March Madness

“Daddy, you help me make a pig?”

This was the question posed to me by my three-year old son as I sat watching March Madness highlights on SportsCenter, hoping my coffee would clear the NyQuil fog that filled my head. It was a question that brought me great joy.

“Sure. Let’s make a pig.”

I knew just what he was referring to. There would be no Play-Doh involved, nor crayons, nor barnyard drawing apps. Certainly no breeding of real swine. The young man wanted to play P.I.G. (the abridged version of the basketball shooting game H.O.R.S.E, for those who are unfamiliar).

So we went into the playroom where his Little Tikes hoop stood against the wall. He picked up the soft rubber basketball and, from six feet away, fired it in the general direction of the hoop, missing wildly. He hasn’t quite mastered the intricacies of the game, or comprehended any of the actual rules. He thinks the game simply involves taking shots from across the room.

“Hey buddy, try holding the ball like this,” I said, positioning one hand behind the ball and the other on the side. He shot again. The ball caromed off the backboard. He got the rebound and ran back to me. I repositioned his hands. He took a couple bunny hops toward the hoop and attempted another shot. This one banked in the hoop.

“I made a pig!” he shouted, clapping for himself.

“Nice job, pal,” I said. “Why don’t you take a few steps back and try again from here?”

“No,” he responded. “I like to shoot in closer. It’s easier for me.”

I saw this as my opportunity to start developing his post game at an early age. He’s wise beyond his years, I thought. He’s tall for his age, definitely a future power forward. Too many big players these days are content to take shots from the perimeter rather than work for position down low.

“All right, I’ve got a good drill for you to work on,” I said. “It’s called the Mikan drill, named after George Mikan, one of the most dominant inside players in basketball history.”

I kneeled under the hoop with the ball and demonstrated.

“You shoot a lay-up off the backboard on the right side, take the rebound out of the net, then go up on the left side – make sure to use your left hand. Then it’s back to the right.”

I went through it a few times so he’d get the idea.

“OK, now it’s your turn, buddy.” I turned to hand him the ball, but he wasn’t there. “Where’d you go?”

“I’m in here, Daddy,” he said from the other room.

There he was, reaching into his baby brother’s Pack-N-Play (a euphemism for his open-air cage) to poke him with his foam pirate sword.

The lesson: The Mikan Drill may have to wait till he’s four.