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Then again, Wooden felt obligated to ask his enigmatic friend, To what end? All those tricks, what did they accomplish? "It's crazy," he said. "How many hours does it take to learn all that? Wouldn't he be better off learning proper footwork for defense?"
"You don't understand," said Press. "He's going to be the first million-dollar pro."
The gloves and blindfolds were just the beginning. There were so many other drills. Pete learned the fundamentals, of course: dribbling with either hand, chest pass, bounce pass, foul shots, jump shots and hook shots. But because the basics could become monotonous, Press invented more elaborate regimens. Most of these moves were anathema to coaches of the day, but they kept Pete's interest alive. Often the ideas came to Press in his sleep.
In all there were about 40 drills and exercises--Homework Basketball, they would come to be called. Press and Pete gave each of them a name, such as Pretzel, Ricochet, Crab Catch, Flap Jack or Punching Bag. Pete would crouch, his arms moving in a figure-eight motion between and around his legs so rapidly that the ball looked as if it were suspended beneath him. He would bounce the ball two-handed between his splayed legs, catch it behind his back and then fire it forward, completing the pendulum motion. He would transform himself into a kind of human gyroscope. The beat of the ball as he dribbled it just inches from the ground approximated the staccato sound of a boxing speed bag. Perfected at Pete's pace, the drills had an almost hypnotic effect.
Pete would dribble the two miles between his home and College Avenue, the town's main drag. He'd dribble while riding his bicycle--alternating hands. One day Press told his son to get in the car and bring his ball. Pete did as he was told. Then Press instructed him to lie across the backseat with the passenger-side door open. Pete balked. He said, "What are people going to think?"
"Just do it," said Press.
Pete did it. He dribbled as his father drove, learning to control the ball at different speeds.
He'd also dribble in the movie theater, keeping time on the carpeted aisle through a double feature. He'd dribble in Martin's Drugstore, where he once won a five-dollar bet by spinning the ball on his fingertips for an hour straight.
Years later, Maravich would famously declare his childhood self "a basketball android." But androids don't think or feel, and the ball was an appendage not merely of his body but of his psyche as well. He went to bed with it, lulling himself to sleep while practicing his shooting form. He would repeat the words "fingertip control, backspin, follow-through" like a mantra. For Pete, there was comfort in repetition. Still, he was a light sleeper, as was his father. Once Pete awoke in a driving rainstorm. "I forced open my bedroom window and crawled out into the downpour," he would recall in his autobiography. "In my bare feet I ran to the muddied ground and began to dribble.... I knew if I could dribble under these conditions, I would have no problem on a basketball court."
Frail as he looked, Pete didn't acknowledge the usual boundaries of fatigue, age or nerve. Nor did his routines distinguish between the athletic and the aesthetic, between sport and show. He had already begun challenging his father's players to games of H-O-R-S-E for money. He would have to hoist the ball two-handed, off his hip. "He was half our size, literally," remembers George Krajack. "But he took some of our guys' money."