NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Jackson Charpentier was launching high arching rainbows toward the basket in front of his home as his grandfather guided him around the court.
There were x’s on the pavement, marking possible shots for the 12-year-old, in a drill aimed at developing a quick release and shooting off the dribble from different angles.
“He told me me which spot to go to,” Charpentier said. “And I’d just shoot it.”
As the sixth-grader was running to his spots and hitting his shots, Dakarai Smith was delivering packages for Amazon on the Charpentier’s street ─ almost startled to see someone outside.
“Most kids are inside playing video games,” Smith said. “Nobody wants to be outside, especially with everything going on now.”
Smith, a 6’5″ tall 24-year-old from Providence with a few basketball skills of his own, was impressed.
“His grandfather was teaching him how to shoot off the dribble,” Smith said, smiling. “I can hear him, left, right, middle, and Jack is keyed into it.”
Before the coronavirus shifted Smith’s job into overdrive and kept Charpentier out of school and the gym, the Davisville Middle School student had just made a local travel team.
“It was the first time I made a real team because usually I’ve been cut,” Charpentier said. “So it was a good feeling.”
Until COVID-19 ended the season before the first tip-off. Since then, asphalt has replaced hardwood on what is now Jackson’s gym.
Smith didn’t know any of that when he decided to stop between deliveries.
“Being in a Hertz van delivering, you get those looks,” Smith said. “But they were just so welcoming. The whole family was welcoming.”
Smith started discussing basketball drills and fundamentals with Charpentier and his grandfather.
“I was talking to them while I was sitting in the van and I was like, let me get out,” Smith said. “Always easier to show someone than just tell them.”
You might assume a 12-year-old from North Kingstown has very little in common with someone twice his age from Providence, but the game was their bond.
Smith – impressed with Charpentier’s shots.
“The kid just doesn’t miss,” he said.
Jackson – impressed with Smith’s hop as he dunked.
“I did it,” Smith said. “And he was like, ‘Whoa.'”
“I’ve never seen anyone dunk in person,” Charpentier said. “So, it was the first time.”
Smith pointed out, while Charpentier is a guard, he was usually a center.
“I’m not the best shooter, but if you need me to dunk it. I’ll dunk it,” Smith said.
Two ballers from opposite ends of the state connected by hoops ─ delivering hope.
“I think it’s what anyone who’s friendly would do,” Charpentier said when asked about a stranger stopping to play some hoops. “It was great.”
Smith said he noticed something about Charpentier right away: Kindness and humility.
“He’s really good and humble,” Smith said. “I’m glad that he’s out there, working, perfecting his craft. Because the more practice you put in, the better you get.”
With that in mind, Charpentier is not sure when he’ll get to play in an actual game again, but when he does, his game will have a few extra inside moves to go along with his outside shot.