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Light and Shade

Among the many stories related to the NCAA March Madness, you have to know about Anthony Johnson's one

Light and Shade Among the many stories related to the NCAA March Madness, you have to know about Anthony Johnson's one

March - for the world of basketball - is synonymous of March Madness, that means Division I NCAA basketball, which represents the highest level of the American collegiate system. Every future NBA star has born here and maybe, in the future, they will rewrite the history of the game. Very often, though, there are stories of players that never reach the next level. I’ve chosen some of them to introduce you to the long NCAA’s bracket. 

Two old Zen’s saying declaims: “This moment has passed, it can never be relived again” and “When a man stands in his own shadow, he asks himself why it’s dark”. There are dark moments in everyone’s life, that marks the time of our lives. And during 2010 Big Sky Conference, one of the minor tournaments that qualify to the March Madness, the light turned on a boy with the shirt number 23 of Montana University, the Grizzlies.

Anthony Johnson learned to know the dark at 9 when his step-father forces him to a routine of pain caused by his belt. Most of the times, his mother is at home, trying to avoid the situation to degenerate. But that day, she wasn’t at home and little Anthony gets hit at the back, the stomach, the neck and the face. At 9, he faces two surgeries and loses a massive part of his vision from the left eye.

That problem locked him up in a pre-game ritual that he has to do every time he enters the field. He has to take some eye drops to avoid issues from his eye. When he entered in the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah, he looked at his coach, Wayne Tinkle - who helped him during his entire career, almost like a father - and smiling he said: “Too much light hurts my eyes”. Because at the Dahlberg Arena they weren’t used to have the spotlight on them.

They arrived as underdogs to the meeting against Damian Lillard and his Weber State University’s Wildcats. At the end of the first half, they were down by twenty and AJ scored only 8 points. His locker room, though, was dark, just like those moments that marked his childhood with pain. He used that very light that used to bother him to score 34 points in the second half, splitting every doubling or obstacle the defense presented him. Damian Lillard, current NBA star at the Portland Trail Blazers, chased him in all the field like Wile E. Coyote with Beep Beep.

Anthony will cut the net of the basket, as historical mark of the victory, hugging then his mother, in one of the brightest days of his life. He won’t ever find the right way to become a pro, but this game has become part of the NCAA March Madness' legend. Quoting Édouard Manet: “Everything that’s deprived of its freedom looses substance and quickly fade. In a picture, find the big light and the big shadow, everything else with come”, just like AJ’s 42 points in that game.