Torrey Brooks Jr. of Glassboro hears his father say, once you cross that bridge, the game changes, so here Torrey is, wearing No. 9 in a red Sixers jersey in the Right Turn Youth Academy League, inside a converted warehouse at G and Erie in Philadelphia's Juniata section.
Does Torrey have a big future? Will he play the game for years and years? Who knows? His father doesn't know. How can you know? There should be no burden of expectations, just the game itself.
The game starts, Torrey fills the wing on fastbreaks.
He fakes a high pass to get his man's shoulders up, then goes by him.
His favorite dribble is behind his back.
Torrey spins his hands to signal traveling before the referees get to it.
He winces when he spins his hands to signal traveling and the referee doesn't call it.
He spreads his arms wide on defense.
He claps his hands once when the guy on the other team, the Chargers, takes a free throw.
He loves LeBron James.
Torrey knows it isn't his job to go after offensive rebounds. He understands floor balance. But he helps down low on defense.
He likes to play fullcourt defense, moving his feet.
He isn't the top scorer, not at G and Erie, up those half-dozen metal steps, inside the black door with the handwritten sign, "NO OUTSIDE BASKETBALLS ALLOWED IN GYM", against players up to two years older than he. Not when he's the smallest player on the court. Coming across the river isn't about that.
He hugs a teammate from behind after a free throw.
He turns an ear toward his coach talking to a teammate.
He calls his coach Dad.
He pushes a teammate into the right position for an inbounds play.
He nudges an opposing player out of where he needs to be for an inbounds play.
He pulls on his left shorts leg waiting for a play to start.
He wears Nike LeBron Soldiers.
He smiles when his layup gives the Sixers a 19-16 lead with a minute and 43 seconds left.
He takes about five dribbles from halfcourt before getting fouled going for a layup.
He takes four dribbles before hitting the free throw.
He takes his Sixers jersey off as soon as his team wins and the handshakes are over. He knows his dad collects them and puts them in a bag.
He plays in four leagues in three states.
He began playing "when I was 4."
He doesn't have a hoop at home, but there are other places. His dad: "Dribble in the kitchen, baby. Dribble in the basement. Dribble on the rug."
He knows his dad, Torrey Brooks Sr., scored a lot of points at Glassboro High, played a semester at Rowan, played overseas in England and Germany.
He's got new white knee pads that cost $30 at a tournament on Long Island, after his dad agreed to buy them if he scored 20 points.
He had 20 points by halftime, and knew it, counting up the points to his dad.
He plays in one Glassboro league, one in Delaware, and two in Philadelphia. He hears his dad say the difference between "Township ball" and going into Philly to play.
His dad, who trains basketball players for a living, calls Torrey Jr. "a little A.I. - he hates practice. He wants to play. Anytime you mention practice, you see the tears coming in his eye."
He loves to watch basketball on television.
He hears his dad talking after this game at the FiDonce Player Development Center in Juniata about a high school game that afternoon at Neumann-Goretti High in South Philadelphia.
"Can we go?" he asks his dad.
He goes, sitting in the front row.
He was too young to play a couple of years ago but the team was getting crushed so his father put him in and the youngest guy in the gym began breaking the press.
"You have to get him ranked!" guys in New York told his dad after a game up there, referring to youth player rankings by scouting services.
"I don't want to rank him," his dad told the guys in New York.
His dad does sometimes put his moves on Instagram.
His dad says they'll take this as far as it goes since "he might not want to play when he's 14."
How tall? "Three apples high," his father estimates.
Still, his father reminds himself, when Torrey Jr. sees a swing set and asks if he can go play on it, just say yes. Can't get too crazy about this, not when you're talking about your 9-year-old, and a love of basketball still pure.