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Hump Day Hustle: Shaq>Cards Saga, Portal Chortle, Driveway Wars

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There’s been a persistent mythos for decades among some Louisville Cardinal hoops fans like myself, who obsess about such matters.

Which is that, had Shaquille O’Neal not matriculated to LSU, he would have been a Cardinal. Some are even, to this day, of the opinion that he was definitely going to wear the Red & Black, but Dale Brown came with the Benjamins to lure him to Baton Rouge.

The latter of which delusions disregards the reality that Brown might have been only mediocre as a basketball coach, he would have been the star salesman among the Tin Men. Or anywhere. He could sell buggy whips in the late 20th C.. Even to folks not named Mistress Dominatata.

This lore has had more of a half life than my favorite of such. Magic Johnson wanting to play for the Cards, down bit at the half to St. Louis, when he was on a recruiting trip. Love the story. Great story. Never happened.

There’s a recent article at theathletic.com which delves into the tale of O’Neal’s recruitment, how the hoops phenom was destined to become a Bayou Bengal, essentially since he was 13 years old.

(Some of you youngsters might only know the omnipresent Shaq from his impressive commercial list. Gold Bond. Pepsi. Taco Bell. Icy Hot. Ring. And about 50 more. But, he actually was a hoopster once.)

Brown first met O’Neal when the kid was 13. In Wildflecken, Germany. Where Shaq’s stepdad was stationed in the Service. They moved near San Antonio, as he grew and his talents developed. But he stayed under the radar.

Brown kept in touch. The only other school in the picture early on was UTSA.

Then Brown, without a doubt in his mind he’d coach Shaq in college, and much to the dismay of his assistants, suggested the big play in some summer showcase event in Houston.

Where, before the Clark Francis’s of the hoops universe, he “blew up.”

Scooter McCray was in the gym, dazzled like everyone else. Back in the Ville, he raved about O’Neal to Pervis Ellison. Who, ever confident, scoffed, offering he’s “only in high school.”

So, yes, Louisville was in the picture.

Along with LSU, and North Carolina, N C State and Illinois, O’Neal indeed took a recruiting visit to Louisville.

Where, among other ploys, Denny Crum wooed the center with a huge teenage appetite, with his pancake making ability.

Denzel kept flippin’ ‘em. Shaq kept consuming them.

To no avail. He was always in Dale Brown’s pocket.

OK, one more truly sad coulda/ woulda/ shoulda for Card fans to contemplate. O’Neal was a contemporary of Allen Houston.

Contemplate a late 80s U of L Cardinal team with O’Neal and Houston, when Crum was on top of his game.

Another natty?

Uh, at least one, says I.

But it hurts too much to think about anymore.

* * * * *

Is it the lies?/ Is it the style?/ It’s a mercenary territory

Louisville fans are in full fret about all the changes in the men’s hoops program. Which frankly hasn’t been helped by Chris Mack’s eery silence. I mean, you know, Jeff Walz just did a Q & A. Why not Mack?

Transfers out. Transfers in. Coaches gone. New guys filling their spots. Vacancies still.

The reality, kids. Lowell George was spot on. College basketball is Mercenary Territory.

It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere.

Take a look at a school, where the program is considered solid and stable. Like, say, UVa.

None of Cavaliers’ seniors are taking the extra year. Three guys transferred out. There’ll be new assistants sitting next to Tony Bennett on the bench.

Former Hoosier Armaan Franklin has matriculated to Charlottesville.

So too, a baller from New Zealand, and one from Germany. Wildflecken, perhaps?

It’s just what’s happenin’.

Want a poster child?

Try James Akinjo. Big East Rookie of the Year, as a Georgetown Hoya. As a sophomore, All PAC12, while a Sun Devil at Arizona State. For his junior year, the peripatetic youngster is taking his talents to Waco, to play for the national champs.

* * * * *

Jim Boeheim is in a similar situation. In extremis.

Lost 7 players. His son Jimmy has transferred over from Cornell to join bro Buddy.

Now if Jim and Julie could, say, use one of those new digital printer machines and craft a couple more sharpshooting sons, a PG and a big, the Orange would be fine.

Which mention of sibling ballers got me to thinking.

About Driveway Wars.

Where do you think the games were tougher?

The Curry’s asphalt, with Dell and Steph and Seth?

Or the Barry’s, with Rick, Brent, Jon, Drew, Scooter and Canyon?

— c d kaplan