- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Under such circumstances you find out a great deal about the next fellow. Take the second night, when I ate dinner with Andrew Pettis and Jeff Zatkoff, who shared a room down the hall. Until breaking bread with him, I had known Zatkoff only as a wiry 6'10" former juco All-America who lived in suburban Detroit, worked as an engineer at General Dynamics and had complained of being winded during full-court drills. We had barely taken our seats in the restaurant when he pulled out a pack of Winstons. I suddenly understood a little better.
Pettis is a 28-year-old clerk at General Mills in Minneapolis who tabulates cereal coupons that supermarkets send in. He made the biggest mistake of his life at age 15, when he quit the drums to devote more time to his game. He had been playing in a band with his cousin, Morris Day, and another local, a guy named Prince.
After the final workout I staked out the HoJo's lobby, waiting as each camper disembarked from the elevator. Eleven of the 15 survivors were going home. Ike Thornton left for Dayton with his dad; Bill Varner departed, alone, for Pittsburgh. Tracy Ballard, a 7-footer from Mankato State via the bush—i.e., the Australian—league, seemed less disappointed than his agent, Carl Hiteman, who was now facing a five-hour drive back to his home near Akron. A man in a blue T shirt named Ronald O. Akins represented Burden, a guard from St. Louis University, who's not to be confused with Luther (Ticky) Burden, the erstwhile Knick and convicted felon. Burden had played well but not well enough. Akins dispensed business cards reading "R.O.A. DIVERSIFIED. Get on the ROAD to success." This was a dream camp for agents, too.
Each player's ability to accept the Pacers' decision had a lot to do with how adroitly Newell could articulate it.
"But I played tough," Donnell Allen, a 6'8" power forward from UTEP, insisted, upon hearing the bad news.
"You did, Donnell," Newell replied, "but you seem to be a little uncomfortable facing the basket."
"Well, you know, I was at two different colleges and played center at one and power forward at the other
"And you've made great strides facing the basket, putting the ball on the floor."
"And what your game needs is a little more work in that direction."