May 6th, 2015, 1945 hrs
Adi parked his 2 door hybrid hatchback, grabbed his backpack and got out of the car, making his way into the Spectrums training facility.
“Hello Adi! You’re here late. Getting some last minute training in?” asked the island fox receptionist.
“Hey Jeannette, you are correct. Is anyone else in?”
“No players from the team at the moment, unfortunately.”
“I see. Can I have the keys to the locker room and equipment room?”
“Sure thing, hang on for a sec.” replied the fox
“Here we go.”
“No problem Adi, just don’t overdo it alright? It’s the playoffs tomorrow night, we need everyone to be rested. I’ll be leaving in about 10 minutes, so I’ll leave a note for Oliver to check up on you in the gym”
“Thanks again Jeannette, and don’t worry, I won’t” replied the civet as he headed towards the gym.
The civet spent 15 minutes warming himself up, and proceeded to dash back and forth the length of the court.
“And that makes that. We’ll be starting with this lineup, try balancing out the time of everyone and adapt to whatever strategy Hawaii has in for us during the game. All this sound okay Julio?” the Spectrums Head Coach, Alan Foster, asked his assistant.
“It sounds right, They’re not too great of a threat at the moment, with Cross injuring his back. It’s mainly Masalia that I’m worried about, given the matchup we have for him for the first round, and if that dog tries to do anything…”
“Julio… Julio please, we’ve been through this. Nobody wanted that to happen, it was an accident.”
The black panther’s brow furrowed as he rubbed the bridge of his muzzle, leaning forward and sighing.
“I know… I know… It’s just that…”
“Hmm? Someone’s down there?”
Alan pulled back the curtain office, looking through the one-way, tinted mirror window down at the basketball court below.
“Well speak of the devil.”
Curiosity got to the big black cat as he looked down onto the court, and saw the civet running, dribbling zig-zag across obstacle cones and shooting over dummy obstacles taller than himself, training all alone just before the day of the post-season.
“He shouldn’t be pushing himself too hard… Hmm…”
Foster posted for a moment as he sensed that something was off about the Adi's movement - it was lacking the usual precision that the civet had.
“Julio, could you go down there and talk to him? I think he’s got a lot in his mind at the moment. I’ll finish up on everything else and fill you in on things later.”
“Alright, I’ll go get changed.”
Alan chuckled hearing his assistant’s reaction.
“Alright then, I’ll leave it to you. Just don’t work him out too much alright? We still need him for tomorrow."
The black panther gave the dingo a thumbs up, and headed out of his office.
Adi was deeply focused with his training, alternating between lay-ins and perimeter jumpers with high intensity. He alternating both the lay-ins and shots using his left and right hands as the shooting arm as well.
He was lost in repeating the motions over and over until the sanctity of his training was interrupted the the opening of the gym door from the other side of the court.
The civet turned towards the noise, and noticed a black panther in Spectrums training jersey stepping into the court.
“Mc… No wait…” the civet corrected himself. This black panther was taller, without earrings, and with wider shoulders compared to McDyess, the primary Shooting Guard for the Spectrums, with jersey number was 71, not 0.
“C… Coach Onca?”
“Were you expecting someone else? Maybe McDyess, rook?”
“No coach, it’s just that… Well, Jeanette told me that no other player from the team was in here today.”
The black panther stopped for a moment, and looked at his rookie with a blank stare.
“Well, she’s right you know. Think about it.”
The civet thought about what was said for a moment, and lowered his head as he held the ball close to his abdomen, his ears and nose slightly redder as he realized what he missed from what the receptionist said.
“Don’t dwell over it too much.” the panther told the civet, a menacing smirk across his face.
The golden-furred civet looked towards his coach and tossed the basketball towards him, only to realise that his coach promptly posterized him.
“Your guard’s down rook.” said the black panther as he picked the ball back up and tossed it towards the civet.
“Keep this up and you either lose minutes tomorrow, or we’ll rotate you out of the lineup.” he continued as he tossed the ball over to the rookie civet.
“You best wake up, now bring it.”
Adi looked at the former FBA elite, his muscles ready for action, revealing the athletic, lean and muscular build under the short, velvety black fur, a fierce, competitive aura surrounding him as he took up a defensive position - The challenge had been issued, Onca was serious, and Adi, despite being taken by surprise at first, replied accordingly.
The civet’s facial expressions went into neutral, the usual expressionless face he carries onto his missions in the past, and now, the court, a layer of defense to prevent the opposing team to read what’s in his mind, as he took up a low dribbling stance, getting ready to attack.
From the woods to the point of the key, the civet took a high speed, hard turn towards the wing, the black panther adjusting his stance accordingly as he got into Adi’s face, causing him to brake and respond immediately by taking a stepback jumper, creating some space between him and his coach.
The ball was swatted out of the air shortly after the civet released it, the massive height difference between the 2 furs, with Adi barely touching 6 feet and Onca being slightly over 7 feet tall with a wingspan even greater than that, and Onca’s famous defensive game coming into play.
“Try harder rook!”
The civet was quiet as the went to retrieve the ball, heading back to the half-court line and taking another low dribbling stance. He then charged, the black panther taking up a defensive stance at the high post, standing in the way between him and the hoop. Adi adjusted his bearing, heading towards the left, and just as he reached his coach’s arms’ length, he pulled off a crossover and drove past the black panther, going for a layup from inside the paint.
Before he realized it though, the ball was swatted out of the civet’s hands from behind - Onca had anticipated the move and quickly turned around by pivoting himself towards the civet using his left footpaw, taking a light jump and using both his height and massive wingspan to his advantage again.
“That move is far less effective without a screen. Now get the ball and try again.”
The civet did so and tried once more, getting into post as he tried to make his way into the paint, shielding the ball from the reach of the panther, trying to push his way into the paint.
Adi was strong for his size, but that was the precise problem - his size. His training places emphasis on passing accuracy, floor knowledge, and agility, not strength, and it shows. With Onca’s center of gravity lowered, the civet struggled to even budge the black panther, the vast difference in their physical strength being extremely apparent, and without team mates to setup, the civet’s one-on-one play and lack of an effective, quick long range shot his his repertoire of moves was nothing short of obvious.
Knowing that he couldn’t overpower his coach, Adi planted his left foot down hard, uses it as a pivot, quickly pulling himself away from the black panther, right foot touching the hardwood as he pulled himself further away, eyes on the rim as he took to the air, jumping backwards - a turnaround fadeaway, creating a massive amount of space between him and his coach as he pulls up and lets it fly with a very high arc, the ball flying just right over Onca’s fingertips as he leapt for it.
Both furs had their eyes on the ball as it arced towards the hoop bouncing off of it towards the backboard and then back to the rim again, turning around and rolling on it after what was an agonizing 2-3 seconds, before mercifully falling into the hoop, the civet having scored against his coach, a former FBA elite defender.
“Good job rook.” said the black panther as he went to retrieve the ball, tossing it back towards Adi after he did so.
“Now let’s try that again.”
The civet was breathing heavily, having expended a good amount of strength against Onca while he was in post, but the small praise from his coach had encouraged him greatly. Game face back on, the civet tried again, and the both of them went back and forth, exchanging roles in both offense and defense for the next 8 minutes or so, with Adi spending more time on the offense.
The ball was in Onca’s hands as he got into post, using his strength to push into the paint with Adi defending, the difference between their strength, height and weight becoming apparent again. The panther was practically bullying the civet while making his way into the paint, Adi being completely powerless to stop him as Onca took up a low dribbling stance using his other hand to black the civet’s advances, the civet’s limbs far too short to even reach for the ball - a perfect mismatch.
After what he deemed was a comfortable distance, Onca turned and jumped toward the basket, the sudden force of movement pushing the much lighter civet away and down to the floor as he dunked the ball, hanging off the rim as the ball fell towards the civet, hitting him on his upper abdominals.
The civet was exhausted, eyes closed as he laid down on the floor, breathing heavily, his chest rapidly expanding and contracted, muscles visibly tense beneath the damp fur matted from his sweat, his core, legs and arms burning and trembling from the intense one-on-one between him and his coach.
Onca looked at the team rookie beneath him as he let go of the rim and landed, Adi struggling to get up as he rolled to his side, leaving a wet patch of sweat on the lacquered hardwood. The panther was panting a little, not having had to put in as much effort as the civet, given what roles they were filling during this little sparring session they had.
He knew he was a bad matchup for the rookie, given the civet's skillet, and lack of propensity of attacking on his own despite being able to orchestrate the offense quite effectively. All he had to do was get the civet on lockdown, and without teammates to pass the ball to, the diminutive rookie of a civet would remain mostly helpless against a larger player of equivalent athleticism, not forgetting that the black panther was a highly skilled, highly experienced 14 year veteran of the league.
The panther kneeled down and reached a paw out to the civet.
“C’mon, get up, get a bit of rest here before going back, you’ve got a game tomorrow.”
Both furs’ paws met, and Onca supported the civet on his shoulder, slowing placing him down on the bench near the stanchion, allowing the civet to catch his breath as he draped a towel over him.
“Thanks… ugh… huhh… Thanks coach…”
“Take your time rook, catch your breath first, talk later.”
After a moment of silence between veteran and rookie, the civet was rested enough, and looked up to the panther.
“I’m ready coach, we can go again…”
Onca shook his head and crossed his arms.
“Rook, no, you have a game tomorrow, I won’t risk either injuring you or wearing you out too much here. Why are you even here right now? You should be back home resting up for the game tomorrow, watch the games today while you’re at it.”
“... … Right, sorry.”
"Don't apologise to me, you've done me no wrong, not directly anyway." Onca retorted.
"And I still want to know why you're here."
"I was nervous coach, I was not able to take my mind off the game, now that the team is standing where it is."
This was one of the ways I know off to release the stress. With little else to do, I thought I might as well drop by for a bit of a workout "
"But your game was off a few steps. You didn’t sell your fakes as well as you should have, it’s as if you were on auto-pilot. You let me take advantage of that, and look at you now, still trying to get your breath back down to normal.
Also, you're putting yourself at risk prescribing without anyone else around. What if you injure yourself? What will you then? You'll be costing the team a lot in this important period of the post season."
Adi looked down on the floor, his expression tired and defeated. The panther was right, despite their difference in skills, Adi knew he could have, should have done better, yet he didn't. He was off his game right from the get go, mentally distracted to the point that he didn't even think of the consequences of a high intensity training alone.
Onca recognised the confused and downed expression his rookie’s head and sighed.
"So will I be hearing what the matter really is about? Or will you be going home keeping it a secret?"
Adi looked toward his coach, and took a deep breath.
"I've been wondering coach..." the civet said
"About my role in the team." he continued.
"How so?" the panther asked, leaning forward.
"I mean, I'm glad the team is doing well so far, given where we're standing in the league right now..." the civet said before pausing.
"But... sometimes, I wonder what my role in the team is, given that the team did so well during my absence, many times even more than even when I'm around…”
“I don’t want to hold the team back coach...” the civet said as he clasped his hands together
“But I don’t want to get left behind either… Not after missing out on so much after that incident… Not after not being able to contribute for so long.” he continued.
“I don’t want to let everyone out there that matters down too coach, not after we’ve come so far in the season… But this is different compared to back in my days where I get sent out on missions, with so much noise and media attention showered on everyone.”
Onca sighed, he understood what the rookie was talking about, considering how much negative media attention he got in the past from his antics. The difference was, he didn’t give a shit, whereas the civet was shouldering more than just the opinions of those who matter to him - A rookie mistake, not tuning out the static and letting it get to him.
“Adi, Adi, Adi, this isn’t the you I’ve come to expect to know.”
Onca shrugged, walked across the civet and took a seat to his left.
“Given your usual quiet, but many times intense demeanor, I never thought you would let your emotions get the better of you, especially during an important time like this, especially given your history as a cool and collected military sniper.”
“Sorry coach…This is different with everyone eyes looking at...”
“What did I say about apologizing to me?”
“It maybe difficult, but you have to tune out all the noise, and focus Adi. You can do that for us right?”
The civet stopped to think, looking back at what he’s done in the past before looking back at his coach, giving him a small nod.
“Good. I'm not saying that it will be easy, but you'll get there sooner than later, from what I can see anyway.” the panther replied as he patted the civet on his bare, damp back.
“Now go back and get some rest in.” he continued as he prepared to get up.
The civet leaned forward as he clasped his paws together, smiling, feeling better from the little encouragement his coach gave him.
“Thanks, I needed that. Managed to destress a lot from that workout as well.” he said, looking toward the large panther to his left, smiling.
The black panther gave a slight huff, smiling as he shrugged.
“No problem rook, anything else for now?”
“Nothing really, coach, I was just surprised you were here.”
“I was discussing a few things with Coach Foster, we’re going up against the Kahunas and formulating strategies based on what they maybe doing, given that their captain is injured.” replied the panther.
“They’re missing an equally capable player to fill his spot, and we were considering on the options we have in order to take advantage of the situation before he comes back for the matchup on the 13th.” he continued.
“Coach Foster is here too?” asked the the civet.
"In his office yes. We heard dribbling, and realised that you were using the gym."
“Both of you are hard at work, all the more the rest of us need to keep up.” muttered the civet.
“Just part of our job Adi, and yours would be to get some rest in in preparation for tomorrow. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, coach Onca.” replied the civet.
“Good, anything else for now?”
“Something on your mind rook?”
“Coach… may I ask something personal?”
The panther raised an eyebrow.
“I’m listening.” Onca replied.
“I… was there any reasons as to why you left the league?” the civet asked, a hint of hesitation in his tone.
The question surprised the black panther a little, but it wasn’t completely out of left field.
“I’m just… tired Adi, it feels like age is catching on a little as well.”
“But coach, if I may?”
“I can’t… help but think that the reason lies elsewhere. From our workout earlier, I felt that you were stronger, faster, more skilled and athletic than many of the defenders that the rest of the team and myself have gone up against I feel, and you have a strong repertoire of offensive moves under your belt as well to complement your during defence.” the civet continued.
“You still have a lot that you can still contribute to the league and inspire Coach, so w… I’m curious.”
The black panther got a laugh out of that.
“Hahaha, inspire, that’s a good one.”
“It’s… difficult Adi, not with the history being the brutish savage I’ve accumulated in the league, and being distant with most other people. You know that right?"
“Still…” the civet replied quietly.
“To me, it doesn’t feel that way, not when you’re with us. You may have been distant at moments, but I feel that you’re more than that…” he continued, looking up towards the black panther.
“And I heard first hand from my brother, how greatly worried you were when I fell, how you stayed throughout as much as you can, and how you took care of Iman in my place.” he continued.
“And I’m greatly thankful for that.”
The black panther wasn’t used to being shown such appreciation. It was a different feeling for sure, but it wasn’t an unpleasant one. He just shrugged, and smiled as he looked down at the hardwood, appreciative of the civet’s words.
“... You really want to know?” the black panther asked.
“If... you’re okay with it Coach.” the civet replied.
“Only if we’re training more Coach.”
“No Adi, not with the game tomorrow.”
“Then I’m free till the game tomorrow Coach.”
The panther leaned forward and gathered his thoughts.
“Do you know of the history of my family Adi?”
The civet shook his head.
“I’ve never looked into it specifically, sadly. Most I’ve heard about you was from the media’s depiction of you, and I think I remember that you were once featured on the album of a lady Caracal singer one as well, but that’s about it. Personnel intelligence wasn’t my area of specialty back in the military.”
“Hahaha, oh that! That was unexpected! I didn’t think you’d bring that up. That Dayo.”
“Yeah, the name of that Caracal lady singer Adi.” explained the black panther.
“But back on topic… The reason why I left, was … Because I felt like needed to get off the court, after leaving a bad message about the sport - not caring about those I victimized then, causing what may have been irreparable bridges.
... An example being the clawing incident with Buck Hopper, and then there was the incident with Bounder, and a scuffle with Lance Wildfyre about 3 years ago while I was with the Alphas, don’t know what it is with me and rabbits, getting into trouble with them so often.”
The civet just kept quiet, listening to his coach go on.
“And then there was your brother.”
“Ada? What did he do?”
“I think he was subtly hitting on me, shortly after you regained your consciousness from that incident.”
Adi’s nose and ears turned red as he buried his face and muzzle into his paws, embarrassed.
“Yah ampun... Ada and his antics… I’m so sorry coach, he can be a... handful sometimes, but he’s not a bad person.”
The panther roared out with laughter.
“Hahahaha, it’s alright, it wasn’t the first time such a thing happened, though it’s a good thing that he is your brother, and he didn’t ask the me in the past, a still very angry version of myself.”
“Still…” the civet spoke, looking apologetic.
“It’s okay, it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing happened, although my experience with males trying to hit on me would be those who’re drunk.”
“You do know that I was known as one of the angriest players during my time in the league?” the panther asked.
Adi hesitated for a moment, but soon nodded.
“14 years… You can only stay angry for so long. While I calmed down somewhat after first leaving the Howlers, I still gave my anger management counsellor, a black leopard by the name of Sena McCallister, a tough time.
A few months before I left, I finally apologized to Hopper, with a few other members of the Texas Lone Stars present witnessing it…
It was one of the hardest things to do, facing him after knowing the wrong I’ve done to him all those years ago, and nearly costing him his life…
But it was the first step in righting all the wrong...
I’ve done a lot of wrong during my time in the league, caused a lot of hurt, and in more ways than one let my late father down, sent a lot of wrong messages about sportsmanship, going against what Ned Underwood’s vision of the league was - I acted much like the players before Healey Davis’ time.
By the end of it, everyone’s seeing me for what I was when I was your age, and I was tired, regretting the fact that the time I have left was too little to change anything here in the league.
I’m a large, heavy guy, and age was rearing it’s ugly face. By the time I was with the Wildcards, I no longer felt as efficient as the days I was with the Howlers, the Alphas, the Spectrums even…”
The panther than raised his right arm and closed and opened his palm a few times.
“Especially after the shoulder problems… So I decided to retire, go back to Colombia maybe, and hope to fade away into obscurity…”
Adi just sat there, absorbing all the information as his coach shared what he was willing to share with him, amazed by what he’s heard, never expecting the big panther to have such a soft side to himself, given how little everyone really knows about him, and how many who don’t know of him have portrayed him.
“I felt that you wanted to do more, from the way you said it.”
“You would be right… and the chance happened to come by shortly after I made my retirement known.”
The civet nodded.
“The team, our team called on you?”
Onca gave the civet one soft nod.
“Have you met the team’s previous Assistant Coach, Randall Yoster?”
Adi shook his head before looking back up to the black panther.
“I’ve heard about him, but I’ve never met him in person before.”
“He was a very fatherly figure - strict, but down to earth, respected by everyone in the team, including Coach Foster, and back then, myself.
Back then, he was the one of the few who genuinely gave me a chance, without prejudice, even though others were skeptical at the time… It was why I was then motivated in playing the way I did, and it helped the team in reaching the 2013 playoffs, shortly after being traded away from the Alphas because of a something that happened early season.
After he learnt of my retirement, he called me up, asked if I was interested to take his place, to aid Coach Foster… I considered the offer for a while, and decided to take it up.”
“A change of roles, a change of momentum...” the civet said quietly.
“Poetic, but yes…” Onca continued.
“I wanted to return a favour, but it’s become more than that now, I guess.”
“A bit more coach?”
The panther gave the light smile and gave another light huff.
“It’s something I can do, alongside Coach Foster up there” he said, pointing up at the tinted mirror where the Spectrums’ Head Coach, Alan Foster’s office was.
“And it’s a chance to make up for what I’ve done in the past as well.”
Adi smiled and nodded as he looked towards the other end of the court.
“And I think you’re doing very good at that coach, considering where we are at right now.”
“Hah, much of the credit should go to Coach Foster, I’m still learning from him. Discussion of strategies and player analysis had never been my strong suit, a player from a Point Guard position would have been better for that…” Onca explained
“Coach Randall was decent at that, offering a second opinion to Coach Foster, but even with his age being over 70, he had abilities on the floor that Coach Foster cannot match.” he continued with a smirk.
“Really?” the civet asked, wide eyed.
“Wow, I’d like to be able to maintain myself until I am that old.”
“You and everyone else rook.” the panther replied.
“But back on topic… I thought that I’d just fulfil my role here being a physical complement to Coach Foster, take the load off of him… But all things considered, this sport had become a huge part of my life, and it wasn’t easy to just up and leave, considering that back then, my father himself has given me his blessing.
Back when I was younger… I lost everything Adi… My father, his business folded and family went broke to try and free people from oppression. Despite all the good he’s done and then some… He lost faith, took his own life, and I went that way too, disappointed with how his efforts went unappreciated, I was scared, confused and angry to the point it developed into blind rage.”
Adi felt a weight tug on his chest, a familiar pain that only one who has experienced someone they love die in front of their eyes, a forlorn look across his face as he looked toward the panther, learning a side of his story few know about.
“I remained angry for so long, and towards the end, I was tired…” Onca sighed.
“How Coach Randall carried himself as a person however, how he assisted with Coach Foster’s efforts with the orphanages he owns, how he treats the players including myself and his demeanor… I guess that was a start of a turning point, the start where I felt like I wanted to do something, you know?
Try pick things up where my father left."
Onca then took off his white headband, looking at it.
"Try to do what's right, make him proud."
"That belonged to your father Coach?" the civet asked, looking at the headband, and then back to the panther.
"No Adi." he replied, shaking his head.
"My father used to wear all white... This headband was in memory of that, but I've been doing it all wrong all that time..."
"It is similar..." the civet quietly spoke.
Adi proceeded to take out his own black, worn out headband.
"This headband, you picked it up and kept it for me ever since that incident Coach."
Onca smiled, and ruffled the civet in the hair.
"I know the story behind it, so it felt right."
"You do Coach?"
"Your brother Adi. Conversation to kill time while you were sleeping like a baby." the panther teased.
"I never was fond of the military. Back where I was from, they were extremely oppressive, so I didn't have the most positive impression of you back then after looking through your docket and its brief documentation…
But after hearing what you've done from your brother and Coach Foster for those who were suffering, putting your life on the line the way you did... And what your intentions for coming into the league are, Mr.Nooriman would be proud of you, I'm sure of it rook... I know I would be... So keep on wearing that headband of his, let his story continue through you."
Adi went wide eyed as he looked at the black panther, touched by the fact that not only did his coach know about his story, but even remembering the name of individuals significant to him and knowing their story, as well as the trust the panther had down him, letting him in on his past.
Instinctively, the civet raised his left arm, headband wrapped around his thumb, palm open, towards his coach.
“Coach… may I?”
The panther looked down, seeing the civet’s palm hovering above his own, before looking back at the court with a smile.
“Your father will be proud of you too, I’m sure of it coach…” the civet said as he rested his palm over the black panther’s right forearm.
“And I promise to do whatever I can to help you with this choice of yours too, with him as my witness...”
Onca looked down at the younger civet, Adi’s head facing down, palm trembling slightly as Adi held onto the old, worn black headband, as if the civet was holding back his emotions...
At this point, he still wasn’t used to receiving goodwill from many others, so he wasn’t completely sure how to react but…
“Thank you Adi...” the panther said as he rested a paw over the civet’s own, white headband draping over the black one.
“I appreciate it…”
General chit-chat all the teams in the West. Rumors, idle banter, trash-talk.
Make sure to read the Rules of 'Roleplay'
Make sure to read the Rules of 'Roleplay'
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