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Houston's tendency to get bounced by the ultimate champ, by the way, extends to the University of Houston basketball team, which has made it to the NCAA Final Four five times and lost to the eventual national champion on each occasion—to UCLA in the semifinals in both 1967 and '68, to North Carolina in the semis in 1982 and to North Carolina State and Georgetown in the final game the last two years.
It was a rainy day in July in Louisville, a very rainy day. More than three inches fell in the morning, and the total for 24 hours was 4.60 inches. Nonetheless, a complete program of harness races went off on schedule at Louisville Downs that evening—with one wonderful, watery result. The eighth race was won by a pacer named Striped Bass. In second place was Nimble Fish. Third was Happy Snapper.
All swimming upstream, no doubt.
"It was a dialectical feeling," former pro basketball star Brian Taylor says now of his decision to leave Princeton after his junior year to pursue a pro career. That was back in 1972, when it appeared that the bidding war between the ABA and the NBA, which meant big bucks for young players, was about to end. "It was the best time to leave," he says, "but I felt bad about it, too."
So did Princeton fans, many of whom were critical of his decision. They reminded Taylor, who had been called "the black Bill Bradley," that Bradley had postponed his own pro career to study at Oxford for two years. Taylor, who'd grown up in a public housing project in Perth Amboy, N.J. and had been admitted to academically prestigious Princeton despite very low college board scores, said he'd return to get his degree someday. As the years went by, the promise appeared to be an empty one and Taylor just one more of the army of pro athletes (45% in the NBA, 70% in the NFL) who never finish college.
Then in 1983, after a decade in pro basketball that included two ABA championships with the New York Nets and stints with Denver and San Diego in the NBA, Taylor tore an Achilles tendon and his career was over. Encouraged by his wife and by Princeton basketball coach Pete Carril, he applied for readmission. "I decided to go back because I was so close to graduating, just two semesters away," he explains. "And I was a new father. I figured it was time to sacrifice, to study and work hard. It put me back in touch with reality."
Taylor had to go through standard application procedures, including interviews with the dean. "I didn't know if they were going to let me back in," he says. "When I was accepted, I was almost as happy as when I was first accepted in 1969." He chose a double major in political science and Afro-American history and this spring, 12 years after his departure for the pros, Brian Taylor in cap and gown walked across the Princeton campus with his bachelor's degree in hand. "It's like reliving your youth," he says. "It was really worth my time."
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