It was like that all the way to Shawswick. As Knight drove the tiny back roads, Felling began going on in lyrical tones: "This is what basketball is all about. A boy, a dream, a hoop. The back roads of southern Indiana on a cold winter's night. Coaches flocking from all over to see this young wonder. The gym appears in the gloaming. Hearts skip a beat. Could it be, yes it is. The Home of Damon."
The Home of Damon was a rickety, steamy old gym that was packed with about 1,500 people, WELCOME TO THE HOME OF THE FARMERS read a sign on the wall. The Farmers had not lost in two years and were pounding their opponent, Oolitic, 19-0 after the first quarter. At 6'1", Bailey was several inches taller than anyone Oolitic had. He dominated. He made swooping moves to the basket. He went the length of the court. He put the ball behind his back. He also missed several jump shots and looked almost human at times. He was very, very good. A potential star. But still just a 14-year-old kid. The coaches sat high in the bleachers watching. Knight stood by the door. At halftime he was like royalty at a party. Everyone lined up to shake his hand, say hello and take his picture. They all knew why the legend was here. He was here to see Damon.
In the stands Waltman turned to Felling. "What do you think?"
"I think," Felling answered, "that the mentor has slipped a cog."
Bailey was mature. And a very nice kid. But there was no way he could compete with any of Indiana's guards. No eighth-grader could. Did he have great potential? Certainly. But to put any label on him at 14 was premature at best, ludicrous at worst. Felling went so far as to say he had seen better eighth-graders. "Maybe he'll be the greatest player ever," Felling said. "But who can tell now?"
They left before the game was over—Shawswick was up by 40; Damon had been taken out with 34 points. "What did you think?" Knight asked.
Waltman, ever the diplomat, shook his head and said, "He's pretty good. Very good."
"What about you, Felling?"
"Well, Coach, he's good. But I thought Jay Shidler was better in eighth grade, to tell you the truth and...."
Knight waved Felling off and got into his car. It took them 40 minutes to get back to Bloomington. As Knight got out of the car he said, "You know, Felling, I just knew, I knew you'd come up with an eighth-grader who was better."