The night Prayer for a Perfect Season premiered on HBO, I sat in a banquet hall watching it with the people who had the most personally invested in it.
The documentary was moving, but as it portrayed the fading vestiges of a golden era, the reactions of the St. Patrick High School community while watching it were far more so.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never forget this: Back in 2002, my first year home from college, I had this running route I liked that took me through six towns in North Jersey. That winter, on one of those runs, I passed a mid-60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s gentleman in a St. AnthonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s varsity jacket, and I stopped to talk to him.
The man told me that though he hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t attended St. AnthonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, he had become a fan of their style of play over the years. He described how it was crisper and more precise than anyone elseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. He said he tried to make it to as many games as he could, and I vowed to him IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d check it out sometime.
At that time, basically all I knew about St. AnthonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s was Bobby Hurley had gone there, and his dad coached there. And I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know a thing about Bob other than he was BobbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father.
Obviously, I had a lot to learn.
Terry Rains and I went back to Kean University for the Primetime Shootout on Sunday, joined by John Calipari and a few other notables. World Wide Wes was there acting secretive and saying hello to literally everyone that walked by.
Here are our thoughts on Findlay PrepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bounceback game, and the No. 1 team in the nation against the No. 1 player in the nation:
Note: We took a lot of photos at the 2010 Primetime Shootout, which turned out to be a terrific event with two indisputably classic games. Here are some of our favorites that werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t used in the articles I wrote about it:
Kyrie Irving, warming up for the second half against Oak Hill on Friday night.
Talk about a lousy day. After St. PatrickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (No. 6, ESPN Rise) was banned from the New Jersey state tournament earlier in the day because coach Kevin Boyle attended practices before he was technically allowed to, they lost an absolute heartbreaker, 79-78, to No. 7 Oak Hill when gritty shooting guard Derrick Gordon missed a pair of foul shots with .4 seconds left.
I go to high school games to catch a glimpse of the future, to see future college and pro stars develop before my eyes. And with a matchup of two future stud point guards, I lucked into a special game on Saturday night.
The Dunn Center at Elizabeth High School was packed to the rafters to see St. Patrick (No. 3 in the nation) face off with St. BenedictÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (No. 10). Besides the elite coaches involved Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Kevin Boyle and Danny Hurley, two guys who could find themselves in the college ranks before too long Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the marquee matchup was at the point, where Duke-bound Kyrie Irving of St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faced off with St. BenedictÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s junior Myck Kabongo, who is heading to Texas.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not every year the No. 1 high school basketball team in the country plays in your home state, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exactly what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got right now with St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J. As such, I went to see them play Union at Kean University on Tuesday night, my first Celtics game in a couple of years but surely not my last this season.
As if seeing the highest-ranked team in America wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enough incentive, I also wanted to check out point guard Kyrie Irving, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s headed for Duke (my alma mater) next season. In addition, St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s has forward Michael Gilchrist, arguably the best player in the country as a junior, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rumored to be headed for Kentucky or Villanova. Gilchrist and Irving are the big names, but Western Kentucky commit Derrick GordonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense was tenacious and solid.
Unfortunately, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get a very long look at Gilchrist. I got to Kean midway through the first quarter, and just a few minutes after I showed up, he collided with a Union player under the basket on a baseline drive and went down in a heap, clutching his knee. He couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t put weight on it and had to be helped out of the arena by teammates before halftime.