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.
I went to a good half-dozen St. Patrick games last season, primarily to watch Kyrie Irving and secondarily to see Michael Gilchrist. I ended up becoming a fan of the program in general, and besides the two players I mentioned, I grew to really like freshman Austin Colbert.
In particular, I watched him against Trenton Catholic in a game Gilchrist missed with an injury, and Colbert was a force off the bench, scoring 11 points as St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t miss a beat. After that game, I talked to Austin for a few minutes and found him to be very gracious with a terrific temperament. (He even put up with me asking him if I could see his St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jordans.)
Colbert hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t put up big numbers this season as a sophomore, but it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slipping at all — heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still a top 10 sophomore in America on most lists — itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more that he fits a role within the regimented system of the absolutely loaded No. 1 team in the country. We were, however, disappointed not to see very much of Austin against St. Thomas More on Sunday, mostly sitting in favor of freshman Dakari Johnson, who had the requisite size to bang with No. 1 Junior Andre Drummond. AustinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time will come.
Terry Rains of Blue Devil Nation and I caught up with Austin on Saturday night and talked about what colleges are on his list, his experiences in St. PatrickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game vs. Winter Park and Austin Rivers, playing with Michael Gilchrist, and what his goals are for the rest of the year.
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:
The Jordan Classic is everything I love and everything that prevents me from completely enjoying big-time high school basketball all at the same time.
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.
After watching national prep school powerhouse Oak Hill edge star-studded St. Patrick on Friday night by one point, I figured I had seen the premier game of the Primetime Shootout.
As it turned out, I was in for a real surprise on Saturday Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as was Oak Hill, which learned two lessons: Never take anything for granted, and never draw blood from St. PeterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Prep star guard Myles Davis.
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.