Play with the Pros: Slam dunk

Basketball at a high level is a sport where 6-foot-7 is the average height of an athlete.

Let’s imagine for a second that I am a skilled basketball player. (I’m not, in case you were curious.) So skilled, in fact, that I was signed by an NBA team.

At a towering 5-foot-9-ish, I’d just barely avoid making the top 10 list of the shortest NBA players ever.

Basketball at a high level is a sport where 6-foot-7 is the average height of an athlete. So I can use that as my excuse for not being skilled.

Chris McLaughlin, on the other hand, is 6-foot-10 and has helped steer the UVic Vikes to a 9-1 record this season so far on the court.

“Basketball’s just something I’ve always played and something I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve always been big and it’s something that people kind of push you towards naturally: ‘Oh, you’re big. You must play basketball,’” he says. “That turned into me playing more and more. And once it got more competitive, I kind of fell in love with it and played it ever since.”

Playing one-on-one with McLaughlin is intimidating and completely unfair. His reach, his vertical jump and his speed make it impossible for me to ever touch the ball.

At 2-0 I concede, and suggest a game with a more level playing field (where skill is all that counts): 21.

The game’s over in under two minutes – his 21 points to my 2. But that doesn’t deter me from pushing ahead.

New rules: we play until I make 21, and Chris can just keep racking up the points until I get there.

As the number of air balls I get surpasses my points total, Chris effortlessly sinks ball after ball after ball. It’s kind of hypnotic watching swish after swish, and I’m now convinced he’s part robot.

Some 20 minutes and dozens of missed shots later, I finally sink my last basket to end the game. Final score: 282-21.

“You did…” the 21-year-old geography student says before taking a long pause, “… better than I thought you’d do. It takes practise. I feel like you haven’t been practising very much. You don’t look too confident out there.”

I haven’t been practising and I’m certainly not confident, but he says those attributes are more important than my height.

“Yeah, height does factor in, but at the same time there are a lot of small point guards that have made it very far,” he says.

Okay, I have no excuses now. I just suck at basketball.

GO VIKES GO

In November McLaughlin was named one of the best university athletes in Canada West for the week, after leading the team to two victories against the University of the Fraser Valley. He has 160 points in 10 games.

The UVic Vikes men’s basketball team is currently on winter break, but the second half of the season starts up again in mid-January. Home games happen Jan. 10, 11, 24, and 25, and Feb. 7, 8 and 14 in the McKinnon Gym at UVic. For tickets, visit govikesgo.com/tickets.

 

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