by Travis Bledsoe

Socks? Check. Under Armour top and bottom? Check. Ankle braces and shoes? Check. Energy and effort? Always.

It’s time; the day I have been looking forward to for the past two months is finally here. I’m headed down to Chicago, IL, for this wonderful opportunity to leave “my mark” on the D-League National Tryouts.

This weekend, I am lucky enough to be traveling with the best “training staff” a player could ask for—my beautiful wife “Chi Chi” and my adorable 5-year-old daughter LeAsia.

Yes, a support system is very important in any journey you embark on but especially in basketball. With so much uncertainty in the game—whether it is contract negotiations, traveling from city to city (or country to country), or not knowing where your next paycheck will come from—having people who care about you, no matter what happens on or off the court, keeps you grounded.

What I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t base your happiness on wins and losses, or how well you perform. If you do, you will be along for a roller coaster ride of emotions. Basketball is a game, one that I love to play. It’s a game that brings me both great joys and great sorrows. But one thing that the game can never take away from me is my family, the people I love and my love for life.

So we are making a vacation out of this trip. Of course, business comes first and the tryout is closed to the public, so my family and I will have to part ways Saturday before we can really enjoy everything the Windy City has to offer.

This separation is something you have to deal with when you are a professional basketball player blessed with a family. My wife has supported my basketball career since we were high school sweethearts up until this very moment.

She was there when I was a sophomore screening and defending my way to the State Championship game (where we would lose to Litchfield and NFL tight end John Carlson). And she was there the day I broke DeLaSalle’s single-game scoring record my senior year, when I exploded for 42 points on 15-16 shooting vs Dominguez High School (former home of the 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler).

Those are moments you never forget. The crazy thing is, even after all of my past individual success (Mr. Basketball finalist in Minnesota, First-Team All-State, selected to the Minnesota All-Star Game, scoring over 1,000 points at UND while setting three-point records, earning First-Team All-Great West), I feel like my basketball journey has just begun.

I’m looking forward to new memories, new successes and new obstacles to climb. But the best part is that I get to do it with family that has been down for the ride before the D-League was even an option—back when I was the skinny kid with the yellow headband just trying to make a name for himself.

Now, that skinny kid is all grown up. Thank you, SLAMonline, for helping me share my story, but like I said, this is only the beginning.

Stay tuned for an in-depth look into the D-League tryout, the games and the experience.