Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Here's To You, Mrs. Givens

TigerBlog was doing the book and the clock/scoreboard at Little Miss TigerBlog's basketball tournament last week - and making very few friends among the other team's parents.

For starters, TB figured he was being nice by agreeing to do both jobs. Also, he's done both so many times in the past that it's second nature to him.

Lastly, it's not that far from what he does for a living. In many ways, it'd be like having a vascular surgeon tend to any little injuries that might come up in a sixth-grade girls' basketball game.

Anyway, the other team's parents didn't see it that way, to the point where TB came to realization that some of them thought he was actually cheating (he wasn't). In the end, the other team won 26-23, nobody fouled out and TB had no impact on the proceedings.

As for the coach, her only objection seemed to be held balls, of which there are many, many, many in the average sixth-grade game. TB kept flipping the possession arrow on the scoreboard every time the refs signaled a tie up, only each time the ball went "black," the white team protested.

When the game ended, TB congratulated the white team and went on about his business.

A little more than 24 hours later, he and the coach of the white team hugged near midcourt at Drexel's basketball arena. A little more than 15 minutes after that, TB was left thinking that this woman - whom he hardly knew - was a great youth sports coach, not to mention completely fascinating.

And in talking to her, TB heard words come out of her mouth that were very similar to those he's heard hundreds of times from another basketball coach - Pete Carril.

It turns out that the woman's son is Samme Givens, the leading scorer for the Drexel men's team and a second-team All-CAA selection last year. Givens is probably two games away from his 1,000th career point, and despite being only 6-5, he has 868 career rebounds, 18 away from third place all-time for the Dragons.

The Drexel men played the first game of a New Year's Eve afternoon doubleheader, easily defeating St. Francis (the one in Pennsylvania). The second game was the Princeton women against Drexel, in a game the Tigers would win 63-51.

According to Givens' bio, his mother is Betty Givens, though TB never got her name.

She and her husband were players at West Chester, and in fact her husband came up nine rebounds short of having the absurd distinction of reaching 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Instead, he finished with 2,054 points (first all-time at West Chester) and 991 rebound (third).

She and her husband have three boys, all basketball players. Clearly, this is a basketball family.

In talking to her, TB instantly heard the Carril-like philosophies of how it's impossible to separate the player from the person, how valuable hard work is, how important it is to buy into the team concept over the individual.

"I know you want to play more," she said when talking about a conversation she once had with a player. "What are you doing to make yourself play more?"

That's word-for-word Carril.

Like Princeton's Hall of Fame coach, she gushed a love of the sport, a respect for how it should be played. Her knowledge ran deep, and it was obvious to TB - who didn't know her at all - that she loved to teach it to young players.

And to watch good college players. And so she stayed for the Princeton-Drexel women's game, sitting diagonally across from where TB was. At a few points, TB caught her gesturing, speaking, expressing frustrations and ultimately throwing her hands up in admiration for the play of Princeton's Niveen Rasheed.

How many young players has she helped reach their own potential? Who knows.

Among the players she's coached in her life was current Princeton senior Douglas Davis, who currently has 1,320 career points for the Tigers.

Douglas is averaging 14.0 points per game. With 15 regular-season games to go (14 Ivy games plus the game against the College of New Jersey here this Sunday at 2), Davis would score an additional 210 points if he maintains his current average.

If so, that would leave him with 1,530 career points, or 14 away from Kit Mueller for second place all-time at Princeton. One postseason game would give him those 14, which obviously is his average.

Davis is currently eighth all-time at Princeton, one point behind Geoff Petrie for seventh. The list ahead of him is this:
Bill Bradley 2,503
Kit Mueller 1,546
Pete Campbell 1,451
Craig Robinson 1,441
Brian Earl 1,428
Bob Scrabis 1,365
Geoff Petrie 1,321

Ian Hummer, by the way, has 927 career points, which means that he and Davis combined have 2,247, which doesn't even reach what Bradley had by himself, in three years, without the three-point line. TB likes to remind people now and then just what an assault on the record book Bradley mounted, leaving his name in places that will never, ever, ever be touched.

And while Davis won't reach Bradley, he has a good chance of getting closer than any other player ever has at Princeton. For that matter, if he finishes second, he will scored more points that any player who played at Princeton for Carril.

Think about the career that Davis has put together. A chance to finish second all-time in scoring at Princeton.

And one of the greatest, if not the single greatest, basket in school history.

Mrs. Givens taught him well.

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