Sprewell: "No. That stuff happens."
Keown: "But it doesn't always happen that close to home."
Sprewell: "People die every day. Maybe if it had been more serious, it would have affected me."
Keown: "Did you lose the dogs?"
Sprewell: "No. I still got 'em. I kept 'em."
Keown: "Even after that?"
Sprewell: "Didn't matter."
Sprewell explained months later that he actually had put to sleep the dog that had mauled his daughter but had kept the other pit bulls. Why he had chosen not to make that point clear in the first place, only he knew. Everyone else was left scratching his head.
Sprewell may have been as uncomfortable around reporters as they were around him, possibly because he is not like the majority of NBA players, who have been star athletes since childhood and arrive in the pros having dealt with the media for years. Sprewell was born in Milwaukee—hometown of his mother, Pamela Sprewell—but grew up in Flint, Mich. During his sophomore year of high school Pamela and Latrell's father, Latoska Fields, split up, and Pamela and Latrell moved back to Milwaukee. (Pamela now lives in the upscale River Hills section of Milwaukee in a house Latrell bought her.) Latrell's basketball experience was limited to playground ball until James Gordon, the coach at Washington High, spotted a rangy, athletic-looking young man walking down a school corridor. He invited Sprewell to come out for the team even though he was already a senior. Sprewell accepted the invitation and averaged 28 points per game in his only high school season. "What made him good was his work ethic," says Gordon. "If you suggested he work on free throws instead of dunking, he'd go straight to the free throw line."
Sprewell received no Division I scholarship offers, so he enrolled at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo. In his first year he was suspended because of an alleged shoplifting incident. "We suspended him for several games," says Gene Bess, Sprewell's coach at Three Rivers. From Three Rivers, Sprewell transferred to Alabama, where he built a reputation as a defensive specialist and averaged 17.8 points as a senior.