay.”
“You still want to go?”
“Because it’s very late in the day, and they only have a couple slots left. I’ve got to sign you up by tomorrow.”
Tim shrugged. “So sign me up,” he said. “No problem.”
“You sure? Last chance to change your mind.”
“Dad,” Tim said, sighing again but smiling, too, “just do it, okay? I’m not gonna change my mind.”
The next day after school, Tim was in the community pool, racing his best friend, Billy Futterman. Billy was five inches taller
than Tim and much, much heftier. He wasn’t exactly an athlete — in fact, Billy was one of
Tim’s “nerd” friends — but he sure could swim. Tim guessed it was Billy’s doughy consistency that helped him float. For Tim,
swimming was pure struggle. He had practically no body fat, and it was exhausting work just to keep from sinking like a stone.
At the moment, Billy was way ahead of him, and they still had two laps to go. “I quit!” Tim shouted, swimming for the ladder
and getting out of the pool.
“Hey,” Billy shouted back, suddenly realizing his opponent had quit the race. “What’s the matter? Can’t take losing?”
“Come on,” Tim protested, “you beat me every time, and I still race with you. I’m just tired, is all. I played basketball
for three hours yesterday.”
Billy swam up and got out of the pool, and the two of them headed for the locker room. “What do you love so much about basketball,
anyway? You’re not tall enough.”
“Shut up, okay? I just like it, that’s all.”
“Sorry. It’s just — well, I mean, you’re fast. You could run track or something.”
“I grew five inches this past year,” Tim pointed out as they dried off and got dressed. “And I’m still hungry every fifteen
minutes,-so I’m probably still growing.”
“And you can’t shoot, either. You gonna grow out of that?”
“It just so happens I’m going to basketball camp this summer,” he told Billy.
“Camp Wickasaukee. My dad says it’s famous. NBA guys come there and coach you and stuff.”
“Well, I’m glad one of us is going to have fun. Me, I’m going to have the summer from hell.”
“My mom and dad decided they’re not taking me to Europe with them.”
“They’re not? I thought you said —”
“They decided I’d be bored, can you believe it? All those dusty old museums and cathedrals. I begged them to take me. Know
what my dad said?”
“No self-respecting teenager wants to spend the summer traveling with his parents.”
“Well,” Tim said, shrugging, “you’ve gotta admit, most kids would rather be doing stuff with kids their age.”
“Not me,” Billy said. “They’re making me go to some camp! Can you believe it?”
“They don’t know yet. Who cares? Camp? Yuck! A whole summer bunking with a bunch of strange kids and a million mosquitoes.
Yippee. I’d rather stay home and play video games the whole time.” Then he fell silent, lost in thought.
“What?” Tim prodded him.
“I was just thinking …” — Billy’s face brightened — “maybe I could go where you’re going!”
“Yeah. Wickasaukee. I mean, I like basketball … pretty much. I can’t play for beans, but at least I’m tall. I can rebound
and block shots and stuff.”
“You never even play basketball.”
“I do in gym class. You just never see me because you have Gym A and I have Gym B.”
“Okay, but I mean, this camp is all about basketball.”
“Don’t they have other stuff there? Arts and crafts? Swimming?”
“Uh, yeah.” Tim was stumped. He couldn’t think of any good reason Billy shouldn’t come with him to
Wickasaukee. Still, he wasn’t sure he liked the idea. Billy Futterman and basketball camp were an odd combination. Kind of
like fish and ice cream, or peanut butter and nails. In fact, just the thought of it gave Tim a queasy feeling.
That night, Tim, his mom and dad, and his sister, Tara — who was ten years old and unbelievably obnoxious — were sitting in
the kitchen having dessert when the phone rang. His mom went and picked up the receiver. “Hello?” She turned to the rest of
them and whispered, “It’s Elaine Futterman!” Then she listened a lot, nodded a lot, and said, “Uh-huh,” “Why not?,” and “Great!”
a lot, all in her perky, happy voice.
After she hung up, she returned to the table. “Well, guess what?”
Tim took a wild guess. “Billy’s coming with me to Wickasaukee?”
“How did you know?” She looked totally amazed. Then she got it. “You two boys talked about it already?”
“Well, isn’t this just fantastic?” his mom said.
Tara silently mimicked her mother with an open
mouth full of food. Tim gave his sister a threatening look, and she cut it out.
“Sounds just about ideal,” his dad agreed, smiling broadly. “First time at camp for both of you, isn’t it?”
“It sure is,” his mom confirmed.
“Yep,” said his dad. “Just about ideal.”
Tim munched on his apple crumb cake and wondered how ideal it was really going to be — making his grand entrance at basketball
camp with Billy Futter-man, non-basketball player, attached to his hip. It had the potential to fall way short of ideal.
He forced himself to look on the bright side. At least he wouldn’t feel homesick. He’d have a close friend at camp right off
Yeah, he was probably worried about nothing. Camp Wickasaukee was going to be a blast, with or without Billy Futterman … he
he day they drove up to Camp Wickasaukee, they stopped first to pick up Billy, whose mom and dad were leaving for Europe that
afternoon. Billy’s mom kept fussing over him, asking him if he’d remembered to bring his asthma inhaler, and his allergy medicine,
and the special insoles for his shoes because he was flat-footed. Tim felt sorry for his friend, listening to her go on like
that. Not because of Billy’s asthma or allergies or anything like that, but because his mom just wouldn’t quit.