Fistfights on the Sand Lot
Art Heyman and Larry Brown grew up together-Heyman in Oceanside, New York, and Brown in Long Beach. They competed in the playground across the street from the bakery that Brown’s grandfather owned. Even though they were only kids, this was fierce competition on a very high level. Because of this, only the best young players around could play on these ragged courts. Maybe you could never say that Art and Larry were actually close friends. Both kids were tough and mean and there were fistfights even then, but there was also a mutual respect. In fact, they were hounded by Frank McGuire at North Carolina until both committed to play for him. That was until Duke entered the picture. But that’s another story for another day. Suffice it to say that this pair was as tough as New York can produce, and a Heyman unleashed was a frightful prospect for any opposing team. He proved it at Duke for a very satisfied Coach Bubas.
The Magnificent Warrior
In the bleak, murderous North St. Louis neighborhood where Chris Carrawell grew up, he recalls three drive-by shootings in one summer-a setting he said he wouldn’t dare wish on many people. “Learning to stand up for mine” was his 11th Commandment. “My basketball was my thing; I had to fight older guys not to have it taken,” Carrawell says. Carrawell had no one else to stand up for him as a kid. His dad was non-existent, he was the man of the house, and most of the time it seemed as if no one cared whether he would ever enjoy a shred of success doing anything anywhere.
He claims that the only reason he and his siblings were able to make it was his Mom’s toughness. “She kept us in church, she was really religious,” he says. “Seeing her be there for us each day and keeping us away from the things that you can counter growing up in the neighborhood we grew up in. She was the strongest person I know to this day.” And because of her Carrawell became great at the one thing he could excel at above all others: basketball.
He had a few serious injuries-one might even have questioned why Mike Krzyewski pursued Carrawell for Duke, knowing that he may be chronically hampered. Maybe it was the kid’s fighting spirit, his refusal to ever back down. Well, in any case, Coach K’s bet paid off and Carrawell became a giant killer. At only 6’6″ and 215 he was assigned to Tim Duncan in college and defended him well. Yet he was also the alternate point guard and was usually assigned the other team’s best perimeter shooter. In the end, Coach K called Carrawell “the magnificent warrior,” and it was a fitting title for a young man who never gave up, who gave you his last ounce of effort every game, who had learned to stay cool in even the most pressured game conditions.
When Daniel Stopped Crying
A native of Missouri City, Texas, Daniel Ewing happened to grow up in a large competitive family with some heartless older brothers. When they played family basketball games, you’d think Daniel’s brothers would cut him some slack, give him a break-a free shot or two. But no way. Ewing was tortured, beaten down, pushed and shoved until he ran to his dad in tears looking for some sympathy. Nonchalantly, his dad usually just said, “Go back out there, and cut out the cryin’… ” So Daniel learned to fight his heart out for every rebound, every possession, every shot, and, in the process, he became one of the top high school players in America. As both a shooting and point guard at Duke, Ewing took part in more wins than any other player in the nation. He seemed mild-mannered but that belied the extreme effort he expended every game and as team captain for two years.
Competitive as They Come
At first glance Bobby Hurley looked like a pale, short 15-year-old with a petulant pout. But woe to the basketball coaches and players who underestimated him on the court. Hurley’s dad was a successful high school basketball coach and he and his son were both super competitive. This resulted in some cutthroat one-on-one games between the two while Bobby was still in elementary and junior high. Hurley Sr. was almost inhumane in the little things he did to rattle Bobby or get him off his game, to undermine his confidence. Eventually, he could no longer get inside his son’s head and Bobby graduated to rough and tumble, inner city courts. Sometimes he was the only white kid on the courts. If you lost a game, you were likely to stand waiting for at least an hour before you got another shot. Eventually, Bobby’s teams almost always won. He became arguably the best point guard ever to play for Duke and he still owns the NCAA career assist record at 1076. He was good for two national championships.
Some critics act as if only the rich privileged kids who grew up playing on gold plated hard courts ever end up at Duke. Or it’s just the kids who are the top brains in the nation. Or it’s just the ones who worship at the enormous Krzyewski Shrine perched in the middle of the Durham campus. Nope. A whole lot of Duke’s best players came up the hard way, scrapping and scratching their way against equally determined players on cement driveways and asphalt park courts from the slums of St. Louis to the boroughs of New York City.