Friday, June 26, 2009

High-flying basketball

I've seen some rough fouls on a basketball court, but the worst may have been in 1986 or '87 in Wilmington, N.C. And it included the greatest toughness I've seen on a court.

A guy sailed to the basket for a layup when, suddenly, an opponent grabbed him around the waist and body-slammed him. But as the guy was rotating, he managed to get the ball up toward the basket. It trickled over the rim, hit the backboard and went in.


The fouler was ejected; the foulee got two shots for a flagrant foul (he hit both), and his team got the ball back. They made a jump shot on the ensuing possession to conclude a six-point trip down the court. That pretty much decided the game there.


The same year, I was watching a game between Whiteville and South Brunswick. A little guard named Quentin McCrackin went inside and left his feet as the taller Whiteville players swarmed around. McCrackin had the ball low around his hip. He swung it from behind and over his shoulder; it rainbowed over the defense, hit the rim and kissed into the basket.


McCrackin later became a starting defensive back for Duke University and a major-league baseball player for the Seattle Mariners. Obviously he was a multi-talented, if not tall, athlete.


Speaking of rough fouls, Seneca (S.C.) High School was playing someone, and Clarence Kay was just returning from a football all-star game. He was dribbling downcourt and went in for a layup. A defender grabbed both of Kay's arms and tried to keep him from shooting. It'd just be a hard foul. Kay didn't score, but he lifted his arms enough to hit the rim with the ball. The other team seemed stunned at his strength. He hit two foul shots, and the Bobcats went on to win.


Kay, too, was a good athlete. He played the next year on Georgia's 1980 NCAA championship football team, then later played a dozen years at tight end for the Denver Broncos.


The most spectacular play I've seen? One of two. Keith Pryor was the best Class 1-A player in North Carolina for Edneyville High School. Someone told me to watch out for him, and I thought, yeah, sure, big deal. I've seen great athletes.


In the first quarter of my first Edneyville game, Pryor stole the ball and headed downcourt. I was ready. He took off just inside the foul line and offered the ball to the basket for an underhanded layup. Again, I was ready. He windmilled the ball and smashed it through the basket as I stood flatfooted and missed the shot.


And that wasn't even the most impressive shot I ever saw him make.


They were playing Tryon. Pryor skirted the baseline, and a Tryon player stuck out his hip to force Pryor out of bounds. I was sitting on the floor, with the camera in one hand and writing on my notepad with the other. I didn't have time to look, so I shot the picture from the hip.


The foul was called as Pryor sailed upwards and just off the court. Here's what I got in the photo: There was the Tryon player with his hip out, the referee calling the foul and Pryor reaching back and floating the ball toward the basket. It wasn't in the photo, but Pryor hit the shot and got the foul shot.


Spectacular. And probably the best photo I ever got.



Contact: I can be reached at tgilli52@gmail.com or nc3022@yahoo.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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