John Gavin replayed bits of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas game in his head, combing through his pitches that night. The junior southpaw for No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (17-10, 2-1) rated himself on a scale of 1 to 10, as he does after every game, with the scrutiny of a pathologist conducting an autopsy. Except it was just Gavin, alone with his thoughts, in the lab that is his mind. 8? No way (Gavin doesn’t consider 8s, let alone 9s or 10s).
7.5? Nope (He remembered some pitches he left up. He hurried his pitches. He didn’t have as much command of his slider as he had hoped). 7? Hmm. 7.25? Alright, he thought, shrugging his shoulders. I’ll go with that.
Gavin, who pitched a then career-high 7.1 innings of scoreless baseball to help the Titans to a 5-0 win on Feb. 26, measures himself with a different yardstick from his peers. Even as he leads the Big West Conference in earned run average (1.63) in 38.2 innings of work (and, prior to giving up two runs in Sunday’s win over UC Riverside, had tossed 17 consecutive shutout innings), he expects more of himself. Gavin (3-0) doesn’t want to pitch alright. To pitch so-so. To even pitch well. He wants to be great. Nothing less. “John’s the hardest person on John,” said Jim Gavin, his father.
Mo’ne Davis calls for the ball. She drains a three, holding her follow-through for a second longer as she and a teammate battle two others for most threes made during a drill. “BOOM!” the boys on the sideline shout. Davis, wearing white and chrome Nike Kobe A.D.s, scurries around the perimeter, releasing shot after shot. “They cheatin’!” Davis hollers, waving her arms and hip-checking one of her opponents. She pops three more in a row. “Oh yeaaaaahhhh,” she says, bouncing up and down, sensing victory.
Davis has been knocking down shots at Philadelphia’s Marian Anderson Recreation Center with these same boys—her teammates on the Anderson Monarchs, a youth recreational team—for the past eight years. The center’s gym, with its four rows of brown bleachers, its cream-colored wall tile and its green and white scoreboard, has long been home to the 15-year-old—since before she became an American sensation in 2014 as the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series; before she starred in Spike Lee’s Chevrolet commercial; before she couldn’t walk anywhere without fans approaching her for pictures.
Canada was sick of the missed layups. She and her Windward School prep teammates gasped for air, unable to make seven in a minute on both sides in the full-court drill. Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard, a former Stanford and WNBA player, signaled to keep sprinting.
Canada, motioning for her teammates to clear out and rebound for her, zoomed off. “Jordin was like, ‘I’m going. I’m taking every layup,'” said Nygaard, who doubted one player could accomplish the feat alone. “She dominated it.”
It wasn’t always that way. Unable to dribble as a 6-year-old, Canada was easy prey for the taller kids. “I was always afraid. I would pick the ball up and I would just hold it. I’d panic and crunch down and they would all trap me,” Canada said. “My coach would always have to call a timeout.”
Her coach told her that she’d have to play point guard and learn to take care of the ball. “She didn’t want it,” said Joyce Canada, Jordin’s mother. “She wanted to shoot.”
J.J. Redick doesn’t wait. As DeAndre Jordan swats the opening tip to the Clippers, Redick dashes across the baseline as if gold awaits on the other side. Within seconds, he bolts past his defender to knock down a pull-up jump-shot against the Cavaliers on March 13.
“He’s a freak of nature,” said Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, Redick’s former Magic teammate. “I can’t think of one person that’s in better shape than J.J.”
Redick soon nets nine of L.A’s first 14 points, as he squeezes into the lane for a floater, drills another shot off the dribble and then pops a three in the corner.
Ten years into his NBA career, Redick has evolved into a more dynamic shooter, matching a career-best 16.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night. He has a blistering 47.5 percent from three and 47.9 percent from the field as the glue of the playoff-bound Clippers. That’s because with every shot he releases and every drill he completes, Redick increases expectations for himself. He must exceed his output each time he steps on the floor.
Kyle Allman sprinted toward the basket on a fastbreak. He didn’t care that Washington’s Markelle Fultz, considered by some to be the No. 1 2017 NBA Draft pick, trailed closely during a non-conference game in November.
Receiving the pass from point guard Lionheart Leslie, Allman leapt toward the sky, hammering the ball over Fultz for the dunk. Though Allman was blocked, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Brooklyn, N.Y., native landed undeterred, as his motto has always been: attack, attack, attack.
“He’s just a dog, man,” said guard Jamal Smith, shaking his head, praising Allman’s competitiveness. “He always wants to be that Alpha.”
UCLA basketball benchwarmers Josiah Johnson and Quinn Hawking didn’t think they’d sub in. It was way, way too early, as 15 minutes remained in the 2003 game against powerhouse Arizona, whose lead ballooned to 20. Rarely rising from the bench, Johnson and Hawking usually shimmied, swayed and stomped for teammates like future NBA players Matt Barnes, Trevor Ariza and Jason Kapono. They discovered the best camera angles in timeout huddles in hopes of appearing on TV after the commercial break.
“They called themselves ‘The S— Crew,'” said Brian Morrison, who played for the Bruins from 2002–05. “They entertained everybody.”
The women file into the gym, most in their late 40s to early 60s and most Asian American, every one of them eager for tipoff.
It’s a Sunday morning at a high school in Huntington Beach, but these women have been playing basketball in gyms like this, on mornings like this, for decades.
Today, it’s the High Rollers against Forever Kidz. Both teams are part of the Orange Coast Sports Association, which sponsors a basketball league of mostly Japanese American women age 40 and older. They play today because they still love the game more than they hate the sprained ankles and floor burns that come with it.