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Greetings From Jersey City
Rick Telander
November 23, 1992
Like the place where he grew up, Duke's Bobby Hurley doesn't look glamorous. But that city helped make him what he is: a winner
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November 23, 1992

Greetings From Jersey City

Like the place where he grew up, Duke's Bobby Hurley doesn't look glamorous. But that city helped make him what he is: a winner

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Over at St. Anthony later in the day, Bob runs a group of high school kids and his sons through a series of bruising scrimmages in the tiny, rundown gym that doubles as the church's bingo hall. The walls are so close to the sidelines that they're considered in bounds, and fouls can't be called until game point is at hand. "The name of the game is Don't Come In Here With Any Weak——," says the coach. A scrawny player is knocked sideways on a layup and crashes partway through the plywood wall beneath the stage. Two players chase a ball into a corner of the gymnasium, sending bingo cards flying. Bobby's team loses a close game, and in disgust he kicks an electric fan as hard as he can, then limps away in pain. It seems hard to believe a national championship high school team could have jelled here, but outside is Jersey City, a splendid motivational tool for those who would make something of themselves.

Bobby and Danny were bonded here through shared toil and suffering, particularly on that freezing-cold night in 1989 when their dad threw Bobby out of a St. Anthony practice for loafing and told him to get home on his own, any way he could. Moments later, Bob looked at Danny and said, "You're his brother—you get out of here too!" Eddie Rich thought about giving the boys a ride after practice ended, but he drove right past them as they stood shivering at a bus stop "because Bob was following me to make sure I didn't stop," says Rich.

The brothers are so competitive that Bob won't let them guard each other in pickup games anymore. When the two matched up against each other in the Duke-Seton Hall NCAA East Regional semifinal last March, it proved disastrous for both. In 18 minutes of action Danny missed four shots and scored no points, while Bobby, who played most of the game, finished with four points and six turnovers. "I'd be happy never to play against my brother again," says Bobby.

Back in the living room after the scrimmages, the Hurleys eat pizza and watch the big-screen TV that is almost too large to view clearly in this limited space. Ana sits by Bobby while he reads a letter from a Make-A-Wish official thanking him for his recent visit to the hospital in Chapel Hill. "After everyone was gone." the official writes, "Shoestring let out a deep belly laugh when talking about the visit—a sound that surprised even him!"

The letter cheers Hurley, and he says he wants to go back and visit Shoestring without reporters and cameras on the scene. But he is still bothered by his drunken-driving arrest and the effect it has had on people's perception of him. He's not a drunk. I le was out with buddies and had a couple of beers at a local pub. He was not swerving or speeding. He was stopped at a late-night roadblock and registered .10 on the Breathalyzer, the legal minimum for alcohol impairment in North Carolina. But he knows he was wrong, and he knows that, as Coach K says, he's not a normal person anymore.

"A lot of people are happy [about the arrest), because they don't want to see me succeed," he says. "And the ones who do want me to succeed, they are hurt. I constantly think how I've affected so many people."

He thinks of Magic Johnson and his great smile and his vocal, overwhelming presence on court, a communicative grace Hurley can only marvel at. He talks about the way Magic directed everything his team did in those scrimmages in San Diego, pointing, ordering, encouraging, running the show like the greatest point guard in the world. "I've never seen anybody handle things like that," says Hurley, his voice filled with reverence. But he knows he himself is growing. "People have told me how much better at speaking I am today than last year," he notes. He recently had braces put on his teeth, to correct his overbite. The teeth, combined with his slender build and his pallor, have always made him look somehow unhealthy. "I'm not overly concerned about my looks," says Hurley. But the braces are a concession, however slight, to a desire to improve his image. Hurley knows that he has his own special tools, that there are things he can do all on his own.

Can the Duke basketball team keep growing and contend for a third consecutive national crown next spring? Hurley thinks so, going so far as to suggest that some players may bloom—"relax" is how he puts it—now that the talented but overbearing Laettner has gone to the pros and won't be constantly criticizing his teammates.

"Christian was tough on us," says Hurley. "He would never not say something."

Coach K also thinks Duke can go for it all one more time: "Whenever you have a player like Bobby Hurley, you can challenge again. To say any less would be stupid."

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