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Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Basketball Memory



Yesterday, I was having lunch with an old college friend (Don Bartlett), and we were sharing stories about playing on the freshman basketball team decades ago at Hiram College. Don, a year younger than I, was a much better player, and, deservedly, got more court time than I'd had in my freshman year..

I had arrived at Hiram with Delusions of Athletic Grandeur. I had played on the Hiram High School varsity team for three years ("We are the Huskies, the mighty, mighty Huskies ..."), had been named to the All-Portage County Team (2nd team) in 1962, and thought--daffily--that I was going to star for Hiram College. It took only a practice or two to disabuse me of that notion. I played a few disastrous minutes early in the season, but by the end of all I was moving down the bench, farther and farther away from the coach, and eventually--as I've written elsewhere--became kind of a transitional figure, part player, part crowd member.

But the talk with Don reminded me of one of the moments in my high school career. We were playing Atwater (a southern Portage County school, which now, like Hiram High, no longer exists, having been absorbed into consolidation), a team with a superstar, Chick Campbell (who went on to star for Mount Union; we held him to 57 that night). The date: January 13, 1962. (I still have our schedule--see photo.)



I should say that the Huskies, in my era, did not win too many games, principally because, well, we sucked. (That changed in the the next few years, once I was gone.)  Anyway, about that game ...

In the first half, I missed my first shot (no surprise) but then made nine straight (surprise--big surprise). I don't think any of those shots even touched the rim. Once--to my embarrassment--I cried out "Short!" as I released the ball, then watched it nearly tear the net off as it passed through. (No one, so far as I can recall, laughed.)

I was dazzled at halftime. I'd already scored more points than my end-of-the-year average (17), and I was having dreams of 30 or so (see what a team player I was!).

It was not to be. Things changed in the second half, things I'd rather not get into. I made only one more basket.

Hiram High Huskies
Bob Waller--on the far left, #23


But there was a moment--a single moment--that remains to be told. One of my good high school friends was Bob Waller (who went on to get a Ph.D. in chemistry at CWRU). Bob didn't get to play much, but he was in the game near the end at Atwater that night. I was still obsessed with points and wanted more but hadn't had many opportunities to shoot (I'd rather not get into it), but near the very end, I knocked the ball loose from an Atwater guy, and started dribbling to the other end, envisioning an easy lay-up. Points.

But then I saw Bob Waller on my right, a little ahead of me, sprinting for the basket. Uh, oh. Pass? Or ignore him and take the easy lay-up and the points!?

Bob and I used to laugh about "getting your name in the paper"--i.e., scoring even a single point would get you into the box score (right term for basketball?) in the local Kent-Ravenna Evening Record-Courier. Yes ... name in the paper.

I kept dribbling. But also remembering Bob was my good friend. Who wanted to see his name in the paper. I was seventeen years old, profoundly self-absorbed, wanted points.

But there was Bob, on my right, nearing the hoop ...

And ...

I passed the ball.

And Bob scored.

Got his name in the paper.

Flash forward fifty years. I saw Bob Waller at our 50th high school reunion in the summer of 2012. I'd not seen him in a long, long time. I reminded him of that pass. And he smiled, said he remembered it too.

If you enlarge, you can see the box score.

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