On a blustery November night in Green Bay, about 10 miles east of Wisconsin’s football sanctuary, I watched Keifer Sykes levitate. It happened during a simple drill early in practice, one that University of Wisconsin–Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle runs just to get his guys loosened up. Each player receives a pass at the top of the key and takes a dribble or two toward the lane, muscles past a doughy student manager wielding a foam pad, jump-stops near the rim, and finishes off two feet. Nothing fancy — just a layup line in disguise.
In the school’s media guide, Sykes, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, is listed at 6 feet. His 1990s-era fade adds at least an inch. As the P.A. system beams in a staticky audio recording dubiously labeled as “crowd noise,” Sykes corrals his first entry feed. “GET UP, SYKES,” an assistant screams in anticipation. On cue, the point guard bends his knees and launches off the ground. From there, like a stage actor yanked from the catwalk by invisible chords, he just floats. At his peak, Sykes throws down a demonstrative two-handed slam before drifting back to earth. It’s both exhilarating and disorienting; nobody that size should be able to move quite like that. I’m left mainly with the thought that Keifer Sykes’s fast-twitch muscles, wherever they are buried in his slim frame, twitch way faster than yours and mine.