In Palo Alto, Calif. last month, where Fordham went to play in the Stanford Invitational, something of a miracle happened. As Fordham lost 73-56 in the opening round of the tournament to North Carolina's powerful Tar Heels, the California crowd fell in love with the kid from New York. They liked the way he looked, the way he hustled, the way he scrambled after loose balls, the way he used his body to take offensive fouls. They yelled with glee when he stole a ball from Carolina's Michael Jordan and went the length of the floor for a layup, and they were enthralled by his unorthodox lefthanded set shot from the hip. "He wrists the ball," says SI's Roger Jackson. "It's kind of like a long jumper, though you can't call it a jumper because he doesn't jump. He shoots flatfooted."
Hobbie scored eight points against Carolina, and the next night sank 13 straight foul shots and had a career-high 21 points as Fordham beat San Jose State 89-74 in the consolation game. The crowd was ecstatic. Whenever Hobbie made a good pass they cheered, and when he scored they gave him an ovation. At the end of the game they chanted, "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
At halftime during the final between North Carolina and Stanford, some fans spotted Hobbie in street clothes standing with his teammates. They surrounded him, asking for autographs. He was led onto the floor, handed a basketball and asked to try one of his patented set shots from near midcourt. He missed his first try, but when he sank his second the crowd went wild. Stanford's amiable president, Donald Kennedy, came over and shook his hand. "Transfer!" the crowd shouted. "Transfer!" Admirers carried him off the court on their shoulders. He was selected to the all-tournament team, and while North Carolina's Sam Perkins was voted the outstanding player, the PA. announcer called Hobbie the "people's choice for MVP." A Stanford student from New Jersey started a Jerry Hobbie Fan Club, and after the holidays the university paper plans to run a box called The Hobbie Watch to keep its readers updated on Hobbie's doings.
Fordham head coach Tom Penders, who calls Hobbie the Cabbage Patch Kid of Stanford, says, "Jerry has the ability to make things happen. He seems to rise to the occasion." Hobbie himself says, "I guess the fans wanted to have something to do before the championship game. I play sort of a playground game—I'm flashy. Maybe too flashy, but I guess they liked my style of play. I wish we had more fans like that at home."