Big Little Man
A high school player opens some eyes in Philly
At 4'9½" and 76 pounds, Jamal Collier, a sophomore reserve point guard at South Philadelphia's Charles Audenried High, is the smallest varsity high school basketball player in Pennsylvania and, probably, the country. But what this mighty minikin lacks in altitude, he compensates for in attitude.
"I wish I had 10 Jamal Colliers," says Audenried coach Joe Sirolli, who discovered Jamal three years and seven inches ago. "He's an ideal kid, he always stays upbeat." Sirolli first noticed Slick, as Jamal is often called, in a seventh-grade P.E. class he taught. "I was amazed at his ball-handling talent. He'd go through the legs, behind the back, do the spin dribble. And if you left him open, he'd nail the 20-footer."
Says Jamal, "It doesn't really matter how tall or small I am." He regularly guards players more than a foot taller than himself. But they must try to defend against him, too. As he confidently points out, "Whenever an opposing coach calls for a man-to-man and yells out my number to his player, the usual response is, 'Coach, I can't stick with this guy.' "
Jamal's stature is not attributable to any medical condition; his father is 5'11", his mother 5'5". "The doctor told me I'd grow someday," Jamal says. Until he does, he amazes those who watch him. Jamal scored 37 points in a summer league game last year, and off the bench this season he has 45 points, 39 assists and 24 rebounds (!) in 15 games. He is proudest, however, of a blocked shot a few weeks ago. "The guy was about six-two," he says, "and I jumped from behind and stuffed him. I never touched him, but the ref called a foul."
Maybe the ref didn't believe his eyes.
Metaphorically speaking, St. John's basketball coach Lou Carnesecca pulled out all the stops after his Red-men beat Connecticut 65-62 the other night despite 33 turnovers and 15 missed free throws: "At times we looked like the Marx Brothers and at times like the Three Stooges. Maybe this wasn't the Mona Lisa and they may not want it in the Louvre, but I'll put it in the win column."