First Love

The basketball season at Dordt has been over for five days.

Five days with no practices.

Five days with no next opponent or game to look forward to.

Andrew O’Donnell arrived on campus a little under four years ago.  Didn’t have to travel far.  Hometown kid from right here in Sioux Center.

He leaves with over 900 career points; 472 rebounds (27th all-time),  223 assists (19th all-time) and 136 steals (9th all-time).  He’ll also leave with a ton of memories and friendships forged in the heat of battle.

I think what you’ll find as you read this essay is that it’s a love story.  It’s a romance many of us have had with athletics and specific sports.  It’s something we find solace in.  It’s something that can drive us crazy and sometimes it’s something we can’t stop thinking about.

And then we have to move on.  The playing days are finished and the specifics of particular games fade.  But we always remember the love we had for the game, and hopefully, a lesson or two we can carry with us when the games are finished. 

I asked Andrew if he’d be willing to put down in words his thoughts as the 2017-18 season came to a close.  Here are the thoughts of an athlete as the curtain comes down.


Dear Basketball,

From the moment I was dunking on a five-foot hoop in my basement imagining myself as my favorite NBA player, to my final season at Dordt, you have given me so much more than I could have imagined.  As a little boy, I would shoot in my driveway imagining I was playing in front of a big crowd; today I am playing in front of the best fan base in the nation.  As time went on, I began to refine my skills.  I would practice dribble moves in my driveway that I had watched my favorite players perform on TV.

I dedicated my time to you so I could cherish the results.

I dedicated my time to you so I could cherish the results.

At times, my parents would have to tell me to stop shooting in the driveway so late because my neighbors would probably get upset from the noise.  From the experiences I gained throughout middle school, high school, and college, you have shaped me into the man I am today.

As my final season at Dordt is winding down, I begin to think of past memories.  You have given me so much from just a simple game.

Every day I lace up the shoes, I think about the teammates from the past and present, the coaches that have changed my life, and the time I have spent simply playing this game.

You have seen me when I was a little boy with dreams, and you have seen me turn into the man I am today.  From the ups and the downs, wins and losses, teammates and coaches, there has always been someone there for me through it all: you.

You have given me so much joy while inflicting lots of pain at the same time.

You have shown me that success does not come easy; you have to work for what you want.

You have shown me that playing the game is a privilege.  I have seen multiple teammates have career ending injuries.  I have been fortunate enough to be injury free throughout my basketball career here at Dordt.

You have shown me how important relationships are in life.  The people I have gotten to know and love from just playing the game of basketball are numerous.  I now have teammates that have become friends that I know will last a lifetime.

You have asked a lot of me in the hope that I can gain more than just being able to dribble or shoot a basketball.  You asked for my hustle; I gave you my heart.  You asked for my time; I gave you my life.  You have taught me that when times get tough, you have to be able to push through the wall and keep fighting day after day.  You have taught me hard work, determination, attention to detail, and so much more.  As I go throughout my life, I know whenever I have to face a difficult situation, I will be able to handle it because of the intangibles you have taught me.

As the time is winding down, I start to realize the time I have taken you for granted.  When you are in the moment of it all, it almost seems like you will be playing forever.

When you are in the moment of it all, it almost seems like you will be playing forever.

You start to look at things a lot differently with only a year left to compete compared to coming in as a freshman.  With less than a month left, I want to give all I have left to you.  I owe it to you.

You gave a five-year-old boy his dream, and made this young man happier than I could have imagined.  In being the only senior playing on the team, it can be very hard at times.  You don’t have anyone to go through the same things you are.  I have learned to embrace this and try and be the best teammate I can be.  I owe it to my teammates to finish this year for them as we try and make a run.  This team will be great soon; it would be valuable to get them some post season experience.

Lastly, I want to thank you.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity to play here at Dordt.  Going into my last month of basketball here is very hard to grasp.  I am not ready to let you go yet, but I know I will be when the time comes.

Going into my last month of basketball here is very hard to grasp.  I am not ready to let you go yet, but I know I will be when the time comes.

Letting go to one of the first things you love is difficult.

To me, basketball has been more than just a game, and I know God will lead me on to bigger and better things.

I believe God has used basketball in my life to give me a foundation to lead me into my future wherever that may be.  Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

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