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A Basketball Confession

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 26, 2014

A dozen or so years ago, before Steve Nash’s NBA MVP seasons, a former player of mine at Harvard, Keith Webster ’87, said something to me that I still think about every now and then. Keith was a great player at Harvard: all-Ivy; 1000+ points scorer; came within a whisker, actually someone else’s guaranteed contract whisker, of making the Utah Jazz; son of a legendary coach and a student of the game. Keith also has worked the vast majority of our NTL Santa Barbara Weekend Camps the past 20 years. I consider him a very good friend.

So, circa 2000, just around the time people were really starting to be wowed by Steve Nash’s play, Keith, during a break at one of the camps, said, “you know, Coach, Steve Nash’s game reminds of me of your game, except you lack his toughness”. My first thought was: “I’m a better, more creative passer than Nash”. Second thought, the one that has stuck with me: “What’s he mean ‘lack his toughness'”? Keith is probably 3 inches taller than me and he’s got me by at least 30 lbs but I grabbed him by the neck anyway, and threw him to the ground. Well, actually, I didn’t, and couldn’t have, but would that have proved him wrong about my toughness? Didn’t I have a reputation, formed after college and in the million pick-up games I’d played since, of the guy most likely to get in a roll-on-the-floor, need-to-be-separated-from-the-other guy scrape? Furthermore, did I not utter a word, in the last pick-up game I played against Keith (a few years after he’d graduated and when I, at 39 y/o, was at my peak as a player), when he poked my crossover away and I separated my shoulder while diving for the ball so he wouldn’t get it? Not a peep came out through pain. (That shoulder still bothers me.) Wasn’t that tough? And how many times did I have to break my nose (2 and counting) to prove my toughness?

I admire Steve Nash’s shooting form. I’ve studied it and that form is what we teach at the Never Too Late Basketball Camps and Clinics: Elbow under the ball, opposite elbow up and out, shooting forearm straight as the walls around you. Up and out and follow-through. Here’s one question I’d have for Nash: did he start fights on the court in high school and college? Fights that he had no intention of finishing or continuing? I confess: My high school team had a center named Uriah Richards. He was 6’4″ maybe 6’5″ and with the hair, the ‘fro, looked 6’8″. I knew whatever I started, he’d finish; pick me up off the heap, toss me aside, and step in. Could this be what Keith meant? If so, Keith was right; I wasn’t tough but I sure liked everyone thinking so.

(He actually has said many things to me over the years that I think about every now and then – like once telling me that I had “the ugliest shot of any coach he’d ever known” to last year saying I had “perfect form on my shot from the waist up”. Note: I haven’t changed my shot since 6th grade.)

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“Playing and Winning Together in Louisiana’s Sabine Parish”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2007

from The NY Times:

“After nine hours of basketball, the air-conditioning system seemed to have a nervous breakdown. Still, more than 500 fans shoehorned into the tiny, sheet-metal gym at Pleasant Hill High School on Saturday night. When the bleachers filled, some people grabbed folding chairs. Others sat on the floor along the baseline. Flashes of yellow rippled through the crowd as spectators fanned themselves with a booklet of team rosters.

All seven high schools in Sabine Parish have won boys state titles; five of the girls teams have won. They had squeezed inside to see the Zwolle Hawks, the county power that is either 43-0 or 44-1 this season, depending on the inclusion of two informal games. Some fans had arrived in the morning, sitting through six previous games of the Sabine Shootout, a tune-up for the Louisiana state playoffs that begin Feb. 23.

There are thousands of one-blink communities like Zwolle (pronounced ZWAH-lee) around the country. Some, in states like Indiana and Kentucky, have become mythic for their hoops-on-a-barn devotion. But perhaps nowhere does basketball zealotry surpass the rural fervor of the timber and railroad towns of Sabine Parish.

All seven parish high schools have won a state championship in boys basketball; five of the girls teams have. The nation’s greatest schoolboy scorer and its leading career rebounder played in this poor, racially diverse county on the Texas border in north-central Louisiana. So did the highest-scoring boys and girls teams, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

‘If it’s not round and bouncing, it don’t matter around here,’ Bradley McLaren, 24, the Zwolle coach, said.”

continue here:

(Thanks to Nelson Wang for the tip!)

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