Monday, September 8, 2008

College - Those Were The Days

Someone loves their photo shop.

Today was a complete day away from the hardwood so today's blog will represent my day's laziness. It will still be quality reading, but a whole of cut and paste instead of using my brain.

I got the idea as I was scanning the Gonzaga Hoops Forum (thanks Zag Native), as I was seeing what the latest and greatest was in Zagland.

Author Dave Boling put together a book titled Tales from the Gonzaga Hardwood.

I was quite surprised to see that he dedicated a whole chapter to me. I'll take it as the book is a good but lighthearted read about some of the characters and moments in Zag basketball history.

Following are a few excerpts from my chapter:

Rillie Raining Threes

John Rillie was so hot, so dialed in, that his teammates were leery about even speaking to him, fearful they might disrupt the delicate calibration of his shooting mechanism. It was in Santa Clara, at the West Coast Conference Tournament in the spring of 1995, and Rillie’s uncanny jump shooting had led the Zags into the title game of the tournament against Portland. A berth in the NCAA tournament went to the winner.

Portland was aligned to defend Rillie, to double him every time he got the ball, to bump him, to jostle him, to beat him to his favored shooting spots. But Rillie just backed up a step or two and continued to shoot over the Pilots.

In the title game, he made eight of twelve shots and all 12 of his free throws for 34 points, setting a tournament record for scoring with 96 points in three games. In that three-game state of unconsciousness, Rillie sank 20 of 28 3-point attempts.

“When you get so involved in so many games and practice so hard, it eventually pays off,” Rillie explained. “And for me, that was a great time for it all to come together. You’ve heard people say that when you’re going really well, it seems like the game is being played in slow motion. That really was what it was like. Everything felt like I had so much time.

”At the time, he was appropriately delighted with the tournament MVP honor and the NCAA berth. But he didn’t fully comprehend the historical significance, the way his shooting lifted the Zags to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance.

“In all honesty, I was just so happy to be playing Division I basketball in the U.S., that I was pretty oblivious to a lot of the stuff that was going on,” he said. “I watch the NCAAs now and see all of Gonzaga’s success and I’m far more emotionally attached to it now than I was when I was playing. I was so wet behind the ears I didn’t know what was going on. I was like that puppy in the window just waiting for somebody to pick me up and take me somewhere.”

Well, somebody took him to the NCAA tournament, a destination to which previous Zags had never ventured.

King (Gym) Rat

Generations of insomniac Zags have found their way to the court for late-night or all-night practice sessions. Stockton, Frahm, and countless others–lately Derek Raivio–have all had keys or figured alternative means of entry to accommodate their nocturnal hoop addictions.

John Rillie was different to a degree. It wasn’t just practice that was important to Rillie, it was the competition. Competition at any level, in fact. Rillie was seen riding his bike dozens of miles to find a pick-up game. He learned the public transportation schedules as they serviced every cracker box gym in the region.

“If I heard about a game somewhere, I tried to get there however I could,” Rillie said. “Day or night. Bike, bus, or if I could coax somebody into trusting me behind the wheel of their car. I guess you could call it being young and enthusiastic. I was fortunate enough to have a key to the gym at school and I ended up having a pretty good rapport with the night security guys ... good ol’ Smitty and the boys”

Coach Dan Fitzgerald loved the single-minded verve, although he used to tease Rillie. “

It’s not politically correct to say it,” Rillie said. “But one time he asked me, ‘Hey, what were you doing today when you should have been in class ... playing in a pick-up game with the five Asian guys in brown sox?”

Fitzgerald took it pretty seriously once, though, when his prized perimeter threat showed up with a nasty shiner.

“I was playing with some locals over at an eastside recreational center and one of the guys busted my eye open pretty well,” Rillie said. “It was maybe the day before regular practices were supposed to start, and when Fitz saw the damage, he told me that if he heard of me playing anywhere else outside the Kennel he would fine me a thousand dollar.”

Hoops News

- Over the USA summer Spurs Tony Longoria dropped an album and now it seems Jason Kidd is trying his hand at the rap game. This might have to become an off season project for me. Look out for my hip hop remix of "Never Smile At A Crocodile" dropping in June '09.

- The NBL slugs Melbourne Tigers four grand for playing import Ebi Ere. Ere suited up against my Townsville Crocs last weekend but he had yet to receive his clearance to play. I'm sure Tigers owner Seamus McPeake will not lose any sleep over this. He may just have to drink a cheaper wine at his next meal.

- Adelaide Advertiser's Boti Nagy writes about how the WNBL will be seen more on TV then the NBL. We men want equal rights! Staying with Boti, he breaks down the 36ers game on the weekend against the Dragons. And one last one on how the Tigers remain under the points system.

- New Tiger Sam MacKinnon believes the NBL title will not be leaving Victoria.

- My former teammate Luke Martin cannot catch a break. Luke, you need to call Chuck tomorrow as he will not be deciding how much to fine Seamus.

- Crocs imports ready to tear it up.

- A good piece on the life and times of former Brisbane Bullets owner Eddie Groves.

- Young LA Lakers centre Andrew Bynum is back to 100%.

- The "John Wayne" of basketball dies. Former Texas Western (UTEP) coach Don Haskins dies at the age of 78.

- European basketball power club Maccabi Tel Aviv BC is rich with tradition. My Philly Steak Mate has a in-depth look at their history and current squad.

- Want a breakdown of your favourite NBL team, then click here.


Anton said...

If I had a chapter like that dedicated to me, I'd pretty much retire happy.

Admittedly, the fact I'm not especially good on the court makes it unlikely.

Dr.Colgate said...

John, you are my hero.
i wake up every day wondering how we made it out of that greek square when the riot police were beating the crap of people in Athens 2004, but it was your 3 point shooting that got us out oftrouble! You truly saved my life. You should know who it is champ, hopefully unless old age is kickin in already..
i got a website starting soon, gonnna try to put you out of business haha, we can have cyber wars....
Dr. Colgate

Anonymous said...

Good morning from Spokane!

The Zags and Spokane were so lucky that John showed suited up as a Zag! Great basketball and great stories left behind to really inspire the Zags run over the last 15 years.

Love ya, guy!

ZagNative from guboards. com

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite quotes about John from Tales from the Gonzaga Hardwood:
"Coach Dan Fitzgerald's insightful and complex strategic advice to his team before the 1995 West Coast Conference Tournament, when sharp-shooting, shave-headed, gunner-from-down-under John Rillie wa on a streak when he couldn't miss from deep: "Get the round thing to the bald thing."

You can see a great pic of John, I think from the New York Times, here:

Zagnative from the Zags' mbb.