Wed, Feb 14, 2007 (7:11 a.m.)

A basketball makes an unmistakable sound when bounced on asphalt. It's a high-pitched, echoing "ting." And on a weekday night at VoTech High School, that sound is followed by one akin to a muffled gong as a basketball fails to hit its mark and caroms off the metal backboard. First the "ting," then the "gong." And again, and again.

A hundred yards away from VoTech's gym, on an asphalt court lighted with the cyan glow of an industrial floodlight, VoTech freshman Rylan Dibson is launching shots in solitude next to deserted lunch tables and portable classrooms.

It's been an hour and a half since Dibson finished his game against Green Valley, and he's still tossing up bricks from the arc (his percentage is much better with layups or from the line) with an occasional swish. "It was close but we didn't win," he said, adding with the roseate outlook of the terminal underdog, "but it was good because last game they creamed us."

Dibson admits that the outcome of a game against a local powerhouse can be embarrassing when you play for a school like VoTech, which is not known for athletics. So, rather than staying mired in mediocrity, he spends a couple hours after practices and games shooting baskets on his own. "Just to get better."

After a brief interruption by his older sister, who came to check on him during halftime of the varsity game, Dibson goes back to shooting 3's and chasing errant shots around the half court. As he does, he starts putting strings of two, three and four successful shots together until the ball escapes over the fence and gets stuck under a car.

With a sigh and dogged determination, he jogs around the fence to retrieve it and hustles back. He's got a few more shots he wants to make.


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