"You're the team coach?" he asked, unconvinced with my answer a while ago. "Is there any problem with that?" sabay pamaywang ko naman at taas ng kilay. "Tsk. And here I thought I'll be the one establishing the new team," bulong niya habang nagsusulat sa application form. His goal was pretty obvious. He's a good player from a good team yet he went to this university that doesn't have a basketball club (not now). Sorry siya dahil nauna ako sa pag-o-organize at mukhang wala pa naman siyang nakukuha o nalalapitan man lang na coach. "What's your position?" tanong ko sa kanya at sakto namang natapos na siya sa pagsusulat kaya inabot niya sa akin ang form. "I can play two and three." "Hmm . . ." That was what he wrote here. A point forward, huh? "Ano? Dalawa lang ba kami?" tanong naman niya sabay turo kay Cord. "For now, yes," sabi ko naman. Dahil maraming indoor courts sa napakalaking gymnasium na 'to ay pwedeng maglaro o magtry-out nang sabay-sabay lahat ng varsity teams, gaya na lang ng ginagawa ng volleyball team ngayon. I wanted to use the whole basketball court, too, but there were too many students in the way. "I want to see your abilities but I think we can't do that right now," sabi ko sa kanilang dalawa sabay tingin sa court. Bigla namang ngumisi si Hyder at tumayo. "You're underestimating me, you know." "Huh?" Saka ko naman naintindihan ang ibig niyang sabihin nang bigla siyang naglakad papunta sa midcourt at tumingin sa kanya ang mga estudyante ro'n. Maging si Cord ay napatayo at naglakad dahil alam na niya ang susunod na mangyayari. "Piss off—!" Hindi niya naituloy ang sasabihin niya dahil tinakpan ni Cord ang bibig niya pero mukhang successful ang nangyari dahil lumayo ang halos lahat sa kanila. Well, if you saw a 6'6'' guy and a delinquent-looking guy near you, I'm sure the first thing you would do is to stay away. Napailing na lang ako at pagtingin nila sa akin ay pinalapit ko ulit sila. "Magpalit muna kayo," sabay tingin ko sa uniforms nila. "You can't fully utilize your body with those clothes." Hindi naman nagreklamo si Hyder at agad siyang umalis habang si Cord ay nakatayo lang sa harapan ko. He did that dunk with his tight jeans but playing a real one with that would be tough and uncomfortable. "Ano pang hinihintay mo d'yan?" "Wala akong dalang jersey at sapatos," sabi niya kaya napatigil ako. "What?" "Hindi ko naman inexpect 'to," sabay buntong-hininga niya. Umupo ulit siya sa tabi ko habang ako ay nakatingin pa rin sa kanya. Right. Hindi niya nga pala planong maglaro ulit ng basketball ngayong college. Tsk. This idiot. Nagkaroon na naman ng sigawan, and this time, galing naman sa side ng indoor tennis court. Another rookie was showcasing his talent—Arcel Santillan, the Prodigy of Tennis. He's known for his athleticism and his most famous move, the tweener or the between-the-legs shot. He's still annoying, though. "Let's play!" bigla namang sigaw ni Hyder nang makabalik siya. Napatingin siya kay Cord na hindi pa rin nagpapalit ng uniform. "What the hell?" "Wala siyang sapatos at jersey," sabi ko naman. "Ha?!" "Sorry," sabay taas ni Cord sa kamay niya. "So sit down for now. We'll start playing tomorrow." "The hell?!" sabi naman niya sabay dribble sa bola. Hinayaan ko na lang siyang mag-aksaya ng oras sa gilid pero nagulat ako nang bigla siyang pumunta sa court. With that smirk painted on his face, I already knew what he was planning to do. "Showoff," bulong ko. He dribbled the ball with such speed and with two huge leaps from the free-throw line, he slammed the ball through the ring. Few cheered after seeing that shot, while some murmured and stared at him. Dahil mukhang wala na siya sa mood ay umupo rin siya kaagad sa tabi ni Cord habang nakatingin sa kanya nang masama. "You look familiar. Saang school ka noong high school?" Hyder asked Cord. "Reven," Cord replied. "Ah. One of the quarterfinalists. Did you play?" The question made Cord uncomfortable. His forced smile was too obvious. "No. How about you?" he asked, diverting the topic away from him. "I played for St. Joseph," he said, "though we only reached the semis." Players from St. Joseph and East Valley High usually go to Kingdom University, one of the favorites in PBCL. I wanted to see his skills but with his confidence, he might be really good. An hour has passed since Hyder signed up and nobody came to our table anymore. Well, that might be because of the ongoing tryouts in the women's volleyball team and tennis team, especially since the the players were scouted by several universities before coming here. "I think we're done here," sabi ko at napatingin naman silang dalawa sa akin. "What?! But we don't have enough members!" reklamo ni Hyder pero tinanggal ko na ang sign sa table. The cheering intensified when Tanya, the Queen of the Court, was getting ready to serve. I had watched some of her games during high school and she's famous for her power serve and I think her serve is one of the best in high school and even collegiate level. When the referee blew his whistle, Tanya tossed the ball up to serve and with a powerful hit, she got a service ace, accompanied by a loud cheer. However, the ball went to our direction. There were girls behind me so that gave me no choice but to stand up. I estimated the trajectory of the ball and caught it before it reached the bystanders. Hyder looked at me, as if I did something crazy. But damn, that stung. It really deserved to be called a 'power serve'. The volleyball team and some students were looking at me so I decided to return the ball . . . with my own serve. With my jump topspin serve, I gave back the ball to the volleyball team and just like her, I got a service ace. The crowd fell silent and curious eyes followed me. "Let's go, boys," sabi ko naman pero mukhang wala sa isip nilang umalis. "Why now? The crowd's attention is on us," Hyder said with a cunning smile. "What are you planning—" He suddenly grabbed the ball and dribbled it toward the court. Just like a while ago, he maneuvered himself with such footwork as the students watched him. I was about to tell Cord to hold him back but he was already on the court with him. "Go back there," he ordered and almost all the students near them backed away. As I told before, Cord might be a quiet and reserved but inside the court, he has this intimidating aura that could stop you in your tracks. "Oh. Can you stop me?" hamon ni Hyder at tumayo naman si Cord sa ilalim ng post. Initially, I wanted to stop them but after seeing the rising tension between them, I thought it might be worthy to see how they would play against each other. With Cord's imposing stance under the basket and Hyder's athleticism, this could be the foundation of my team. Hyder advanced to the front court while Cord was observing him, anticipating his every move. Hyder was about to penetrate but the ball suddenly disappeared from his hand. "Oh my god! Where did he come from?!" "I didn't see him before doing that!" Maging ako ay nagulat dahil sa nangyari. A much shorter guy wearing a bright yellow shirt appeared on the court. "You're dribbling too high." The guy who stole the ball from Hyder dribbled it with incredible speed and grace that it looked like it was just floating around him. Hyder tried to get the ball back but the guy has a great ball handling skill. I was about to stop all of them but just like Hyder, the guy attempted to penetrate and shoot the ball. "This is easy—" "Not on my watch." Without any hesitation, Cord jumped to intercept the guy from shooting and swatted the ball before it could reach the basket. The ball bounced to the ground, silencing the bystanders near us. After a few seconds, I heard them murmuring, amazed by what just happened. "That's enough, guys," sabi ko pagkarating ko sa court at napatingin naman silang tatlo sa akin. I looked at the guy who appeared out of nowhere and smiled at him. "You're Yusef Endo, right?" Mukha namang nagulat siya dahil hindi niya akalaing kilala ko siya. He's actually one of my prospects even though he didn't make a name during high school. He was in a seeded school before but he wasn't part of the starters. "Don't tell me you're the coach?" tanong niya. "Nasha Gomez, and yes, I am the coach," I said while extending my hand. "Hm . . . interesting," sabi niya naman at saka inabot ang kamay ko. "I'm in." And just like that, I obtained my first guard.