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Sparrow likes to tease about hanging wrists and looking pretty for cameras, but he can afford to. And in truth he is something of a student of rebound angles and high-percentage shots ("When you're off-balance or in doubt go for the glass because there's a wider margin of error to work with," he says).
The tease is a game the irrepressible Sparrow plays with himself as well as with those around him. Sparrow literally cannot keep still. The head bobs, the arms twitch, and a shrill cackle of a laugh comes forth.
But against Notre Dame on Jan. 15, he didn't have the last laugh—or shot. Driving the left baseline, he scored to give Villanova a one-point lead with three seconds to play, only to be beaten by a 35-footer at the buzzer by Tracy Jackson. That left Sparrow in an atypically speechless state.
"All I remember is when it left his hands I thought, 'That ball is getting awfully close to the net. That ball is going through the net.' People were just going crazy everywhere. I just sat there and shrugged." Against Notre Dame, Sparrow went scoreless in the first half and didn't get back into the game until only six minutes were left. Thereupon he scored 10 points and brought Villanova to the brink of victory. Sparrow's scoring total was just .2 of a point off his season average, which is the second-lowest among the Wildcat starters. Center John Pinone is the team leader with 14.1, followed by Bradley (13.5), Guard Tom Sienkiewicz (12.2) and Forward Aaron Howard (7.7). None of these numbers an All-America makes, but balanced scoring often produces a winner, which 19-7 Villanova obviously is.
For all his last-second heroics, Sparrow has a tendency to drift at less crucial moments, which leads to turnovers and inconsistency. As Massimino says, "For us to play well as a team, Rory has to play well as an individual."
Sparrow says he now realizes how much Villanova needs him the first 39:59. "The problem is that, with all the diagrams and patterns and plays, I get uncomfortable within my role," Sparrow says. "I feel like a robot out there. You're not playing basketball, you're just going through motions, just doing. But with my handling the ball so much I had to snap out of it and start getting everyone their shots."
Not that he has completely given up on a little variation in the script every so often. "I'd like to get my shots, too," he says. "There isn't a point guard in the world who wouldn't love to shoot more. The only one who wouldn't is little Joey Pointguard, who went to camp every summer for 10 years and never shot the ball. He would stop breakaway layups and look for a teammate to pass to."
An above-average student, Sparrow chose Villanova over Virginia and Kansas State, among others, because of his interest in its electrical engineering program, but there is still one more little boy's dream that Sparrow would like to try. "Some guys think about nothing but hoops," he says. "I'm not that bad, but still, you can't have grown up in the U.S. and not have thought about playing pro ball. It has to be a goal if for no other reason than the money." To say nothing of hanging the wrist, banking the glass and beating the buzzer in the NBA.