Last week Nash could be found dribbling his mangy tennis ball between his legs for an hour without a double dribble as he sat on a threadbare couch at the off-campus house he shares with four teammates. The joint is called the Fireplace, either because it sits across the street from a firehouse or because it looks like the remains of a four-alarm blaze. As he dribbled, Nash sat transfixed by the televised image of Utah Jazz guard and Gonzaga alumnus John Stockton, the WCC's last polished diamond and the guy to whom Nash is ceaselessly compared. "The NBA is the major dream in my life and the grail I chase every day," Nash says. "I am obsessed with it."
That obsession has put him among the elite point guards in the college game this season, and he may be the most solid of the bunch. Who's better? Kansas's Jacque Vaughn may direct traffic better, but his outside shot isn't as good as Nash's. Georgetown's Allen Iverson is a terrific talent but still turns the ball over too much and makes a lower percentage of his shots than Nash does. Georgia Tech freshman Stephon Marbury is a wunderkind, but he has played only a handful of games.
Says Utah coach Rick Majerus, "The Greek philosopher Diogenes carried a lantern around in the daytime looking for an honest man. Today he'd have an even tougher time finding an NBA point guard, but if he came around with that lamp, the light would shine right on Steve Nash."
"Born leaders like Steve don't come along that often, so if we have a lottery pick, I'd argue for him to the point of a fight," says New Jersey Net scout Jim Hadnot, who has seen Nash play more than 30 games. "You feel secure knowing that if Steve wins the lottery, he's not going to quit his job."
"I like Nash, he's a tough kid," says understandably interested Vancouver Grizzly general manager Stu Jackson. "It's clear that, marketingwise, having a B.C. player is a no-brainer."
Nash's popularity around Vancouver is immense. Last spring four of his Bronco teammates happened to mention at the Canadian border that they were going to visit Nash, and the border guard replied, "Steve? What's he doing home so early?" The guard must have missed the item in the Victoria Times-Colonist a few days before that had reported the news flash that Nash had returned to town for a week. There's already a book in the works on Nash's life story, and it seems as if every other caller to sports-talk radio shows in Vancouver wants to know if the Grizzlies will draft him. The speculation has become so overwhelming that Nash apologized to Jackson for becoming a bother when the two met recently. "The Grizzlies would be my number one choice if I had to pick a team," Nash says, "but if there were an NBA team in Moose Jaw, I'd be glad to play for it."
There are only two Canadians currently on NBA rosters, Rick Fox of the Boston Celtics and Bill Wennington of the Chicago Bulls, and Nash is quick to point out that both played high school ball in the States. Only eight Canadians have ever played in the NBA, and none has created any significant stir, meaning that Nash could become his country's most illustrious hoops icon since James Naismith.
Nash can't wait to get out of the Fireplace and into the fire. "It seems like my whole life I've been this little Canadian kid dreaming that somebody would give me a chance, and now I'm asking for my shot in the NBA," he says, palming the tennis ball for a moment. "I guess I'm still in that elevator screaming, but they can hear me now and I'm on my way to the top."
Soon everyone will know Victoria's secret.