In Redick's poems you can detect the influence of his parents, Ken and Jeanie, onetime Tennessee stoneware potters who became born-again Christians and chose to home-school their five children (including J.J. through fourth grade). Their household, perched on a secluded mountainside at the end of a winding gravel road outside Roanoke, is one that values religion and the arts. Jonathan Redick got his nickname from his older twin sisters, Alyssa and Catie, who repeated his first initial as toddlers. His middle name, Clay, has a more intriguing origin. Says Jeanie, "If you've ever seen a potter throw clay, he has to center the clay, put pressure on the clay, then open up the clay and form this beautiful vessel. And when it's fired, it becomes durable. It's kind of like the way God forms our life."
In eighth grade J.J. broke his left wrist twice and his right wrist once, but there was a long-term benefit: He was forced to perfect a textbook shooting release using either hand, balancing the ball and flicking it upward, over and over again. Most of that early work took place in the driveway ("a third dirt, a third gravel and a third grass"), where J.J. spent so much time that his father had to repaint the square on the backboard. "He watched good shooters on TV, then he'd go out to the gravel driveway and mimic that," says Ken. "At 10 years old he was saying, 'Dad, that guy's got really good rotation on his shot.' I didn't even know what he was talking about."
The driveway is still there, of course, and so is the backboard, and sometimes J.J. will come back and surprise the Redicks again with what comes out of his mouth. Take one of the poems he read aloud to them over Christmas, titled September 5, 2004:
My life story is read in poetic stages
I was once weak-minded, now I'm courageous
The cause and effect of a thousand actions
The mathematical breakdown of microfractions
It's difficult to fathom the coming of the rapture
What if I awoke in an empty pasture?
Suddenly every ounce of passion had been depleted