On Thursday, my son and I caught the last hour of the Vermont Frost Heaves' practice at Montpelier High School. We had a good time. In fact, it was perfect for my son because they were scrimmaging while we were there. So, he got to watch a game without any loud noises. Plus, there were only about three dozen people there. So, we had plenty of room to allow his four-year-old ants-in-the-pants to roam.
A few observations of the team:
- They were shorter than I was expecting them to be. I'm 6'4" and there only seemed to be one or two guys taller than me. At first, I thought it was a sign of a poor team. However, then I remembered the rule in the ABA that gives you an extra point for any basket scored off a turnover in the backcourt. With that rule, I think it makes sense to place more emphasis on speed than on height. It's probably a run-and-gun league due to that rule and big men are just going to consistently be twenty feet behind the play.
- I didn't see many outside shots go in. I don't know if they were rusty due to it being the start of the season, rusty due to the fact they had been practicing for 90 minutes by the time I got there (jumpers are made/missed on your legs and not arms) or rusty because they are poor outside shooters. I'm hoping it's one of the first two possibilities.
- I like Coach Voigt's coaching style. When a player would do something in the scrimmage that he wanted to correct, he would stop the game and in a direct (but not yelling) tone tell the player what he should have done. He kept the instruction brief and direct and then got the players going again. I played for a lot of coaches that would scream constantly and talk forever without ever being able to focus their instruction down to a single useful sentence.
- While the shooting was off, the Frost Heaves moved the ball quickly and crisply. I didn't see many slick interior passes (although the clip below has two of them) but they kept the ball moving well around the outside.
- The team's emphasis on being fan-friendly was clearly on display. They had a free raffle for the kids and five of them got the chance to shoot around with the players at the end of practice. Good idea. One of my neighbor's kids won the chance and seemed to be having a great time. Then when practice was over some of the players came over to the bleachers to say hi to the fans. My son got his first autograph ever. He asked some guy (#50) named Johan for his autograph which Johan gladly gave it to him. My son held it the whole way home and went running into the house to show his mom. I'm not an autograph collector but my son thought it was cool beans. A fan was born.
By the way, here's an amusing basketball story from my past. I played high school ball for a small cruddy school in NJ. We stunk. We were even shut out in our first scrimmage against another school. I average about 5 points and 6 rebounds a game. Clearly, my future was not in hoops.
This was in the mid 80's when college players were just starting to leave college early to join the NBA. It was just the start of what would become a wave. Well, playing upon that idea, I thought it would be funny to declare myself eligible for the NBA draft. So, I typed a letter to David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, telling him that I would like to forgo my college eligibility and make myself eligible for the NBA's June amateur draft. I thought they would get the joke when I asked them to please let any teams that are looking for a 6'4" center/forward to know about my eligibility.
Well, I guess the NBA missed the joke. A month went by and I had forgotten about the letter. Then one day at school, I received a note that I had to go see our Athletic Director immediately. The guy was your classic Athletic Director. His name was Spike, he had a bald head and smoke cigars after big games. Well, I walked into Spike's office and found him on the phone. As soon as he saw me, he slammed the phone down and started yelling. "MURPHY! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING! I JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH THE GODDAMN NBA! THEY WANTED WITNESSES, VIDEOTAPES, STATISTICS! MURPHY, I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT!"
It was hilarious. My English teacher was in the office at the moment and he fell down to all fours laughing. He was laughing so hard, he wasn't even making any sound.
When I got home, I called the NBA to try to straighten things out. However, the lady I spoke to cut me off mid-sentence and said, "Oh, yes. We have you on the list. We have a deadline of May 6th for people to declare their eligibility and then we'll release the names to the press and teams. We suggest that you remain near the phone with the number you gave us on draft day." I was stunned. That was that. It was official. I was going to be in the NBA draft.
I was never drafted, of course. However, for the rest of the school year, it was fun joking about it with my friends and has been a fun story to tell friends over beers ever since.