HUDSON — Bryce Durham’s black slacks were a little too short.
He borrowed them from a friend to look good on one of the biggest days of his life, but they didn’t quite touch the tops of his shoes.
The Hudson guard needed to borrow a pen, too, so he could sign the paperwork completing his basketball scholarship with Doane College in Crete, Neb.
And when the cameras started clicking at his signing ceremony last week, Durham borrowed the parents who helped him through one of the toughest years of his life, the ones who fed him and clothed him and sheltered him after his mother left him for good.
“Hold on,” Angela Petersen said as she walked toward Durham. “I didn’t cry for my own son.”
She breathed in deep to hold back the tears.
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Durham was used to being left alone. He hadn’t spoken with his father since he left Texas for Pasco County in seventh grade. He’d been in and out of his grandmother’s home, and his mother wasn’t always around either.
“My mom kinda runs out of my life,” Durham said. “In and out.”
But this time was different.
He was living with his mom and sister when his mother called him in the fall to say she was leaving the state. When he got back from school one day in November, she was gone.
His sister left a few days later, to move in with her boyfriend before the birth of their child. That left Durham alone in his house, more confused than afraid, until the rent ran out at the end of the month.
“I was kinda stressing it,” Durham said.
He started staying over with his close friend, Zack Petersen, an AAU and Hudson teammate. Durham would spend a few days at the Petersens’ home, then go home for more clothes.
By the end of the month, Durham loaded his belongings into Zack’s Eclipse and moved in with his friend’s family.
“We just grabbed all my stuff and never came back,” Durham said.
The Petersens were used to this, too. Their four children regularly bring home friends, and Durham was the third Cobra the Petersens had housed through bad times.
“If I had a big enough house, I’d have 50 of them,” said Zack’s mother, Angela.
Durham became one of the Petersens, their fifth child. He shared a room with Zack and accepted a curfew and responsibilities in exchange for food and gas money. They pushed him to study and stay out of trouble, and took him fishing and jet skiing.
“We rode him like we ride our own kids,” said Zack’s father, Dave.
They rode him because he had potential. Unlike their last two long-term guests, he could get out of Pasco County. His grades were solid, and he had always had a knack for basketball.
Cobras coach Jason Vetter said he knew even when Durham hit puberty that he had the potential to play college basketball somewhere.
“He had all the moves, just no muscle or speed or anything,” Vetter said.
Durham sprouted to 6-foot-1, and his game grew enough for him to average 13 points, six assists and five rebounds as a senior.
Soon after Zack signed with Aurora (Ill.) University, Durham weighed his college options. He could have signed with Pasco-Hernando Community College, but his coaches and friends told him to get away and start anew. He decided on Doane, an NAIA program in Nebraska.
“He was in a bad place, but we pushed him,” Angela said. “And he got there.”
The road wasn’t always smooth. He bickered with the Petersens at times and wanted to leave, only to be dragged back in by Angela. When school ended, Durham moved in with an aunt to be with his own family.
But when he signed his one-way ticket out, the Petersens were there, alongside his grandmother and coaches.
As Durham sat down to sign his scholarship letter, the black pants he borrowed from Zack inched up. White swooshes poked out from his black socks. When the cameras stopped clicking, Angela lingered and brought Durham close.
“I love you, son.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.
Photo: Hudson guard Bryce Durham signs with Doane (Neb.) College as Angela and Dave Petersen look on.