Though Ray, the main character of “Deep Green” is fictional, he shares one big thing with Gary’s own story: church basketball.
“A group of people who I did not know accepted me onto their team,” Gary said. “A coach treated me like I was just one of the guys, even if I wasn’t always the best teammate or person.”
Gary Lloyd says that kind of community experience can “lead you down a path that is rewarding and important for the rest of your life.”
“Deep Green” tells the story of Ray, a junior high school student trying to find where he fits after not landing a spot on the basketball team. But when he starts trying on different identities, he finds himself being escorted by a police officer back into the store he had just stolen from.
Enter Hadenville church basketball team.
Ray reluctantly gives into the team’s relentless invitations to play, and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Eventually, Ray gets his life back on track, thanks to the guys at Hadenville. But you’ll have to read it to find out how it all went down.
While Gary says Ray’s story is loosely based on true experiences, he does point to one man who is the inspiration behind “Deep Green”: Kevin O’Kelley.
Kevin O’Kelley was the basketball coach and youth director at the church where Gary found a place. Huffman United Methodist Church’s Coach Kevin was more than just a basketball coach and youth director, though. He provided leadership for students, but felt more like a best friend, Gary remembers.
“I think every kid who attended youth events when he was in charge or played basketball for him felt that way,” Gary said. “He could relate to you. He made you feel important.”
Gary and Kevin’s friendship lasted several years, until, sadly, Kevin lost a hard-fought battle to cancer in 2015.
The resounding message from Kevin’s life was to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Gary says the ending of “Deep Green” had a lot to do with Kevin’s life—and he’s certain Kevin would have liked that ending.
The Deep Green Impact
Gary’s story revolves around telling stories—though, he admits, some more interesting than others. As a journalism student at The University of Alabama, he covered Alabama’s sporting events, focusing on telling stories to connect fans with the players, not just their stats.
After college, Gary covered everything in a local journalism position, from city council meetings to crime to school board meetings. Finding descriptive and interesting ways to tell news stories is how he fell in love with feature stories. Gary believes sharing our stories is important because of how they can change both the reader and the writer. Some stories Gary wrote had never been told before, and he had the privilege of writing it and sharing for the very first time.
“It was their way of putting their feelings out there, for projecting hardships they had been through and how they had come out better on the other side.”
We couldn’t agree more, Gary.
The impact of the story behind and in “Deep Green” may not be something Gary can trace, but he hopes Ray’s story—though only loosely based on true experiences—helps impact someone else’s story. Even if just one teenager decides to make a different, better choice as a result of reading “Deep Green,” Gary’s purpose will be fulfilled.
“Anyone who loves a good story of overcoming adversity and getting their life back on the right path will enjoy this book,” Gary said.
Besides, who doesn’t love a good redemption story?