Jay Jennings on Maravich (and a Never Too Late Basketball Weekend Camp)
Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 11, 2007
Jay 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.)