Have you found yourself wondering why this site featured a picture of a basketball goal without a square on the backboard and chain nets? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Beaumont Park, which I didn’t know was located off Market Street in Wilmington, North Carolina until I moved to Market North Apartments in the early 90s, when it wasn’t cool to wear tight jeans. From much of 1993 to 1996, when the weather permitted and it wasn’t too cold, this was the homecourt me, Miguel and Jama’ tried to protect when we weren’t playing video games.
Most of the time, we played ’21’ or halfcourt on the end closest to Wayne Drive because the concrete on the other end wasn’t totally basketball friendly due to some tree roots, I think. But when we got eight bodies on the court and definitely 10, we ran full and stayed mindful of that unkind corner unless it was for a spot-up jumper.
However, the biggest issue (honestly dangerous) of playing at Beaumont was the position of the pole on the baskets. The proper or modern design is for the pole to be a few feet behind the backboard with a curve at the top so when players approach the basket for a layup or dunk, they will not make contact with a pole which conquers all.
Believe me, we always had respect for it and adjusted our landing to avoid that collision. I can’t recall if anyone ran into that pole but if they did, it made for a good laugh once we knew he was okay.
Although there was this one instance when anger fueled my competitive nature and the consequence scared me, leading to instant regret.
Most of the afternoons when the sun was setting, Miguel and me were the best players on the court in addition to being on opposite teams. So Miguel was killing my team in a halfcourt game, and on this one play he was driving to the basket from the wing and I rotated from around the foul line with serious intentions of blocking his shot even if I had to lay some lumber.
Well, I made contact but not with the ball and Miguel went hip/side into the pole respected by all. After seeing the collision out of the corner of my eye and hearing it, I didn’t hesitate to see if he was okay as the frustration immediately ceased. Thankfully, he was fine, and Miguel was a tough player anyway.
Another interesting and intense moment from my teenage days at Beaumont occurred when we played 3-on-3 against these older guys, who balled there often. The guy I was checking had an intimidating presence about him. During this game, this guy either just got tired of being fouled or thought I was trying to get in cheap shots. (Believe me, I didn’t want any part of a physical altercation with this cat!)
So after I fouled him but not in a malicious way, he said either “stop fouling me” or “foul me again!” I don’t remember saying anything but thinking we are playing ball. Fouls are a part of the game and I’m not doing it on purpose. On the next play, he’s determined to score near the basket again and I went for the strip but just felt my hand hit teeth. I reacted like “my bad” but didn’t vocalize it and made sure my hand was okay.
Then I shifted my focus back to trying to play foul-free defense, and as I’m waiting for the ball to be checked, I felt this surprising sting on the side of my face. This fool “checked” the ball off my face and I don’t know if he did it with a chest pass or like he was trying to get me out in dodgeball–I will take the latter.
I immediately stepped toward him and said something along the lines of “what’s wrong with you?” without using profanity. I think he said “I told you to stop fouling me.” As the pain began to leave my face and wisdom crept back to my brain, I knew this wasn’t the fight I wanted and he probably knew it too. Plus I felt Jama’, Miguel and me weren’t any match for this older crew even though one guy was real short.
So we finished the game without anymore incidents, and as expected the post-game chatter during the walk home was about my face being the target of the basketball. Miguel and Jama’ gave me their perspective and said they stepped forward as well to surround the guy.
There were no other fireworks at the court besides some competitive trash talk or Miguel getting on his cousin Jama’ from time to time after Jama’, who was slow but deceptive at times, made some awkward shots.
However, Beaumont wasn’t just where I played games in the afternoons when the scorching sun went down or when it wasn’t bitterly cold. At first due to inspiration from the video game NBA Jam, I became very good at making finger rolls from the free-throw line off the dribble, and I wasn’t floating towards the rim like George Gervin since I never was much of a leaper.
Then after not making the basketball team in eighth grade at D.C. Virgo, I knew I had to work on my game to give myself the best chance to play at New Hanover High. So the ’94 summer was all about getting to Beaumont in the morning before it got too hot (older folks called it heat stroke weather) and making those chain nets pop as much as possible. I also worked on my handles and one-on-one moves.
My family didn’t have the means or access to get me into the Y or some other gym so it was Beaumont or bust.
Before I get to my high school basketball experiences, I have to give props to a few other players who took the game seriously and had something to brag about from their time on the concrete at Beaumont.
Jamar, who we called J, had a nice spot-up, left-handed jumper and knew how to use his wide body well. Nathan had the best spot-up jumper despite consistently being the shortest player to step on the court.
Of those who made just one visit, Don’s brother from another mother was the only guy I remember dunking out there and he definitely had the talent to play past high school. My best friend Mark was unstoppable one day. Too big to get in front of and too long to have his shot truly contested, and it seemed like every bank shot he took went in. Miguel gave him his props but the competitor in me kept me quiet.
There was this one other instance when this cat Daryl (I think that was his name) had me shook during a game of ’21’ with his deceptive handles, quickness and accurate mid-range J. But after being told by somebody to step it up, and realizing I spent too much time there to be scared. So in the ensuing game of 5-on-5, I helped prove to this group of visitors that we could play too.
Well all of that time at Beaumont did translate into what I wanted–a spot on the ninth grade and jayvee basketball teams at New Hanover even though the freshmen squad lost all of its games during the 94-95 season. Although I did get bumped up to JV for a few games, and in the season finale that same year, I had my best game in Brogden Hall, grabbing at least 10 rebounds (Coach Holmes said I don’t know what has gotten into you but you’re rebounding like crazy!) and scoring a few points.
But the good times as far as basketball at Hanover along with Beaumont would fade. My lone varsity season during my junior year was forgettable. I sat the bench essentially the entire season. But during a blowout at Brogden one night, all of the disappointment of never playing briefly ended when I got on the court, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a layup. I remember hearing cheers as I ran back on defense while pumping my fist one hard time.
As far as Beaumont, the games there first began to be far and few between when Willow Pond was built and that apartment complex provided a single hoop. Then my family moved to Kings Grant during the latter half of my junior year. So the park there became my training ground despite one rim being low and janky and the other too high with no net, leading to many of my shots ending up in the woods.
Despite having a grocery store job plus an increased interest in girls, I honed my craft there even though that court had dirt spots (a push broom would’ve solved that).
Like I said, I only played one year of varsity but not because I quit. Along with maintaining at least a B average and deciding where I wanted to attend college, I was determined to not be a spectator in a jersey and warmups before I graduated.
Well coach Wheeler spared me of that possibility when he cut me before the 97-98 season began. My last shot as a prep player was an airball from the baseline at Hanover Gym at UNCW.
Afterwards basketball became more of a hobby and a way to stay in shape while competing. I played ball here and there, mostly outside at UNCW (“Y’all wanna go ball at the college?”) but gone were the days of working out alone unless I was just waiting for others to show up.
Interestingly, all of those shots I took at practice, Beaumont Park, the court around the corner from my Dad’s house in Pasadena, Maryland and Kings Grant turned me into a pretty reliable and confident jump shooter. My effectiveness on the offensive end finally came into fruition one night at Moore Gymnasium on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University my freshman year.
“Now it’s on from here on out” as Andre said in Babylon on ATLiens. Much of the grinding at Beaumont manifested at Moore Gym, the Y in Wilmington, Greensboro and Southington (CT), outside the cafe at ESPN especially under the lights on Sunday nights and LA Fitness in Atlanta.
All of those moments were great and in some way lead back to the sweat left at Beaumont. I still vividly remember going to the court early in the morning to improve before the heat and humidity became too much to bear. Then when the sun set after 6 p.m., signifying it was time to compete with and against the fellas from Market North.