Lonely and 3,000 miles from home, in a Canadian motel after having lost again with a basketball team 99 percent of the basketball world scarcely knew existed, Henry Kenely took stock of his athletic life. And decided it needed to be shared.
"All I want is not publicity by this," his letter said. "I want the ballplayers to realize that things in life are never gonna be like you want it. No matter how good you are or how big. I just don't want any ballplayer to go through what I am going through. It will make the best ballplayers cry."
Or at least think.
Kenely is a pin-thin 6-foot-3, a Washingtonian who, like so many city children, assumed that because he devoted nearly every waking hour to basketball something good would come of it.
He was a starter for a 1-11 junior high team and enrolled at the neighborhood high school, Dunbar, "knowing I was going to make it (the varsity) because I worked hard during the summer.
"I got cut from the varsity, which went 29-0 and No. 1 in the nation. After getting cut, I went to play JV, where I sat on the bench and then quit, although I did't want to quit because I wanted my mother to be proud of me."
The next year he changed high schools, to H.D. Woodson.
"Before I was going to transfer, my mother asked me why," his letter said. "I said I really, really want to play some ball."
He made the team, but suffered a broken hand at the start of the season.
"When I got the cast off," he said, "it was near the end of the season and the team was in the playoffs. Seeing I just got my cast off, I still sat on the bench again, feeling like the whole world was on my back."
The summer before his senior season, Kenely attended a basketball camp operated by Kansas Coach Ted Owens ("I got all excellents on my offensive and defensive tests but didn't make the all-star team,") He made the Woodson varsity, but warmed the bench until...
"My buddy Andrew Corbin (prep All-America) got hurt. I really knew this was my chance to produce, and I did. Against Spingarn, I scored nine points the last quarter. But we lost." There were back-to-back games of 21 points and then 23 against Coolidge.
He was nominated for an all-star game, his one chance for a scholarship. And the Delaware State coach was going to be on hand to watch.
"Again something crazy happened to me," he said. "I came down with the flu right before practice. I wanted to play so badly, so I could prove to everyone that I was good. But I couldn't because I was too weak and my back was sore from my neck to my (lower) spine.
"I sat at home and cried, and when I graduated I didn't know where to go (to college)."
Which is why, at 18, he ended up at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Wash., this fall. His high-school coach recommended it.
"I worked extra hard the summer before college, thinking that this was my chance to do better... I also played in an unlimited league. I started and did really well (but) my father didn't want me to go to Big Bend CC."
He arrived at the train station at 3 a.m., Sept. 17, and had to rouse his coach at home. later, he enrolled in a curriculum that included two courses in English, Introduction to Physical Education and Theory of Basketball.
Then came practice and "... five ballplayers had quit in five days... But I came back. He (the coach) was really hard and had the nastyist (sic) attitude I have ever seen by a head coach. He was never satisfied.
"I said to myself I'm not gonna quit no matter what he tells me to do. I was keeping my grades up and hoping to start because I wanted my mother to be proud once more. After all those good ballplayers quit, it didn't matter to me because I stood among them. They knew it, too.
"All of a sudden my left kneecap would pain when I would run on it. (The doctor) said I shouldn't run to (sic) much, but I had to because I said nothing will stop me from producing.
"So one day in practice my kneecap was paining (during) line drills (and) I stopped because of the pain, I couldn't run anymore.
"Looking down at my kneecap. I didn't notice but my friend, Charles, told me while everyone else was running and I stopped, Mr. Grant (the coach) looked at the sophomores and pointed at me and laughed... I knew right then theat Big Bend wasn't the school for me."
But he played in the first game, a tournament in Canada, "got a quick steal (comming off the bench in the first quarter), an assist and scored -- and didn't even see the floor any more that night...
"Mr. Grant called me in his motel room and said, 'Henry, your playing time will most surely increase.' It didn't." And when Big Bend lost the championship game, "Mr. Grant said go to your motel rooms and don't come back out until morning. We hadn't ate since 3 Friday (afternoon) and it was 1 Saturday (morning)."
In all, Kenely printed nine notebook-sized pages of frustration from the Lodge Motel in Lethbridge, Alberta, that night, including: "No one or no coach can stop me from playing ball or learning. A coach can only put depression in your mind."
True to his word, Kenely dropped out Big Bend near Christmas. He dropped by the office this week and generally seemed resolved that his basketball dreams were over. Probably, sport had dominated his life too much, he admitted. His mother was pressing him to find work, "but I fill out applications and nobody calls back."