His name was Scott, and he had a blond Prince Valiant haircut that jiggled when he dribbled. Some dopey columnist asked him the other day if he was having fun at basketball camp. Scott looked shocked that the question even had to be asked. Finally, he said: "I love it."
Standing nearby, a basketball tucked against his right hip, was Scott's teammate, Walter. Walter's haircut didn't do a thing when he dirbbled. The reason: it was "No-Fro" -- an Afro that had been sheared right down to the scalp. When the same columinst asked Walter if he was having fun, back came the same incredulous look, followed by much the same answer.
"Anybody who couldn't have fun here must be crazy," Walter said.
By the unwritten rules of Washington basketball, these two 11-year-old boys should never have met, much less played on the same court at the Gonzaga College High School Basketball Camp.
Scott lives in Gaithersburg, and his parents have the money to buy him not only a snazzy new pair of Nike sneakers, but a seat on a private bus that ran between Westmoreland Circle and the Gonzaga campus for the two weeks Scott attended the camp.
Walter lives at North Capitol and K streets, just around the corner from Gonzaga, in public housing. He not only doesn't have the money for new sneakers or bus fare; he says he hasn't seen his parents since he was 8 months jold. "One day my dad didn't come home, then one day my mom didn't come home," Walter explained, with a shrug.
But a concentrated dose of "hoops" can be a great equalizer. By the end of the Gonzaga summer camp last Friday, Scott and Walter were not only swatting each other's palms, but swapping phone numbers. In a small way, Dick Myers had demonstrated yet again how sports can knit a metropolitan area together.
Like most of the area's top high school coaches, Myers runs a summer basketball camp at the school where he works the rest of the year so he can earn a little money and get an early look at some promising talent that might want to play for him in a few years.
But the racial and socioeconomic mix at the Gonzaga camp is what sets it -- and Myers -- apart.
Most basketball camps attract affluent, white campers whose families can afford to pay as much as $250 for five days. The 179 boys between 9 and 16 who attended this summer's Gonzaga camp paid only $120 for two weeks, and 55 boys were "sponsored" by businesses or private individuals.
There isn't any mystery about what color the sponsored campers are, or where they live. "These are black city kids," Myers says. "Let's face it: We had 55 kids that, if it weren't for this camp, wouldn't be going to camp."
Different, too, was the Gonzaga camp's emphasis. Most kids who attend a basketball camp dream hourly of leading the Boston Celtics in scoring. "I've got kids here who've never even played before," Myers said.
To underscore his feeling that participating is the point, not winning, Myers' camp gives only one award: to the player who improves the most.
But helping the Scotts and Walters of the Washington area learn about each other has as much value as learning how to shoot free throws. The proof of the pudding came last week at Gonzaga when Skeeter Swift, a former Alexandrian and former professional player, came to speak to the campers about the beauties of shooting a basketball and the dangers of taking drugs.
"How many of y'all know where 14th and T is?" Swift thundered.
Both Scott and Walter raised their hands.
"Man, you can get everything there, from the bugs to the drugs," Swift said."You stay away from there, you hear?"
Scott and Walter nodded.
A kid from Gaithersburg who knew about 14th and T?How has Scott heard about it?
From Walter. "We talked about it. I never would have known if I hadn't come here," said Scott.
Some basketball camps teach more than basketball.
So you think watering the lawn doesn't consume much H20? Art Brigham of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission informs me that using a single half-inch-in-diameter hose for one hour will eat up 600 gallons.