Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture Basketball Style
Thinking back a few years I still remember saying that. Me. The tall scrawny white kid. Tall enough that I was always the center when I played with my suburban friends. I won't be shy about saying it. I could dominate. However, the downside of being half a foot taller than your friends is that you never really have to work on anything. All my shorter buddies would go to Gus Macker or some other camp and come back a step quicker, but always the same size.
The stuff they'd try to do would puzzle me at first, and then it'd be back to my blocking their shots. First time I saw a jump stop I yelled "Walk!" only to be informed by everyone that it was a legal move. Then they'd pull the ole 'up and under from one side of the basket to the next. Again, it would puzzle me at first. But by the third time they tried it I'd marked their moves and would use my gadget-like arms to swat their attempts. I felt pretty good about it.
The funny thing was, I'd never played organized ball. Never put on a jersey. I was a backyard king among the Liliputians. My friends all played for the JV or had passed the water bottles on the varsity bench at some point. I thought I was good.
So I started going to play where the suburban kids didn't.
That's when I realized my little oasis of above the rim dominance was a mirage on a very unforgiving basketball dessert. Back in our little enclave, I dunked. 10 foot rim. No joke. White boy threw down. I posed for effect in the way that only a teenage dumbass can. What I ignored in my little moment of glory was the dunking always involved a running start and traveling.
Two things became very evident when I started playing elsewhere. One, I wasn't that good. Two, my friends weren't any good either. At 6'4" you're generally bigger than your suburban high school classmates. That gets you picked near the top for sports like volleyball or basketball. At 6'4" in the city, it means you're guarding someone either three times faster than you or three inches taller. It's a humbling experience. When the young man you're guarding spins off your forearm and dunks without a running start, you begin to realize you're not that good. When you start guarding the 6'2" guards, no matter how long your arms are, they're quick enough to get around them.
I pressed on anyway. As much as my little arrogant world had been hurled into the sun, from its ashes came an even worse planetary formation. The street ballin' suburban. Keep in mind for a lanky white boy, I'm deceptively slow and uncoordinated. But I was playin. Running the break. Doing what every offensively challenged kid does, I played "stiffling" defense.
I quickly realized my two move arsenal wasn't going to cut it on the playgrounds. The baby hook I prefected in the backyard could've been delivered by the pony express. My little fade away, if the equipment you use to telegraph a move is a pair of tin cans and a string, well, you get the picture. It was like throwing watermellons at a battleship.
Didn't stop me. I kept coming back. I kept playing. I kept asking "Got next?" while the previous game was rolling. I'd talk with an accent even I didn't recognize. I'd D' up the biggest dude there and watch as he'd turn around and dunk in my face. So what. I'm playing. Every now and then I'd get a tip in or surprise myself by emmulating a move I saw the game before. There'd be the outlet pass that led to a dunk or lay-in for someone else. A moment or two of pseudo glory amdist an afternoon of pummelling.
At a certain point, I got the picture. Even though I'd deffinitely gotten better, I knew I'd never be good enough to play at a level above my backyard. So I slowly stopped going down to the playground. But while it lasted, it was fun to roll. To play with people far better than me. While I was never the first one picked on the playground, no one ever groaned if I was on their team. They'd even ask if I wanted to run the next game with them. They all knew I was over my head, but they ran with me anyway.
When I'd ask "got next?" there was always someone to run with.
Basketball Recruiting Update
Boateng? Gone. ASU. Reynolds. Ditto. Spurned us twice. Once for Oklahoma. Later for Villanova. Hey those rhyme.
So who's left?
According to Scout.com's 2006 recruiting hotwire, only Zach Gibson (a 6-8 PF transfer from Rutgers) remains on the 2006 radar. There is one open scholarship left, but Michigan hasn't extending it to Gibson at this point. Though he was a top ten state of Michigan player out of high school he didn't fit into the Wolverines plans and wasn't recruited. From the write up he's more of an outside player who "needs to become more physical". If you take away the outside player part, he might as well be Courtney Sims. With a pile of large inside power forwards on the 2007 radar, I'd be surprised if Gibson is offered a scholarship.
Going into 2007 Michigan will be in a heap of trouble if it can't land a premier guard or two and a legit center. The focus at the 1 and 2 appears to be on 2007 guard Corperryale Harris of Detroit. Scoring machine and capable of making his teammates better.
Unless your over 6'9", you haven't made up your mind to go to Ohio State yet. A lot of the 2007 class will play out along with Michigan's season. A tournament appearance means guards like Demetri McCamey and his teammate Evan Turner of Illinois might start showing a little more interest in Michigan.
Without it, well...
If you're in Ann Arbor don't forget to participate in the annual Carr Wash for Kids over at Michigan stadium. For all the crap we give Carr, this is one of the coolest things he does for the community. The proceeds from the car wash for to Mott Childrens Hospital. You can find the details here and here (scroll down).