The court is
cleared of bothersome younger players and the sides are chosen. Playgrounds
often have distinguishing characteristics, and New Cassel has the trademark of
being a backcourt man's park. Dennis, at a slender 6'2", is a natural
guard, but here he is the tallest man on the court.
The game, in
traditional style, goes to the first team scoring 15 points, by ones. Bobo, who
prefers dribbling between his legs to anything else, hits a 15-foot jumper to
start things off. DuVal's team brings the ball up and works it around in a
style that would please even the strictest of patterned-offense coaches. The
passes are quick and accurate. Finally they stop and somebody is forced to go
one-on-one. He moves down the lane for a twisting layup into a swirl of hacking
arms and crashing bodies.
hesitantly called and only grudgingly accepted in these games, so the good
players have learned to put extra strength into their drives and to be cunning
with their shot. DuVal plays well, but so does his opponent, Gordon Roe. There
are some very flashy players on both teams, including a couple of high school
kids who may make it big someday. Only when someone bombs a shot from the
baseline does DuVal's team win by a point.
There is a pause
while the next team loosens up. "The moves are better here," says one
of DuVal's friends. "Better than in the city." It is possibly true, but
DuVal is thinking of something else.
laughs, "in high school I used to go to Harlem and play at a court on 135th
and Lenox. They called it the battleground because that's exactly what it was.
You could get killed on that court. This is my home now.
I stayed in Syracuse, and I think it hurt my basketball. I need the park—the
local guys, the 'I'm gonna do it to you and you're gonna do it to me' attitude.
It makes you a competitor." DuVal stops for a second to retrieve a ball and
and I, a lot of times we sit and talk about what's happening—why they're where
they are, why I'm where I am. And sometimes it doesn't make any sense—we can't
figure it out. No justice. But on the playground, playing our kind of ball,
we're all the same."
DuVal moves out
to the court and Danny Levi, who is now at Roanoke College, comes over and sits
down. He points to a young man sitting on a bench watching the players.
"See that guy over there? That's Dennis' older brother Dale. He was good,
man. He could do anything. Then he got messed up on drugs, but he's O.K. now.
Got a wife and a little boy. He just watches these days, though. Never plays
much. Usually just sits there and watches Dennis."
A player runs for
a final drink of water, somebody tosses away a cigarette and the little kids
are shooed off the court again. Dennis DuVal, who made the dean's list last
fall at Syracuse, was voted to the second team Academic All-America squad and
was chosen in the second round of the ABA undergraduate draft by the Denver
Rockets, dribbles the ball and jokes with a friend. The second game is ready to
Not many players
who stand 6'9" and weigh in at a heavy-muscled 230 pounds could be said to
look like a small boy, but John Shumate, Notre Dame's superb center, does. His
face is smooth and friendly—always open, usually talking ("The team doctor
says I'd make a wonderful politician," he says). And sitting in his
favorite diner in his hometown of Roselle, N.J., which is several exits south
of Manhattan on the Garden State Parkway, he shows a child's enthusiasm for
everything he does.