It was a couple of weeks after her daughter had just won the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge Chicago Regional on April 2 when Kristina Mallon’s cell phone rang.
The caller ID said it was from Georgia.
“I almost didn’t answer the call,” she said. “I thought it was a telemarketer.”
You know the calls. It’s become rampant now. Your smart phones aren’t even immune.
I’ve gotten calls in the past month from New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California and Tennessee.
No names on the caller ID, just numbers and locations.
Heck, I may have gotten one from Georgia, too.
But this wasn’t someone trying to get Mallon to help pay her student loans or get car repair insurance. It was the national headquarters of the Jr. NBA to tell Kristina Mallon that her 11-year-old daughter, Loreli’s score of 25 at the Chicago Regional was in the top five out of 11 nationwide regionals and she was headed east.
To Brooklyn. New York. To the Barclays Center. Home of the Brooklyn Nets in the National Basketball Association.
Kristina, her husband Scott, and their daughters Loreli and Mackenzee are going to Brooklyn to attend the NBA Draft on June 22. The day before, they will arrive in New York early, and later that day, Loreli will be trying to win a Jr. NBA Skills Challenge national title in the 12U age group.
Youth participants have a minute to show off their dribbling and footwork, then attempt shots from designated spots on the floor — one point for layups, two points from the blocks, four points from the elbows and six points from the three-point line at the top of the key.
Loreli won her division in the local competition on Feb. 11 at Michigan City High School, along with Gavin Goodman (12U boys) and Luis Acevedo (14U boys).
Then Loreli, who attends Renaissance Academy in La Porte, won the Chicago Regional last month with a score of 25, showing mental fortitude while her parents were a collective nervous wreck.
“It has been very exciting for us as a family to watch our 11-year-old daughter compete,” Kristina said. “She has this calmness that comes over her while she is on the court waiting for her turn … while us (her family) sit and pace on the sidelines, biting our nails and hanging on every shot praying they go in, trying to keep my hands steady as I videotape her to play back and tally points.”
Loreli actually scored 22 points before the bonus shot after the minute — a free throw for three extra points.
Yes, she hit the free throw, which puts the 11-year-old high on my list of favorite youth basketball players since many don’t drain nearly enough shots from the charity stripe.
Loreli’s calm even impressed her older sister.
“Who were you watching so you knew what you needed in order to come in first place?” the 14-year-old Mackenzee asked Loreli, according to their mom.
Kristina said Loreli’s answer without hesitation was, ‘Nobody. I just concentrated on myself and talked to the girls around me until it was my turn.’
“That was the moment when my husband and I looked at each other and thought, ‘she is so calm and we are a mess.’”
Now she gets to test that calm on the biggest stage in a place none of them have ever traveled to.
“We didn’t plan a family vacation this year because we wanted to wait until we found out if she made it or not,” Kristina said. “The Jr. NBA only pays for the finalist and one parent, (so) we will be using our yearly family vacation money so myself and our other two daughters (Mackenzee and 9-year-old Olivia) can go as well. This will be all of our daughters’ first time on an airplane, so they are very excited.”
Maybe Loreli and Scott will get to meet Kentucky coach John Calipari at the NBA Draft. He’s a great guy; just watch the ESPN 30-for-30 to confirm that bit of info.
Just don’t pay attention to the picks from the Chicago Bulls since GarPax will likely screw them up.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.