SI Vault
Rick Telander
November 12, 1973
Drawn by the challenge of the city playgrounds, college stars like Dennis DuVal of Syracuse perfect their magic for the season ahead
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November 12, 1973

They Always Go Home Again

Drawn by the challenge of the city playgrounds, college stars like Dennis DuVal of Syracuse perfect their magic for the season ahead

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"I play all the time at St. John's against guys like Schaeffer and Billy Paultz of the New York Nets. And last summer I played one-on-one against John Roche, and I think I did O.K. But there are a lot of times when I have to work on my own moves. By myself. In a game, you can't stop and do that."

He keeps shooting at the rim in his backyard, and every shot that is on target continues through the hoop and bounces off the court. "You know what I look forward to when I'm at school?" he asks, his blue eyes never losing sight of the rim. "To coming home and shooting in my backyard."

He continues to pump away, effortlessly, shot after shot. Winters backs up and opens the driveway gate, disappearing around the side of the house. All that can be seen now is a ball arching from out of sight and dropping time after time through the hoop. A voice comes from around the corner. "My 25-footer from the driveway is great. Too bad I can't take the garage with me to games."

Eventually Winters comes back into view, working his way in for some turnaround jumpers.

"In parks, you play to win," he says. "You can't really shoot from outside because of the wind and bent rims and all that. You just drive all the time and throw the ball up any old way. That's O.K., but it always seems a lot of guys who play great in parks sort of fold in organized games."

The smile leaves, and for awhile he is jut-jawed and earnest. He shoots each jumper precisely the way he shot the last. He moves around the tiny court and then backs out the driveway, returning every few seconds to retrieve the ball. His black dog comes out and watches. A boy rides up on his bike, observes for a few minutes and then moves on. There is no sound except the monotonous whack, whack of the rubber ball.

"They crazy! They crazy!" yells Fly Williams, super sophomore at Austin Peay University, his arms waving to show the immensity of that craziness. "They seriously insane in my neighborhood."

He stands there smiling, holding court in front of seven or eight of his basketball-playing buddies. All of them are from Brooklyn. From Brownsville, South Brooklyn, Canarsie, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant; from the ghettos and housing projects. And they all nod in agreement.

"I mean, if you don't have a gun—maybe five or six guns—you in real trouble. The other night this dude's standing in a building yelling, 'Shoot me! Shoot me!' And this other dude was holding a gun in the mother's face the whole time. And he shot him. The shot dude comes staggering out on the sidewalk and lays there. And the people—man, the people on the sidewalk—they just stood around and laughed."

Williams himself laughs. So does everybody else. They laugh and punch each other at his wild delivery. He is a comedian, and like good comedians, his material is part comic, part tragic.

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