I was 15 years old and had one year of Junior Wheelchair basketball under my belt. I was not a starter and knew that I was a better shooter than some of my team-mates. I had just been to a tournament in Minnesota the weekend before and didn’t get to play one minute of basketball. I was starting to get frustrated with the game and myself. Didn’t have a great week at school that week and was not looking forward to church on Sunday. Although, I did know if I went my Grandma would take us to lunch at a nice restaurant, and… I really didn’t have a choice. We are on our way to church and I asked my mom who was driving, why doesn’t coach let me play. She gave a great answer which hurt a bit at the time, “Well, you need to get better, show him in practice and he will let you play.” So of course it’s all I could think about during mass. By this time in my life, I had mass memorized and I am only half kidding when I say, it was muscle memory that made me do the sign of the cross at the right time and say the Our Father on cue. Sign of peace was really big back then and of course we had to sit in the front, so Father would come down and shake our hands. Communion was over and I knew the last prayer was coming, so I put my coat and gloves on, I am zipped up and ready to get out of there.
Let’s go eat is the first thing on my mind. Although I know my Grandma is going to stop and talk with everyone on the way out, I was pretty good at getting out the door before her and my mom. Although on this day something very strange happened. As I was scooting out of church, Father Terry, catches me. My first thought was, “Oh great!” Shall I say my relationship with God at the time wasn’t the best. I was in my early teens and I was in a wheelchair. We had lots of talks that I am sure I will hear about when I get to heaven’s doors. So, Father Terry stops me and says, “Jason, I see you were not here today.” I said, “Father, I am right here.” To which he says, “I know you are physically, but you were someplace else during my sermon and I can see that from up there you know?” I said, “Well father, to be honest I am having trouble with basketball. I go to practice, try my hardest and my coach still won’t play me in the tournaments we go to.” Father Terry said, “Jason, God knows how hard you are trying. God just doesn’t think you are ready, ever thought of that? You just keep working hard and when you get your chance, God will remember how hard you worked and will give you chances to be great.” I said, “Thank you Father I sure hope that happens soon.” He patted me on the head and out I went, still in front of my Mom and Grandma.
I worked hard at practice that Monday night and shot the ball okay but just felt like “Why?, I’m never going to see the floor and we have a tournament in Chicago this weekend.” I asked my mom after practice, did I have to go and she just gave me that look that a parent can give and I said, “Okay.”
It was an okay week at school, got all my homework done and passed a test, I got to go to the tournament. I drove down with my coach and his son, who was on the team as well. I got to the hotel and thought, “Oh my, this is fancy. A hotel stay in a big city, hey I was from De Pere, WI at the time, biggest thing I saw there was a Silo. First game was at 9 am in the morning on Saturday. Got some sleep, but it was the first time I remember being nervous. We played against one of the best team’s right out of the block. I actually got to play one minute at the end of the first half. Second half starts and it’s going back and forth. One of my team-mates fouls out, then another and another and before I know it I am out there with five minutes left in the game and it’s close. Scored a few times but nothing readied me for what was about to happen. With 10 seconds left and three of our best players out, the guard brings the ball down. I go to the left corner outside the arc. He drives, looks right, that guy is covered, than sees me all alone. The next thing I remember, my team-mates are coming at me and attacking me like I was on fire. It went it, three-pointer from the left corner, swish, nothing but net. I remember thinking about what Father Terry told me that Sunday before. God knows how hard you are trying. God just doesn’t think you are ready, ever thought of that? You just keep working hard and when you get your chance, God will remember how hard you worked and will give you chances to be great. In my Junior career I hit more than 10 game winners but none as fulfilling as that first one. With God all things are possible, you just need to sit in the backseat and let him drive. It’s hard but worth the wait. God Bless.