Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't You Forget About ... Greg Grant

TigerBlog was flipping through the channels when he came upon VH1 Classic, one of the better stops any remote can make. The channel, which is guaranteed to take anyone TB's age back to when he or she was young (or younger, at least), happened to be counting down the top 100 songs of the 1980s.

TB started watching at No. 11 and followed it to No. 1 (Livin' On A Prayer, by Bon Jovi, which as an aside ranks in the top 25 of most frequently played songs on TB's i-tunes). It wasn't until going to the VH1 website that TB saw the complete list, and to be honest, songs 51-100 are probably better than 1-50.

When TB first started watching, he assumed the No. 1 choice would either be "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns and Roses (No. 7) or "Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds (not listed, unless TigerBlog is completely missing it; if it's not listed, then the entire list immediately gets called into question).

Anyway, TigerBlog began the 1980s as a high school student and ended it as a sportswriter. He remembers two work-related events at the end of the decade very distinctly. First, Trenton Times sports editor Jim Gauger posted a sign in the newsroom that read "New Decade, New Togetherness," and within a week it was defaced.

Second, there was the vote for the top sports story of the decade in Mercer County. In TigerBlog's mind, there were only two possible choices, and of course, neither won. Instead, the fact that Steinert High had won the boys' and girls' state title in soccer in the same year (1988, TB believes) was the choice, which was a nice accomplishment but a choice and subsequent story that still bothers TigerBlog.

No, the only choices were these: Princeton's 50-49 loss to Georgetown in the opening round of the 1989 NCAA men's basketball tournament, which TB considered 1A, and the whole story of Greg Grant, which for TB's money was a clear No. 1 (sort of like "Don't You Forget About Me").

TB was reminded of all of this not only by the VH1 special but also by a story in Sunday's Trenton Times about Greg Grant and an appearance he was making for his book.

Greg Grant stands about 5-6. He played basketball at Trenton High and then spent a little time at Morris Brown College in Atlanta before leaving there and going to work at fish market in Trenton, where then Trenton State College coach Kevin Bannon saw him playing in a local summer league.

Bannon talked him into coming to TSC, where he would play for three years. Along the way, he'd score 2,611 points, or 103 more than Bill Bradley did at Princeton. Grant is the only player to play in Mercer County that you can write that about, by the way.

Actually, comparing Grant's numbers to Bradley's is somewhat fascinating.

Grant averaged 30.7 points per game for his three years, while Bradley averaged 30.1. In fairness, Grant did make 171 three-pointers in his TSC career, while Bradley didn't make any; had there been a three-point shot in the 1960s, Bradley would have added probably 200 points to his total.

Shooting percentage? Grant shot 52.3% for his career, an astonishing number for someone so small who took so many three-pointers. Bradley was a 51.3% shooter for his career, also an extraordinary number considering how he was the focus of every team Princeton played.

Bradley was a better foul shooter at 87.6%, though Grant was a very strong 80.8%. Grant had 248 career rebounds; Bradley had 1,008.

Both players led their teams to the Final Four, in Grant's case, the 1989 NCAA Division III championship game, where the Lions fell to Wisconsin-Whitewater. That game was played in Ohio, the same weekend as the opening round of the men's tournament in Providence where Princeton played Georgetown.

Trenton State games when Grant played there were huge events, as students often waited overnight to get in to the bigger games in Packer Hall.

If his story ended there, it would have been amazing enough. It continued, though, as Grant went on to play in the NBA from 1989-96. TB often wrote about Grant, up through his days with the Sixers and the Knicks. He was, and TB imagines still is as he works with local kids these days, a humble, gracious, appreciative person who seemed to understand the good fortune that had smiled on him and the fact that he was able to take that opportunity and do so much with it through his own hard work.

Don't you forget about me? Don't worry, Greg Grant. Much like TB hears people who saw Bradley talk about him in reverential tones, no one who ever saw Greg Grant play will ever forget about him.


Anonymous said...

But unlike Bradley, Grant never received a college degree. So he was not really a student-athlete, just another Bannon recruited player. A good one, but not there for an education.

Anonymous said...

Why try and take some of the shine off the man's basketball ability? Take the negativity somewhere else. There's no room for it here.