January 27, 2009

Zo-YO! The BEST of Alonzo Mourning

It won't surprise you to know there's a Nasteedunx blog in the works cataloguing the very WORST of Alonzo Mourning ("Zo-NO!").  It might blow my blogspace capacity completely.  But you know,  the inevitable has happened, and the brutha's retiring on us (sniff).  This brave shot-blocker continuously came back to the floor, from life-threatening surgeries and nagging injuries in the 2005-2006 NBA season to offer for our collective amusement what was, without question, the single greatest season of a single player getting spectacularly smashed on over-and-over-and-over

The least we can do here at Nasteedunx is offer our praise, well wishes, and a look back to the prime-time plays from Zo's prime, when he proved capable on banging on scrubs and All-Stars alike.

We present Alonzo Mourning: Dunking ON People.  For a Change.


January 13, 2009

White Boys Can't WHAT? Part II: Hobbie-Horsed!

Woe be to the one-dimensional slam dunking baller.  Despite all one’s efforts to round out his game, perfect a mid-range jumper, morph into a lockdown defender, dominate the glass, and drop crazy dimes… the gravity-laden naysayers and critics persist.  “Mad hops are all he’s got,” they’d whine.

Yet through it all, somehow, uni-skilled high school high-risers still manage to fill up NCAA Division I rosters, with coaches clamoring endlessly for ballers with “raw” athletic abilities and “boundless” potential, stats on vertical leap and wingspans dripping from their tongues.

Invariably, it’s a person of (darker) color holding down that coveted scholarship spot on the D-I bench, often in the form of some “fourth-year general studies major,” or “junior college transfer,” whose high school and AAU mixtapes on YouTube caused some recruiters’ jaws to drop to the floor.  Many of these same cats sneak into the NBA draft, earning guaranteed-millionaire cash on this same foundation of raw, untapped, and often unrealized, potential.

Sadly, white dudes with ups as their primary calling card haven’t marketed well in the top tier of NCAA programs.  Thus guys like former Illinois high school dunk champ Eric Hobbie, now rocking rims at McKendree University in southwestern Illinois, get relegated to unremarkable Division II or III or NAIA college careers, destined for a lifetime of service as somebody’s personal trainer, mascot jobs leaping through hoops of fire off of a trampoline, and germane duties like snaring those hard-to-reach items off shelves for little old ladies at Wal-Mart.

It’s not like the young man hasn’t tried to get noticed in other ways.  The sole underclassman represented in the American Midwest Conference’s All-Conference 1st Team last season, the 6-foot-6 Hobbie amassed 7.3 boards and 15.4 points per game, and 40.3 percent from three-point range, in a Pippen-esque second-fiddle role to the conference MVP, leading his Bearcats in blocks while second in steals.  Boosting a top-ten NAIA program and currently riding a seven-game winning streak, Hobbie has helped make winning easy this year for head coach Harry Statham, now the winningest coach (and the coachingest coach) in all of men’s college hoops.

Before that, he was downstate Illinois’ high school player of the year, damaging opponents’ psyches as a high-flying forward for the Vandalia Vandals.   Doing it all, he put up double-doubles, three thefts per game, and 42 percent from 3-point range, leading to an Associated Press All-State selection in his senior year.

You’d think Hobbie’s multifaceted game and winning pedigree would gain the warranted attention of top-notch NCAA programs.  But concerns about the dreaded ‘tweener label persist. And besides, when you can do stuff like THIS to people, it’s quite easy for others to get distracted…

Even his coach, extolling Hobbie’s many virtues, struggled mightily to hold his tongue about Hobbie’s flair for the dramatic above the rim.  “In practice, there were times, ‘Holy smokes! Did that happen?’ Some of the things he did were jaw-dropping.”

Hobbie would compensate for the lack of prime-time college interests by pursuing his true loves outside of basketball.  And for those with ridiculous hops playing college ball, who among that group lists their top “hobbies” as hunting and fishing? Oh, and Dodge trucks?

“Deer hunting is a place I get away from things,” Hobbie said. “That’s where I made my decision for college, sitting up in a tree stand. McKendree was the best fit. I just wanted to stay somewhere close to home.  I don’t fit in at a bigger school. I like to deer hunt and fish. Every day, every chance I get I do it. My dad had me deer hunting when I was 3 with him.” His biggest catch this year in the pond was an 8-pound bass. He did throw it back. Unfortunately for his opponents this season, he wasn’t as merciful on the court.  Hobbie hurt them in every way possible. With an improved 3-pointer, he wasn’t afraid to step out and make his defenders guard him deep. He could also dribble up and hit the mid-range jumper, and as always, he was tough inside with a variety of post moves. He also posterized a few defenders – a kid on Flora especially felt what it was like to be Hobbied – with an explosive dunking ability that’s never been seen in Vandalia before.

Ill. Hoops magazine was referring to that ill, highlight-reel worthy slam in a game over Eric Ridge, a rival 6-foot-5 blue-chip prospect at Flora High.  Hobbie’s high school coach boasted, “You could see Ian was going to challenge him, and, well, he found out.  He was probably above the rim between his forearm and elbow, and Eric came in and, oh, my God. He came over the top of him with two hands.”  Ian Ridge found out about Eric Hobbie a little too late for that game, and became the proverbial deer in Hobbie’s headlights.  But it wasn’t too late for Ridge to realize if you can’t defend 'em, join 'em, taking up a scholarship to team with Hobbie at McKendree U.

Life ain’t fair for guys like Eric Hobbie.  And when it isn’t, guys like him take solace by just taking it out on unsuspecting low-talent bruthas under the rim.  Don’t get Hobbie-Horsed, Homie!


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