True Hoop by Henry Abbott
Young Players Who Want to be Good Teammates
July 3, 2007 5:49 PM
Maybe I'm still awash in the glow of the NBA draft, where I really got a good feeling from a lot of the young draftees I met.
There are some social ills in the NBA, for sure. But the more you talk to young players these days, the less that seems so.
And, come to think of it, that was part of the story at the NBA playoffs, too, where LeBron James showed us that (despite all the stories about selfish high school to pros superstars) being a good teammate is high on his agenda.
It's happy news.
Then, there's a story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer that kind of blows my mind. It's about 6-6 New Jersey eighth grader Michael Gilchrist, who has been pegged as one of the nation's great young players. Keith Pompey writes:
Gilchrist said he did not aspire to be just as good as Oden, Durant and Mayo.
"My goal is to the best [swingman]" on his high school team, he said. "Then I want to play [college basketball] at Memphis for two or three years. I don't want to do only one year in college, because I want to get an education. And after two or three years, hopefully, I can go to the NBA."
For now, he is one of the nation's top incoming high school freshmen. Make that a quiet and assuming freshman. Even with his superior skills, Gilchrist doesn't like receiving extra attention and is prone to shy away from discussions about his talent.
He's 13! And he's thinking about serving the needs of his team, and getting an education. He has interim goals, between here and the All-Star Game MVP trophy. He says the word "hopefully." Either he was born special, or somebody has been nurturing this guy, or both.
And there's another twist to this tale.
First of all, Gilchrist is from Camden County, New Jersey, stomping grounds of William Wesley, Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, and practically every other major figure in my long-term William Wesley investigation.
In fact, Michael Gilchrist's father, who had the same name, was a high school teammate of Wagner and Thompson, two of Wesley's closest friends and earliest contacts in professional sports. Tragically, the elder Gilchrist was murdered more than a decade ago.
Put that all together, and there is almost no chance William Wesley does not know Michael Gilchrist.
And then ... you probably noticed ... that the younger Gilchrist has already set his sights on Memphis, where the coach is John Calipari is famously tight with Wesley. (Alex French of GQ talked to Calipari about it.) Doesn't take a genius to wonder about his relationship with Wesley, and any effect that might have had on his college of choice.
A friend who grew up in Camden, however, says it needn't be so: Dajuan Wagner was the heart and soul of Camden a few years ago. When he went from Camden to Memphis, the whole basketball-loving heart of that hard-luck city went with him. Memphis became the light at the end of the tunnel, when Gilchrist was young and impressionable. He'd want to go there whether he knows Wesley or not.
More to come on this, I expect.