My "March Madness" Memory
In Spring 2007, I played in a Sunday night pickup basketball game against a team that had Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, and Jordan Hill, the three of which just led the University of Arizona to an opening-round win in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Budinger and Hill will be first-round NBA draft picks as soon as this year. Knowing these players' prominence and public personas, my primary objective in the game was to not hurt or touch any of them.
For a while I was guarding Budinger, who drained two wing jumpshots from at least 25 feet; I had halfheartedly contested the shots. On a fast break, Budinger ran the lane and dunked from outside the circle; I made sure to get at least four feet out of the way. I'd seen many people dunk, and I myself have done that deed, but this level of athleticism didn't compare; he had leapt, yes, like a wildcat, with his hips at the level of my face. It's the difference between dunking with your hand one inch above the rim and dunking with your hand a foot-and-a-half above the rim.
Nic Wise didn't have the obvious NBA body of Hill and Budinger, but he could definitely shoot well, but preferred ballhandling. He could cut the lane and get up a shot faster than anyone I'd seen in person. The stats say he scored 29 in the tourney game.
The experience of being on the other team was comical and awe-inspiring. Budinger, Hill, and Wise were more like superheroes than regular guys shooting and playing ball. The ball moved so crisply, spun so beautifully in the air, and the rim never seemed so low. The court never seemed so short.
For a moment I was guarding Jordan Hill, whose skill game was very raw at the time. At 6'10'' and athletic, he very well could have dunked every time he got the ball, but was missing short post shots which he'd probably been doing drills on. One other guy didn't get so lucky -- he got "teabagged" with Hill jumping right over him for a dunk.
I didn't get on fanboy status with any of the guys, but the game was fun and they had a decent time. Funny how the athletes lived such a different life, with their own facilities and food, and probably athletic department-hired tutors. But everyone played their part -- I was a graduate student who could fashion myself however I wished. The greenskeepers kept the main street looking good, the cops looked for suspicious people, and the undergraduates partied. Just a sublime equation. A wonder that anyone learns or discovers anything in such places.
The University of Arizona in Tucson is quite a magical place. This is only one of many memories that I have about it.