In a lull in the conversation I try to make small talk with Cory, to find out more about how he ended up the way he is, but he shoots me down.
“Don’t worry about it. You should be focused on this stuff I’m saying, not who I am.”
“Sorry, it’s just, I just, I wanted to know more about you. Some examples from games you played might help.”
“If you want stories, talk to the other kids out there,” he says, nodding toward the window that overlooks the playground. “They talk enough.”
“I’ll tell you about myself when it matters to the playground rules. Now pay attention.
“Leading a big team is like leading a small team. Either way, you divide and conquer. You have to shape players as individuals and as teammates, and let them know their roles.
“To win, the captain has to know the difference between unoriginal and original moves.
“I call the skills and plays that make up the game unoriginal moves, like giving a center the ball in the post or telling your quarterback to throw. Those are necessary but unoriginal ways of playing. Having the fullback throw a pass to a tight end on a short route, or making it look like your center is going to shoot a three and then having him dump the ball into the swingman in the post for a layup is a more original way of playing.
“Playing the game in an unoriginal way works, but it’s going to get you more losses than wins. To win big, you have to be original.
“If you know your opponent’s moves you can outfox him, anticipate him and be original when he is unoriginal. The original comes from the unoriginal, like when you are about to steal a pass but instead of catching it you bat it to a teammate in a better position on the court. Stealing the pass is good but unoriginal. Being unselfish and batting the ball to a teammate with a better advantage over the other team is original. That’s a nice move.
“There’s no end to the examples of how the original comes from the unoriginal. The more you play, the more original moves you’ll learn.
“The easiest way to tell the difference between original and unoriginal game play is to watch street ball and then watch a league game with a referee and coaches. But neither one of those is perfect game play. In street ball, the best player takes over the team and everybody else figures out their roles as they go. In league games you have to follow plays and the coaches organize players into categories where they’ll succeed.
“But to be a great captain on the playground you have to be able to follow a play and to make it up as you go. Think like a coach and think like a ball hog at the same time. Know your players’ strengths and weaknesses and put them in a position to win.
“If the captain knows his players strengths, the players know their roles and the captain puts the team in a position to win, you’re going to be unstoppable, like lightning, like a train, or a bullet that’s already been fired.
“That’s when you’re confident enough that you’re not trying to win, you’re playing to win.”