An Auspicious Debut
It was perhaps appropriate that Richie Parker kicked off his college basketball career with a personal foul. He had spent two years away from organized hoops after a sexual-abuse conviction during his junior year ended a storied high school career and forestalled what was expected to be an impressive college one (SI, June 24). Several big-time basketball colleges considered signing him after he graduated from New York City's Manhattan Center High in 1995 but withdrew their offers after protests or the threat thereof. Finally, after Parker had spent a year away from home and basketball, at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, Long Island University offered him a scholarship last summer.
So there was Parker last Saturday afternoon, making his debut at St. John's Alumni Hall against another former New York City high school phenom who has been through a couple of disappointing years. And less than a minute into the game, Red Storm junior Felipe Lopez—who came out of Rice High in the Bronx as the nation's No. 1 player but has to this point been a bust—and Parker came together as Lopez drove to the basket. "The foul is on number 23, Richie Parker." Lopez made the first free throw, missed the second.
By the end of the game, Parker had gotten the better of Lopez—and maybe of his own past, too. No sign-carrying protesters awaited him at St. John's, and the pregame boos showered upon him weren't much more vociferous than those directed at his teammates. Only a few halfhearted chants of "Jaaail-bird!" from the crowd of 6,000 disturbed the docile atmosphere.
Parker, a 6'5" swingman, had his bad moments. He sometimes seemed unsure of where he should be, even in the moments before the game, when his choices were either heading for the bench or, oops, huddling with his teammates at midcourt. He missed his first four shots before making a fast-break layup eight minutes into the game. His three-pointer just before halftime put LIU ahead 40-39 and improved him to 2 for 10 from the floor. "Richie says it takes him 10 shots to get warmed up," said Long Island coach Ray Haskins. "I was counting."
Sure enough, in the second half Parker made 6 of 11 shots to finish with 20 points in a 76-73 win. Parker led LIU in rebounds (seven), minutes played (39) and postgame expressions of gratitude (17, at least). "I was just excited to be out there," Parker said. "I'm just happy to be back."
Long Island provost Gale Stevens Haynes, who made the decision to offer Parker a scholarship, sat behind the Blackbirds' bench, and that's where Parker headed when the game was over. While his teammates whooped it up on the court, he ran into the stands and hugged her long and tight. "Did we do good?" Parker asked. "Yes," Haynes replied, "you did really well."
Senators Are Flush
The travails of the Ottawa Senators (SI, Nov. 25) have been well chronicled, but say this for some of their players: They'll try almost anything to turn around their fortunes. Mired in a 14-game goalless slump, rookie center Bruce Gardiner recently received some unorthodox advice from teammate Tom Chorske, who told him to put his stick in the toilet. "Sometimes you've got to get the attention of your stick." Chorske, a veteran winger, told Gardiner. "Sometimes you've got to make a point, so you take that stick and put it in the crapper."
Gardiner hasn't followed Chorske's suggestion to the letter—he can't bear to immerse his stick—but from time to time he takes his stick into the locker-room bathroom and leans it against a stall, leaving it there unattended for hours. Chorske calls that "a kind of finesse move," but he isn't complaining. Last Saturday, Gardiner scored the tying goal late in the third period as the Senators rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the Hartford Whalers. It was his fourth goal since he began the potty practice on Nov. 16. So the next time someone says the Senators are headed for the toilet, don't assume it's a bad thing.