Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fastbreak

      It has been awhile since my last post, largely because I moved across the country. I spent my off-season living in St. Petersburg, Florida preparing for my next season.  After a whole off-season of not knowing where I was going to be for the 2014-2015 season I got a phone call.  I had to leave the next morning at 6 am to move to California to play for the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA development League. So you can imagine how busy I've been these last couple of weeks trying to get settled and adjust to the changes of living on the West Coast. Luckily, I fell upon a great situation here in Bakersfield, Ca. Since the first day I arrived the front office, coaches and my teammates have been absolutely amazing in making this an easy transition for me. I got here only a few days before the team's next game.  This meant I only had hours to build chemistry between guys I just met, learn defensive offensive strategies very fast, and convert from "workout" shape to "game" shape.



Playing against the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA-D League

      One of the highlights of my experience here in Bakersfield has been off the court. My teammates and I helped serve the less fortunate food for Thanksgiving! After a hard fought win the night before against the Santa Cruz Warriors, we woke up at 7 am the next morning to help put together boxes of food for those who were disabled or in need of Thanksgiving dinner. Easily over 300 boxes were filled with turkeys, green beans, olives, sweet potatoes, corn, bread, and yams. It took us most of the morning to fill every box and walk every box of food to each person's car, but it was worth every minute.  On a day when most athletes would enjoy some rest and relaxation we woke up and went out to support the community that supports us!

Having a little fun at our Thanksgiving Giveaway!

       After a great morning we were rewarded with a Thanksgiving Luncheon from our good friends over at Valley Republic Bank. Even though we weren't able to be with our close family and friends for the holiday, we were blessed to have a good meal and spend the holiday with extended family. Many thanks to VRB for the hospitality!

Valley Republic Bank made sure we felt at home for Thanksgiving!!

      After Thanksgiving, we hit the road for a three game road trip starting with two games in Frisco, Texas playing against the Texas Legends (Dallas Mavericks affiliate) and ending in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma playing against the OKC Blue (OKC Thunder Affiliate). With each team having numerous players with NBA experience, we ended up our road trip with a 2-1 record and placing ourselves at the top of our division. During those games, I posted averages of 18 points 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game.

                                                    Play of the night vs Texas Legends

     I must say it feels great to be back on the court after a long off-season.  I really focused in on my nutrition, stamina, and I lived in the gym.   It is still early in the season and we still have goals that have yet to be accomplished, but we are off to a great start. After a long road trip, I made it back for my infusion.

Stopped in for my infusion after our road trip.  I was exhausted!
 12-2-2014 #FightMS
     I'm excited to be in my fourth professional season.  After a good road trip, it's back to the basics to prepare for our next game this Friday vs the Reno Bighorns (Sacramento Kings affiliate) looking forward to the challenge!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Zone

Through intense focus you can tap into your soul's infinite powers latent within your natural state is focus.  To be 'concentrated' In this state, you can magnify your ability to impact the moment significantly.
-Anonymous

My zone:
     Supreme confidence, knowing without a wavering doubt that every decision I make is going to be a great one.  Everything slows down to the point that nothing else matters; the score, the crowd, your opponent, nothing.  You don't try too hard, the game comes easy to you.  It's natural.  It becomes one rhythm- my rhythm.  Each dribble, each sprint up the court, exploding in to the air finishing acrobatically at the rim-this is my game, my zone.
  
  Just think about your favorite song.  How the sound compliments the lyrics perfectly without one overpowering the other. The packed arena with screaming fans, your opponent and teammates surround you on the court while your coaches yell to you from the sideline and the score in bright lights above you, but all of that doesn't matter because you are locked in.

     With my palms sweaty and my legs feeling energetic fatigue is not even close to being a factor.  I am so focused to the point where I feel as though I don't blink.  The defender is walking to my beat.  His presence does not matter to me at this point.  He is the chair that you use to practice with.  This isn't cockiness.  It is confidence.  It is the early mornings and late nights of pushing myself to get better every time.  That is what allows me to enter this zone.




     As soon as I get the ball I take a picture in my head of exactly where everybody is on the court.  I don't think.  I just let my body and natural instincts take over. If my body tells me to drive right, step back and shoot, then I do. If it tells me to make an in and out crossover move to the left hand and finish, then that's what I do. If I come off a screen or get a pass from a teammate that just penetrated, I am letting that shot go!  Like they say, if his hands are down MANDOWN!


     I trust my instincts because of the preparation, consistency, and mental focus I have. There is no doubt of the outcome. You have to really try to stay in the present and not let anything break your rhythm. That is when I know I am in my zone. #FightMS

What's your zone like?

 TBT Basketball tournament in Philadelphia, PA
Summer 2014


If clip does not work click here:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Getting to Know Me Part 2

    As crazy as it may sound, I looked forward to fighting MS and trying to do something never done before.  I have played through numerous injuries, colds, etc., but nothing of this magnitude. I didn't feel like this was end of the road for me.

Last Day in Turkey, after 2 weeks of cortisone shots I could finally stand up and walk. 

      I knew my path was going to be different than anybody else. I think being positive and optimistic relieved a lot of stress for my family. I really believed it allowed us to continue to search and find the right doctor that would support me. After several meetings with numerous doctors and a lot of disappointment, we were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Heidi Crayton. Who not only believed that I could still be a professional athlete, but believed that I could help share my story with others to encourage and help.  I was SOLD!  She had the same passion and drive for medicine that I had for the game, it was perfect! I started taking Tysabri once a month starting in July of 2012 and it has been great for me!



     As the 2012-2013 season was approaching I worked harder than ever trying to get back to where I was before my episode in Turkey. I started off the season going to training camp with the New Orleans Hornets, even though I did not make the team I made a strong impression and proved that I could still play at a high level.  I decided to stay in the states and play in the NBDL (National Basketball Development League). I moved to Des Moines, Iowa to play for the Iowa Energy and to hopefully have a healthy, successful season. I was fighting for my basketball life.  A lot of people had written me off and said that it will be nearly impossible for me to keep playing.

     The season started in mid-November, by the 1st week in December I was considered one of the top ten prospects in the entire league.  I was flat out BALLIN!  I was averaging 17 points and 9 assists.  I was finally creating a positive buzz for myself throughout the league, it seemed almost inevitable that I would get called up to a NBA team soon, but that wasn't what had me excited the most!

Erin, Cj and I at Nationals Stadium in DC.
     The day before I left to participate in the NBDL All Star game, my son Christopher Taylor Wright Jr. was born!  This was by far the best day of my life, words cannot describe the feeling I had when I saw him for the first time. I felt so proud and honored to be a Dad!  I could not take my eyes off of him.  He was perfect.  I could not bare to leave him the next morning, we had only spent eight hours together.  I managed to peel myself away from my baby boy and I caught an early flight to Houston, Texas to play in the all star game. Two weeks later, Erin and CJ flew out to Iowa to be with me for the rest of the season.  I remember being so excited to have Erin and CJ at my game, but I didn't get a chance to play that day.   As I got dressed for my game my agent called me while I was in the locker room and told me the news.

     "Pack your bags,  you are going to Dallas.  The Mavs just called you up," he screamed in the phone.

     I was shocked!  I didn't know if I should cry or smile!  Every thing I worked for was finally coming into fruition.  The hours I spent in the gym, the pain, the frustration, it was all paying off.

     The icing on the cake was during the week I was with the Mavericks, it was also National MS awareness week!  It was NO coincidence there, only fate!!

    For me, this was the validation I needed.  My son, becoming a D-league all-star, and being called up during National MS Awareness week sealed the deal for me.  My journey was just beginning and I felt ready for the challenge.



   

Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting to Know Me Part 1

     I never thought at the age of twenty-four that I would have a child, be engaged, and have multiple sclerosis. Little did I know what was in store for me upon graduating from Georgetown.  I created The Hardwood Aquarium because I want to share my experiences, family, thoughts, and of course basketball with you.  

So, let me begin with how it started...

     The summer of 2011 was different than any other summer for me because of the NBA lockout. This meant there would be no basketball played until the owners and players came to agreements on many different topics. With a troublesome negotiation process between the two sides and no end in sight, I decided to play my first professional season in Turkey.


Home Game vs Trabszonspor
     
     Other than the obvious cultural changes moving from Washington D.C. to Turkey and the many obstacles I was faced with on and off the court, I had a very successful rookie season. We weren't winning as much as I wanted, but most nights I was pleased with my performance.  In big games I had some of my best moments. During the season, I averaged 13 points per game and 5 assists, which are solid numbers for a rookie. As the season went on we had three head coaches in a period of three months and eventually re-hired the first coach.

     I know it sounds crazy, but thats just how unpredictable this business can be at times. 

     After the first coach was rehired, things became difficult since we did not see eye-to-eye in the first place.  Two weeks passed and at the end of one of our practices our coach made us run sprints.  This was typical for our practices, so it was no big deal to me.
     I thought to myself, "Just crush it, beat everybody, and you are done."
     But, this time was different...

Practicing in Turkey 2011

    I ran the sprints and won as usual. While sprinting, my foot gave out and I initially thought I rolled my ankle. I thought about stopping, but my pride got the best of me- like most athletes.  I didn't want to say anything to the trainers because its nothing worse than an "athlete" running and spraining his ankle with nobody around. 
   
  It just doesn't make sense. 

     So, I went home and continued to feel pain in my right foot.  I woke up the next morning not thinking about my foot and went in early to the gym to shoot.  After being on the court for 20 minutes, my foot went completely numb and eventually the whole right side of my body was numb. I told the coaches and they immediately sent me to the doctor. After my appointment I still had no diagnosis and my symptoms were only getting worse they sent me to a specialist. 

     
     After further examination, I was clinically diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  

     According to Google; MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. 

     Imagine being a twenty-two year old and somebody telling you this!  I was shocked, didn't know what questions to ask, how long I would be affected, or what medicine I would have to take.  I knew ZERO about this debilitating disease and reading the internet did not help.  I tried to remain calm and figure out what would be the next steps.  So, of course- like any one else I was ready to come back to the states IMMEDIATELY!! But, because my symptoms were so severe I wasn't able to leave for another 2 weeks and to decrease the pain I was injected with cortisone shots twice a day.

Finally, my symptoms decreased enough for me to fly back home and start the next chapter of my life.   

Check back for part two of getting to know me.