As an eighth-grade student-athlete who plays basketball, I was extremely excited to be asked to go on the trip of a lifetime — to Shaquille O’Neal’s house to build a koi pond.
When I was first asked, I thought it was a joke. Could my dad (Alan Decker) be serious? Two weeks later, we packed up our stuff, got on the plane and arrived late on Monday evening. The next morning, we got up early, ate some breakfast and went straight to the job site. The first day was a lot of digging and putting in underlayment and liner. Over the next few days, we seamed liner, set rocks, dug out the stream and waterfall area and added many small details to make this pond amazing. The weather was horrible, and the red Georgia clay turned to mud and slush. It was very hard to work in, but we still got it done.
The second day on the job was the first time we saw Shaq. I did not realize how huge he actually is. We all said hi to him and stopped working for a couple of minutes. All of a sudden, I heard him shout, “Hey you!” He was pointing at me. Then he said, “Come here,” so I did as he said. He told me it was awesome that I was working at only 13 years old. (He must have noticed that I looked young.)
On the last night, after we revealed the pond, he said he had something for me. He went inside and came out with two signed shoes! One was for me, and the other one was for Greg Wittstock’s nephew who was also there. He handed it to me and took a picture with me. He talked to me for a little while, too, which was amazing.
It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I enjoyed working with all the Artists of the Year pond builders and the Aquascape team. I would like to thank everybody who was at the pond build for teaching me new things every day and making the experience so special. Finally, I would like to thank Shaquille O’Neal for letting us come and build this amazing koi pond just for him.