Every decision carries weight, but some carry more weight than others.
Paul Scruggs found himself this offseason under the weight of a big decision, one that sounds more simple than it really is – begin a professional basketball career or return to Xavier University for another season.
"You have to make that decision because you're going to have to live with it," Brenda Scruggs told her son. "You make the decision and we'll stand by whatever decision you make."
Scruggs took his time. He thought about the four years he'd already spent at Xavier and he thought about the future. He weighed his options. He spoke to people he trusts. And on April 2, accompanied by a short video, Paul announced on social media, "I'm back."
A blanket waiver from the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic means he will be the first player in Xavier basketball history to play five full seasons.
"It was a huge process," he told The Enquirer. "I could have went to the NBA Draft last year, but just last season, playing with those guys and then ending the way that we ended it ... it didn't feel right to me."
He said his decision to return was mainly the product of the way last season ended with back-to-back losses to end the regular season and the disappearance of a 19-point lead that led to an overtime loss in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament.
"Yeah, I still think about it," he said of last season's ending. "But I don't let it get me down ... it's definitely a motivating factor.
"And I just love these guys. This team is great. I like hooping with them."
His mom trusted her son's intuition and believed it was the right decision.
"I kind of felt that was the right one," said Brenda. "Me and his dad were talking about it ... I'm sure he could have made many other decisions, but we felt that this was the right one. We didn't say anything to him about that, because we wanted him to make that decision on his own."
Paul's decision was a product of his experiences, shaped by basketball and faith.
"When he was a little boy (playing basketball), they were gone on the holidays, especially on Sundays," said Brenda. "And he knows that to me on Sundays and holidays, it's family time and church time. And I kind of got upset about it really. I just didn't understand that. I had a hard time with that.
"But when the Lord says something to you about your child when he steps in and talks to you about it, then you're OK with it. That was the confidence builder that I needed. It's OK, it's all right. At the end of the day, your faith gets you through anything and everything. It really does. Some people have faith in their own ability. I don't. I have faith in God and the ability that he's put in me, and I have faith in God that he takes care of Paul and helped Paul make the right decision for his life, according to what God has already planned for him."
'A quiet storm'
There are times on a basketball court when it looks like the game has slowed down for Paul. Particularly last year when he averaged career-highs in points (14.0) and assists (5.7) per game, played his way on to the second-team All-Big East team, and ranked 20th nationally in assists per game.
That patience under pressure is a recent trait Brenda has noticed in her son.
"This is the way I look at it: a quiet storm," she said. "He doesn't like to hurry up. And as much as a mother would like to say, 'Come on.' He's not like that. He takes his time. Even in the decision to come back. He took his time.
"So I call him the quiet storm. That is a new development."
Even before college, Paul spent a lot of time away from home playing basketball. He finished high school at Prolific Prep in California, far away from where he grew up in Indiana. He had to make decisions and those decisions shaped his life and led him where he is now.
"Paul has been away from home a lot, even before he got in college playing basketball," Brenda said. "And to me, when a child makes a decision before he gets to college, you kind of know he's going to be all right. You can kind of trust the judgment that he makes for the decision. That's why I call him the quiet storm. He doesn't make a decision in a hurry. He doesn't get in a hurry about anything. And I can appreciate that. I like who he is. I like what he has become. And he's still evolving."
Paul's played 3,340 minutes at Xavier. He's scored 1,246 points, collected 449 rebounds and distributed 376 assists.
He's played in 118 games and started 84 times. Paul's been a part of 80 wins with the Musketeers.
But, right or wrong, the ending is a critical part of every story. It leaves behind a lasting memory that follows us, one way or another, wherever we go.
Last season isn't how Paul wants to remember his last game at Xavier. It's a sentiment his mom shares.
"I like to finish strong," Brenda said. "I like to finish at a peak ... so I can understand wanting to finish strong. That's what it is. You want to finish it in a way that you can look back and be proud of what you did, and your teammates too. I'm a team player. I'm all about the team. And if the team is feeling good, we all are feeling good, because the team will make it happen.
"For him to come back another year and say, 'We didn't finish it right, let's do it again.' I'm proud of that. You know what that takes? That takes guts. That takes boldness, that takes courage."