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Jay Jennings on Maravich (and a Never Too Late Basketball Weekend Camp)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 11, 2007

Maravich About to Do the UnbelievableJay Jennings, a sports and literature guy who will take down a book in his reviews if it deserves it, wrote a generally complimentary piece for today’s NY Times Book Review on two biographies published recently about Pete Maravich. He is like I am: interested enough to read about Pete and his dad, Press, and what made him who he was (and wasn’t) but in the end it’s . . . roll the tape, let’s see that behind-the-back pass to the front of the rim from – heaven strike me down if I did not see this with my own eyes – the dead right corner. Jennings played (and practiced) hoops with us at the second ever NTL Weekend Camp (we’ve now held more than 70) in The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts for a feature piece in Sports Illustrated. Here’s what he wrote of himself: “I had come to (NTL) . . . to become Bobby Hurley. I figured if one whiny, short white guy with a bad haircut could play against the Dream Team, there was hope for me”. Turns out, Jennings was a good ballplayer (as good in the drills as in the games; with work could have played Harvard JV, maybe) and wrote an enormously encouraging piece that gave us our first national exposure.

(Bill Simmons also, as usual, has a funny and on-the-money take [“Maravich was like 12 Globetrotters rolled into one”] on the same two books in ESPN the Magazine.)

This was my introduction to Pete Maravich: I was in eighth grade, I think. I was way into Pat Riley (and Louie Dampier) because Riley was from Schenectady, NY’s Linton High School; he and the Kentucky Wildcats were big in the Albany area, where I lived. I had planned to listen to the Kentucky/LSU game on the radio that night (if cloud conditions and weather were right, I could actually get the signal from WKYM). But I was a kid, probably had played five hours of hoops that day, so I fell asleep before the game. Then, then I was awakened by this roar from the radio. I thought, “did I miss the whole game”? I looked at the time and it was only 8 o’clock, the game hadn’t even started. Here’s what the announcer, barely audible over the din said: “A freshman from LSU, Pete Maravich, has just electrified the crowd by scoring 70 points in the freshmen game (freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity then) in the most incredible individual performance I have ever witnessed”! Then, as now, I could not wait to see Pistol Pete flying down the court, the ball a yo-yo, the defenders props, with nothing but a world of magic and endless possibilities between him and the hoop.

(Thank you to Nelson for the Pistol Pete You Tube video tip.)

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13 Responses to “Jay Jennings on Maravich (and a Never Too Late Basketball Weekend Camp)”

  1. John Klein said

    When I think about Maravich I think mostly about the “Homework Basketball” videos. I bought them when I was almost 40 on the pretense that they were for my 8 year old son. I think the ball handling and dribbling exercises help you:

    1. take care of the ball: reduce turnovers, increase confidence
    2. increase court vision (as long as you don’t look at the ball when you do them)
    3. give a good high intensity anaerobic workout: George Lehmann (and his brother Austin) touted this aspect in their videos. Man, I was so glad to get George’s video in a trade. I saw him when I was an eighth grader at basketball camp at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY (alma mater of Rik Smits). I only wish I could have afforded the Toss Back George was selling at the time. Only 1 of the kids I knew got the Toss Back, and he went on to get a full ride at Siena College…

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    • Rich Rolwing said

      Anybody know where I can get my hands on those old George and Austin Lehman tapes of their shooting and dribbling drills. They were awesome! And I’d like to introduce them to my godson and son soon.

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  2. I saw bits and pieces of the “Homework Basketball” videos over the years and liked them. Maravich seemd earnest enough and the stuff he demonstrated was useful PLUS it was MARAVICH! The only tapes we have shown at our Weekend Camps for the past 5 years or so are the George and Austin Lehman tapes. They are, if nothing else, classics! I swear I think some people come to the camps year after year just to see those. I know the shooting one (with George) by heart. And no matter how good my shooting lecture might be and no matter how good the shooting demonstrator does that day, everyone goes home quoting Lehman.

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  3. Here’s a funny story concerning Lehman. We were running our NTL Santa Barbara Weekend Camp several years ago and there was a perhaps 30 y/o female player there as one of the campers. I think we were into our second three-hour practice and during one of the breaks, while watching her shoot, I turned to one of the other coaches and said, “she’s got a nice shot. She shoots just like Lehman’s daughter in that shooting tape”. (We had not as yet watched the tape at the camp.) So, I wound up talking to her and said, “you’ve got a nice shot. Funny, it reminds me of the shot that this girl in this video we watch, the daughter of the main guy in the videos, Nicole Lehman”. The female camper replied, “I went to high school with her. We played on the same team together and George Lehman was our coach!”

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  4. Nelson said

    I read an excerpt of the Maravich book by Pete Kriegel in SI a few weeks ago and loved it. He was a bit before my time but I’d obviously heard of the guy and it was really interesting to read about him and his father and all the amazing things Maravich could do. I recently ordered the book on Amazon.com and am enthusiastically looking forward to reading it.

    Out of curiosity, I just checked out youtube to see if there was any footage of Pistol Pete on there, and it turns out there’s plenty. This is one of the best ones, a highlight reel compilation:

    (BTW, Steve, have you looked at any of the basketball videos on youtube? I’d be interested to see what your Top 10 would be and why).

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  5. Nelson – – I had seen that YouTube video of Pete but had seen it on other blogs, too. Being new to blogging, I didn’t know if it was cool (or even interesting) to repeat what someone else had done. I’ve gone ahead and put it up anyway. That wrist, snap-pass that he makes with Auerbach talking him through it is hilarious. There’s also a Steve Nash type wrong foot layup; a bunch of Bird-like dribble/tip passes; a slew of between-the-legs coming from the backside passes that I used to do in playgrounds that, I’m now realizing, I must have picked up from him. He really got up on his jumper! I’m not sure there’s ever been anyone who fit into the offensive part of the game, the one where it’s you, the ball, the court and players, and the hoop, all as one, so completely. Cousy, Magic, Bird, Nash. The seeing, the passing, the seamless orchestration of the flow of the game. Not to get carried away, but I am getting carried away, that’s what just watching that video did to me, but it’s exactly like a great pianist (Glenn Gould) playing a great piece of music (Goldberg Variations). They’re just in it, way into it, like the composer intended, but even more so. Same with these guys and the game of hoops.

    I’ll search around YouTube and give you a list of my faves.

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  6. Nelson said

    Hi Steve, Re: blogging what others have blogged before, I’d say there’s no hard-and-fast rules about that, especially if the blog you’re cribbing from, for lack of a better word, isn’t one that your readers are likely to also be reading. I, for one, have never read a blog about basketball until now, so all this stuff is new to me. Also, a lot of blogging is about putting your own spin on different topics and things out there, so even if I had seen someone write about the Pistol Pete youtube video, I’d still be–and was–interested to hear what you thought about it and any personal reference points you have. All of which is a long way of saying, I think anything’s pretty much fair game when it comes to blogging. Out of courtesy, you might want to reference the earlier place you saw something, but that’s about it.

    Looking forward to seeing your youtube picks. And sorry to be an editor (that’s what I am, after all) again, but there’s a typo in the spelling of “playgrounds” above…

    Also, have you ever thought about posting some NTL video up on youtube, or perhaps better, on the NTL site? A greatest hits or something like that from the weekend camps? Could be fun for those who go the camps, and as well as give people like me who’ve never been to one a sense of what they’re like. Just a thought.

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  7. Nelson – – (I caught that “playgrounds” typo before you got to me.)

    We are in the process of ripping down and putting up anew the NTL web-site. This blog is actually part of the process. We wanted to “archive” all the old tips that, once a new tip went up, were, previously, nowhere to be found. One of the things we do have in mind is simple instructional demonstrations of some of the “Tips”. As far as “greatest hits” from the Weekend Camps? I don’t think we’d be impressing (or enticing) anyone if we did that!

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  8. Jay Jennings said

    Steve,
    Thanks for the comments on my review and nice words about my game. That made my day to think that I could possibly have earned a spot on the Harvard JV. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have gotten into Harvard as a student. I had such fun at that NTL camp. I think Howard Eisley was a sophomore at BC then, and I still remember him demonstrating a one-step layup from the top of the key. Keep up the good work.
    Jay

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  9. Awww, Jay, I’m sure we got less deserving students than you by the Admissions Committee. But then again, “dunking is diversity”; that was our motto when we were trying to get kids in.

    Yes, Eisley did work that camp (and others). In the SI article you mentioned how quiet he was and how I said, “And now Howard is going to give a lecture on the benefits of trash-talking”. He was smooth though, and good, even then.

    We’ll be on the lookout for more of your writing!

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  10. I’m looking for diagrams of the seven plays that Red Auerbach used to run when he coached the Celtics. Does anyone know where I can find a copy of these plays?

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  11. It is very important be a good sports activity also to not trash communicate even though.
    Even now the best element in relation to it does not take exciting component.

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