It was a cold winter morning in December of 1969. Schools were on break, with teachers and coaches like DeMatha’s Morgan Wootten happy for a respite from their responsibilities.
This particular morning, Wootten heard a knock on the door of his Hyattsville home. He went to answer it and discovered ninth-grader Adrian Dantley standing on his doorstep. Dantley, then an up-and-coming star for the Stags, wanted to borrow the keys to the DeMatha gym, so he could squeeze in a workout.
It’s rare that someone would prefer winter in Lincoln, Nebraska to winter in Miami.
But it worked out for James Palmer, Jr.
Palmer, an Upper Marlboro native and former standout at St. John’s and Henry A. Wise, started his college career at the University of Miami. The 6-foot-6 wing played sparingly there, averaging about 12 minutes and three points per game for the Hurricanes.
With prospects for playing time looking bleak, Palmer opted to transfer to Nebraska. There, coach Tim Miles has shown a knack for landing transfers from big-time schools like Terran Petteway (Texas Tech), Walter Pitchford (Florida) and Andrew White (Kansas). All flourished at Nebraska and later pursued professional basketball careers of one kind or another.
“Those guys left a trail for me to follow,” Palmer told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. “That shows a good example of Nebraska getting good transfer players and really developing them.”
Was it the greatest single-game performance in the history of D.C. area high school basketball?
It just might be.
Fifty years ago this week, Harold Fox, a 6-foot-1 guard at Northwestern High School, pumped in 64 points in a wild 103-87 victory over Oxon Hill. Fox, a senior, connected on 29 of 44 shots, pouring in 28 points in the final quarter – 41 in the second half.
At the time, only one local high school player had ever scored more in a game – Mount Vernon’s Marty Lentz, who erupted for 74 points against Stuart during the 1960-61 season.
Fifty years ago this week, Washington’s sports pages were full of stories on the Green Bay Packers’ recent Super Bowl II victory over the Oakland Raiders.
In sports news closer to home, local basketball fans were starting to notice a kid named Jim O’Brien, who kept showing up in the Stuart High School boxscores with 20 or 30 points to his credit. The rail-thin, 6-foot-7 redhead averaged 17.8 points per game as a sophomore on a team that finished just 11-10.
But by January of 1968, O’Brien had shifted his game into a different gear. He’d had a 42-point, 29-rebound game against rival Falls Church to open the 1967-68 season – a stunning statistical achievement in a 32-minute high school game.
For years, a string of Notre Dame football coaches has tried to duplicate the sustained success of the program’s glory days.
Notre Dame’s basketball program, meanwhile, doesn’t have that problem.
Mike Brey has seen to that.
The Bethesda native and former DeMatha point guard, now in his 18th season as head coach of the Irish, became the all-time winningest coach in Notre Dame basketball history on Wednesday night, thanks to an 88-58 victory over North Carolina State. That triumph gave him 394 victories at Notre Dame, pushing him past the 393 wins accumulated by Richard “Digger” Phelps, who coached at the school from 1971-91.
In a nice gesture, Phelps was even on hand in South Bend the other night to hand Brey the game ball after the final buzzer.
South Lakes High School in Reston recently retired Grant Hill’s No. 32 jersey. Nobody who plays basketball for the Seahawks will wear that number again.
And with good reason; Hill was one of the best basketball players Northern Virginia ever produced.
He played 18 seasons in the NBA and was a seven-time all-star. He averaged 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists during his career. But he really made his mark in his first six seasons, before injuries limited his game. In his first six seasons, the multi-talented Hill averaged 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.
By the time he decided to quit, Hill had done well enough in business and with his investments to become part of a group that bought the Atlanta Hawks for an estimated $800 million in 2015.