|By JIM O'CONNELL|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 01 February 2008 20:01|
Al McGuire is almost back in the neighborhood.
``McGuire,'' the one-man play about the late Hall of Fame coach written by his former broadcast partner, will be presented at Hofstra University, about 15 miles from the New York City borough of Queens where McGuire grew up.
Dick Enberg wrote the play about McGuire and it debuted in 2005, four years after McGuire died at age 72. The two became close in their years together broadcasting college basketball games for NBC along with Billy Packer. Enberg wanted a way to share McGuire's wisdom and do it the way the coach would have - in an honest, funny and wise way.
Another Queens native, Hofstra coach Tom Pecora, helped bring the play to his school's ``The Black Box Theatre'' for two performances on Feb. 9 and one on the 10th.
``Last year at the Final Four in Atlanta, myself and a few other coaches went to see the play on the recommendation of Bobby Cremins and after it Dick Enberg talked with the crowd and said how he hoped the play could get enough exposure to attract some off-Broadway attention and see if it had legs,'' Pecora said. ``I was able to get in touch with him through Bill Raftery and the Marquette people were put together with the Hofstra people.''
The play is produced through Marquette, the school McGuire took to the national championship in 1977. Enberg will speak to the audience after each performance.
Pecora's first meeting with McGuire came well before his own coaching career took off.
``We were at a game at St. John's and Coach McGuire was doing the game for NBC and my friends and I were sitting in the first row of the stands right behind him,'' Pecora said. ``At halftime somebody brought McGuire a tray of hot dogs and he started handing them out to us. We said `This guy is great.'
``I met him years later after I got in the business and got to spend time with him. A lot of people claim it but he was a New Yorker and maybe this will help get him to Broadway.''
SAPP'S ASSIST: Georgetown's Jessie Sapp has built a reputation as a clutch player in his three seasons with the Hoyas, the latest example his 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left in a 58-57 win over West Virginia last weekend.
The New York City native did admit to some nerves earlier this week when he introduced Rep. Charles Rangel, his hometown congressman, to a group of students, faculty and community members at Georgetown's Intercultural Center Auditorium.
The gathering was part of Georgetown's weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. - ``Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy Shaping Public Policy Today.''
``I was so nervous,'' Sapp admitted. ``Not so much when I met him or when I walked in, but when I got up on the stage to introduce him and looked out at everyone, that made me a little nervous.''
Rangel, like Sapp, is a native of Harlem, something the Hoyas guard was quick to point out to the crowd. He had been asked in the week before Rangel's appearance - which came on the night of the State of the Union address - to provide the introduction.
``It's cool to see someone from the neighborhood,'' Sapp said. ``Where I come from, there are not many people who reach the level that he has. He's a big-time congressman in the House of Representatives and it doesn't get much bigger. It just gives you a different idea on what people from Harlem can become.''
Sapp had a chance to chat with Rangel when the Democratic House Ways and Means chairman spoke to the group for about 30 minutes before leaving for the State of the Union Address.
BITTER BIG TEN: As it does most seasons, the Big Ten is getting bashed.
Critics point to the lack of scoring, talent and exciting basketball.
Unranked Connecticut's win at then-No. 7 Indiana without some of its key players seemed to bolster how some regard the conference.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is frankly disgusted.
``I'm sick of it,'' Izzo said. ``It's been year after year after year. Why? Like I said, every year that we've been to the Final Four (recently) we've had two teams in it but once. It was no different then.
``For some reason it just doesn't get the credibility, at least to the people that are talking a lot of times. But tournament time we always seem to be around and causing some problems, and hopefully this year we'll cause a lot of them.''
Izzo has taken four teams to the Final Four since 1999 and three of those times there was another Big Ten team there with the Spartans.
Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana are the only Big Ten teams in The Associated Press' Top 25 but more people seem concerned with the Hoosiers' recent loss to Connecticut, which played without two suspended players.
``That wasn't the way Indiana has been playing for the majority of the season,'' Izzo said. ``The only bad thing about the loss is for the league. But the league's not gotten any credit anyway so it just validates what they think.
``There were still three teams in the top 11. I don't think any of us would ever know that. We just seem to assume that the Pac-10's got this or that.''
HARD TIME FOR HARDIN: DeVon Hardin's draft stock has fallen.
California's center opted to return to school and play his senior season rather than leave early for the NBA draft, but his inconsistent play so far has led many scouts to wonder whether he will be effective at the next level.
That's after he was considered a possible first-round pick last year despite missing all but 11 games of his junior year because of a stress fracture in his left foot sustained against Furman on Dec. 19, 2006.
Yet the scouts and other experts know all it will take is one team to give him a shot in the pros - and one look at his impressive 6-foot-11, 250-pound physique will surely entice somebody. Many believe he could provide a team with an imposing presence in the paint with the ability to block shots and rebound, though he is not a steady scorer.
``I've had a rocky start to the season, a couple blows,'' Hardin said. ``I've just got to go out and be myself. Maybe I've just had a lot on my mind, I'm not sure. I don't want to make excuses.''
Hardin has been making strides in recent games. He scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting in an 82-77 loss to rival Stanford on Jan. 26, and headed into games at Washington State and Washington averaging 11.5 points on 17-for-26 shooting from the field (73.1 percent) over his previous four contests.
``It gave me a little more confidence that I can contribute offensively to this team,'' Hardin said.
Even Cal coach Ben Braun discussed productivity with his floor leader after Hardin's strong performance against Stanford.
``I said, 'DeVon, that's the kind of effort and energy we need,'' Braun said. ``DeVon has missed a lot of basketball. He's coming around. Consistency is what he needs. ... He really wanted the ball down low. He was a factor for us. That was encouraging.''
Cal won 69-64 at No. 9 Washington State on Thursday night, the Cougars' first home loss - and the Bears did it without Hardin, who was ill and didn't make the trip to Pullman.
HONORED AGGIES: New Mexico State will unveil a basketball ring of honor on Feb. 9, and the coach and key player from its only Final Four team are two of the first three names to be raised.
Former coach Lou Henson and Sam Lacey, the center for the Aggies when they reached the Final Four in 1970, will be honored along with Billy Joe Price, who played at New Mexico State from 1958-61.
Henson, who began his coaching career at New Mexico State in 1966, is the school's career leader with 289 wins. He spent 16 seasons with the Aggies and coached 21 seasons at Illinois, ranking seventh in career Division I wins with 779. He is one of 11 coaches who have led two schools to the Final Four. Illinois went in 1989.
Lacey, who played for the Aggies from 1968-70, holds the school record with 1,265 rebounds. He ranks seventh on New Mexico State's career scoring list with 1,448 points.
Price ranks 14th on the career scoring list with 1,159 points.
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco and Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.