Later that week, Bones McKinney signed his other must-get prospect to a Wake Forest scholarship. "Some years," he said, "are like that. Thank the good Lord."
East of Ogden, Utah is the hamlet of Huntsville and the home of 18-year-old Greg Harrop. From the Harrop house to the campus of the University of Utah it is 46 miles as the white air-conditioned Cadillac flies—the one with the blue-leather upholstery belonging to Utah Coach Jack Gardner. After a time, said Morris Buckwalter, Gardner's assistant, you could "just point the car north on U.S. 91 and it would automatically wind up at Harrop's front door."
Greg Harrop, 6 feet 2, a slick back-court player at Ogden's Weber High, was the best little man Gardner had seen in 10 years of scouting. He had been informed of Harrop by Arnie Ferrin, a former Utah star, and after a number of contacts invited the boy to the Gardner home on Michigan Avenue in Salt Lake City. The Gardners' picture window overlooks the Bonneville Golf Club. Greg Harrop, Gardner had learned, was keen about golf. Gardner left the drapes open to provide an inspiring view of the first hole.
On that day Gardner, spiffy in sport shirt and slacks, served up tall iced Cokes and told Harrop about a boy who once appeared at the Gardner front door, asking to play for Utah. "He told me he averaged 30 points a game, was class valedictorian, could hook with either hand and was the fastest big man his prep coach had ever seen. I asked him if he had any weaknesses. 'Yes,' he admitted. 'I have been known to tell a lie.' " ( Gardner has been searching for a new opening joke. One of his recruits heard the same story at another school last spring.)
Gardner soon had Harrop believing that there was no university like Utah. He spoke of academic standards ("basketball is second at Utah, education is first"), of Greg's future ("our interest in you will not end when you get your degree"), of the housing ("new dormitories, TV, kitchenette, laundry service—and sometimes extra-long beds for basketball players to grow into"), the fine food ("seconds all around") and the attractive schedule ("we even play in Hawaii and usually end up in one of the big postseason tournaments"). Gardner's delivery was irresistible, and when the visit was over he felt he had won his man. Then Harrop went to visit Brigham Young University and the report got back to Utah that he was going to enroll there.
Out came the white Cadillac, and Buckwalter pointed it north toward Huntsville. They reached the small farming community at dusk and pulled up to the old, two-story red-brick house. There was a basketball hoop on the garage door. Greg's dad, Blain Harrop, said putting it up was his first official act when they moved in. Mrs. Harrop said yes, and it was a better job than he had done on anything since.
In the living room, Gardner and Buck-waiter tried to review the advantages of Utah, but Greg Harrop and his younger brother Jim, 15, were more disposed to talk about how great Buckwalter had been as one of Utah's "B Boys" of 1955 and 1956. "Bunte, Bergen and Buckwalter," chirped Greg. "What a group." He said he had been following Utah teams as long as he could remember. "I guess I've always wanted to play for you," he said. A cuckoo clock broke in at this point and everybody laughed, except Gardner, who was thinking that this did not sound like a boy planning to go to Brigham Young.
Mrs. Harrop said that Greg was so dedicated to basketball that he canceled his New Year's date last year because he was in training. "The girl left a letter in the car telling him that was the end. It didn't bother him one bit. And she was a candidate for Miss Universe."
Gardner laughed. "If he threw Miss Universe over, then I've got nothing to worry about."
"Are the new dorms near the golf course?" Greg asked.