Big Game, Small World
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Readers React

Q.The simplest reason for the Europeans’ development goes totally unmentioned: Most European teams don’t have assistant coaches, so there are no breakdown drills. In the U.S., tall players are sent to do post drills and small players to do dribbling drills; but in Europe, if a coach wants to work on ballhandling, everyone must do it because there’s usually no assistant to work with the other group. Something for American coaches to think about.

Brian McCormick, Visby, Sweden

A.A very good point, and yet another example of the downside of specialization.

By the way, after spending the summer in South Africa with Hoops 4 Hoop, in September 2002 coach McCormick takes over the clipboard duties with Visby Ladies in Sweden’s top women’s league. He had the Midas touch as an assistant with the Western Cape All-Stars, which won South Africa’s 18-and-under title; here’s hoping the Ladies’ll be saying “Skol” at the end of this season.

Q.I enjoyed your book and found myself envious of your incredible experience. I see you’ll be in Champaign this Friday . . . Shaun Livingston is now 6’5" and transferring to Central High in Peoria. He has been a disappointment to many, but this summer has played extremely well.

Mike DeGeorge, Eureka, Ill.

A.Sure enough, Shaun—unrecognizably tall, but just as skinny as I remember him—was in the house at the Ft. Sooy Annual Banquet in Champaign-Urbana on Aug. 2. He cut out early, though—had to rest up for the next morning’s Peoria Macker, in which he was entered. Obviously, the verdict on Shaun, for whom expectations have always been huge, awaits.

Also at the banquet was Gary Lemoine, a Ft. Sooy clinician and Champaign native, who was most recently coach of the Iranian national team. I first met him in Tehran in June 2000, believe it or not—quite an experience for us both to encounter a fellow American in such a place. He joins Brian McCormick (above) in urging us to keep an eye out for Lebanon at the Worlds in Indy. The Beiruters have several poised and mature players, plus former Ole Miss Rebel and Memphis Tam Johnny Neumann on their bench.

Q.We have a lot in common: After college I too left home to see the world. Instead of Switzerland I headed south for El Salvador. I practiced with a pro team in the first division, but couldn’t play, as the national league didn’t allow gringos. I did however form a Peace Corps traveling team that played around the country, and staged hoops camps that doubled as leadership clinics. The camps are still being run by new volunteers, and served as a blueprint for a similar program that the national government started.

Alan Walls, Colorado Springs

A.A shout out to coach Walls, who just hooked on as a coach in a much less exotic place: the University of Northern Colorado. He’s got a pretty sweet e-mail address, too:

Q.Truly an outstanding book, which I’m recommending to hoop-loving friends and students as well. But you imply there are not volleyball nets in gyms, parks and schoolyards the world over. Just so you know, volleyball is very close to being as widespread around the world as basketball and soccer.

Nevertheless, thank you for improving Planet Earth by adding your book to it. At the end of Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote that “you spend your whole life gripping a baseball, only to find out at the end that it was the other way around.” The same can be said for hoops, especially the way you examine it.

Peter Greenhill, Honolulu

Peter has rightly called me on a crack I make early in Big Game, when I point out that volleyball was also invented at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., albeit a few years later. In fact, volleyball does have extraordinary worldwide popularity, although I’d still argue that basketball has an edge in sheer omnipresence and the way it engages the imagination. Still, I want to make clear I intended no disrespect for Peter’s peeps. And the interplay between volleyball and basketball over the years—from Wilt Chamberlain, through Keith Erickson, to Adam Keefe and Jud Buechler—has always been mutually supportive, and remains a topic worth exploring.

By the way, Peter is the v-ball coach at The Iolani School, where the boys b-ballers are Hawaii state champs and annually host a terrific holiday hoops tournament.

For more Q&A, click here.

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