Basketball players are made in the summer |

Basketball players are made in the summer

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent
Mike Vidakovich
Staff Photo |

Hoop D’Ville coming July 20 to Sayre Park

Mike Picore’s 12th-annual summer basketball festival will be held at Sayre Park on Saturday, July 20. The 4-on-4 tournament features some of the best teams in the area. Put on some sunscreen, pack up the cooler, and get to Sayre for a day of roundball viewing at its best.

As a boy, growing up in Clemson, South Carolina, Pete Maravich would go to the Saturday afternoon double feature at the local theatre and dribble his basketball on the carpeted aisle throughout the first movie with his right hand, then switch to the opposite aisle and do the same with his left hand during the second feature. On the way home, Pistol Pete would continue his homework basketball by walking the railroad tracks while dribbling the ball along each wooden plank between the rails, alternating hands as he moved toward home.

Maravich is the leading scorer in college basketball history.

The great skywalker, David Thompson, would leave home in the afternoon and practice between 2 to 4 hours each day on the outdoor courts at Crest High School in his hometown of Shelby, N.C. Thompson, with his 44 inch vertical leap, could always jump over opponents, but he credits those long hours of shooting and dribbling under the summer sun with his development as a player.

Thompson was an All-American at North Carolina State and a star in the ABA and NBA with the Denver Nuggets.

Basketball in the summer has always been what separates the good ones from the great.

Those who are willing to put in the endless hours on the asphalt dribbling the ball and shooting countless jumpers are the ones who will shine when the snow starts to fall.

As I sat in the stands last month during the recent Hot Springs Hoopla girls summer basketball tournament at Glenwood High School, I realized how many summer games are available to players, and coaches, in this modern era of hoops. With tournaments and summer team camps, kids can play up to an entire season’s worth of games, and then some, just during the month of June.

The participation is high for these summer events for both boys and girls. It’s all organized and it’s fun to be with your team and develop that group cohesiveness.

The bothersome part to me is that I don’t see many youngsters out honing the individual skills on the outdoor courts anymore. I think this is reflected in the lack of pure shooters in the game today. Basketball has become more of a muscle game. Slash to the basket and hope to draw a foul.

When I played at Glenwood High in the late 1970’s, we only had open gym in the evenings and the Sayre Park courts. But as I think back, I believe we were the lucky ones. We shot for hours on end, and then chose teams and went at each other pretty hard, making for some pretty good games and developing some pretty fair players.

My senior year, I would go to Sayre at lunchtime with my buddy Wes Pollock, and we would shoot jumpers while eating our lunch. I would shoot 25 jumpers, and then rebound for Wes while he did the same until we each got in 100 shots, all the while enjoying one of my dad’s salami and cheese sandwiches.

It was fun. I never considered those hours of hoops work. Neither did all the people who were around me.

I recently read an old Sports Illustrated clipping from the summer of 1973. The SI reporter was talking to star Providence College point guard Ernie DiGregorio. Ernie D. was asked why he practically lived at the outdoor courts at Providence. His reply was something the basketball junkies of my generation could relate to.

“I’ll practice in the sun, the rain, and the snow with gloves on. I’ll never stop. This is my passion,” said DiGregorio. ‘Watching all those Providence fans go crazy when we win is something I’ll never forget.”

Ernie D. was a magician with a basketball in his hands. No wonder those Providence fans went wild.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears on the first Monday of each month.

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