So many recollections of retired basketball star Kobe Bryant have been offered since his recent untimely death. When I heard the news I immediately thought back about a decade to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event I attended at Urbana University. The speaker was former Wright State coach Ed Schilling.
He had been an assistant coach with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets when the team was evaluating potential early draft choices for the 1996 selection. It was a high school player from Philadelphia who caught Schilling’s eye.
“We ran him through drills and he looked great,” the coach began, “but I was so impressed when he wanted to go through more drills and work longer. He told me that’s what he needed to do to get better. I stayed in touch with him but we didn’t draft him. He became and is still one of the NBA’s greatest players, Kobe Bryant.”
Here was a former NBA coach telling current college players about the superior work ethic of one of their heroes. They were riveted on his every word.
It’s fascinating to review the 1996 NBA draft. Over Schilling’s dissent New Jersey chose Kerry Kittles at number eight. Bryant was taken 13th by Charlotte who traded him to the Lakers where he spent his entire career.
Who was taken immediately ahead of Kobe Bryant? Wright State center Vitaly Potapenko who went to Cleveland.
Browns TV show
I’ve been enjoying the Sportstime Ohio series “Cleveland Browns Club 46,” especially a recent episode with great running back Jim Brown. He was asked who hit him the hardest, and I thought he’d respond with a name like Sam Huff or Ray Nitschke who were top linebackers of the Brown era (1957-65).
Instead he chuckled and said, “I only faced the guy once when we were defending world champions and we played the college all-stars in the summer of 1965. He hit me harder than anybody. His name was Dick Butkus and he had a great career with the Bears.”
By the way, “46” indicates the year the Browns were founded and the show spotlights team legends in sit-down interviews. The entire series continues to be repeated on STO.
Point guard slam
As Ken Barhorst recently mentioned is his weekly “College Update,” many basketball games played by Sidney’s Andre Gordon for Texas A&M are widely available on cable TV. Andre recently played a major role in a road win at Tennessee that included an “alley-oop” slam dunk. The announcers were amazed that a freshman point guard would make such a play. They obviously hadn’t seen him in high school. We got treated to that for four years.
Next week: Current SDN writers share pro wrestling background.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross has worked in local sports media since 1975.