It is typical of paradoxical Al Dutch that the Georgetown forward would make the most breathtaking play of his Hoya career in Jersey City, a town where even the smokestacks cough.
But then basketball fans have choked on Dutch's brilliance before. Everything about the 19-year-old, who is part success, part enigma and all artist, seems to be contradictory.
To evaluate him - and the Dutch Debate is practically a parlor game among Hoya followers - is a constant process of modification, amendment and revival. No simple basketball epigram can capture sim.
But the debate about how good the 6-foot-7 dutch is and how good he should be always is kicked off by some affront to the laws of physics like the one he perpetrated in Jersey City Tuesday night.
Simply call that move The Flying Dutchman Special, Hoya fans have seen rough drafts of it in McDonough gym warmups. But St. Peter's was hit with the whole magnum opus.
On a late-game, one-on-one fast break, Dutch, parrying the defender with his left arm, palmed the ball directly off the dribble with his huge right hand. Holding the ball away from him like a cantaloupe, Dutch left this earth around the foul line.
At the apex of his leap, Dutch held the ball straight overhead, roughly 11 feet up, while the defender tried to climb him, hand over hand.After the defender returned to New Jersey, Dutch remained aloft, spinning the layup off the glass.
The entirely one-handed play typified Dutch's assets: his speed, his jumping, his dexterity, his soft touch, his audacious creativity and his showmanship.
These conspicuous gifts, plus solid schoolboy credentials (28 points a game as a Carroll High senior) have made Dutch a marked young man burderned with unlimited expectations.
"Only the great ones would attempt to make a play like tht layup of Al's," said GU coach John Thompson. "Some coaches would tell him to cut it out, but you have to allow for progress. People once thought the jump shot was ridiculous."
That is how people think of Dutch - as a player who might invent something uniquely his own.
"Coaching Al is like reading a new book. You never know what's on the next page," said Thompson. "Every day I find a new talent."
"Just last week I discovered he could outjump all my big guys on center taps. I told him, 'Al, I didn't know you were a leaper, too.' So he's jumping center for us now.'"
Despite all the praise and the buildup, Dutch has to live with a line of cold Hoya statistics that cause many fans to consider him almost a failure.
As a freshman starter he averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds; this year 13.7 and 8.1. Such numbers are solid, but commonplace in college basketball.
Do many fans, judging solely by those stats, consider Dutch's college career so far to be a disappointment?
"Definitely," says Dutch, his voice quiet as ever. "Well, sometimes," he modifies.
"It's wrong for people . . . ah, people who really don't know what they're looking at, to evaluate any of my players statistically," says Thompson, hurt that his lessons in unselfishness, have cost his players praise.
"Especially Al and Derrick (Jackson). If I put Al on solo," adds Thompson as though the phrase were "automatic pilot," "he'd score around 30 a game."
But Thompson has determined from day one at Georgetown that Dutch would learn the entire game of basketball or they would both bust. It has taken two seasons but the experiment of turning Dutch from an inconsistent "pure jump shooter" - a phrase Thompson spits out like a curse - into a complete player finally has been a success.
"One reason Georgetown is 17-5 despite all the seniors they lost and (freshmen) Craig Shelton getting hurt," said fairfield scout Brendon Suhr this week, " is that Al does not go for the big numbers for himself. He rebounds, breaks the press with his passes, plays good defense. If either Dutch or Jackson were selfish they could completely ruin that team because Georgetown isn't nearly as big and strong and loaded with talent as people think."
So the news about Al Dutch is good after all, right? He's a team man now, the one who always catches the coaches' eye and transmits strategy to the team. He's learned, as he says "how to find the pockets in a defense and penetrate for the 12-footer or the good percentage pass."
Wrong, of course. Nothing's that simple for Dutch.
Dutch's penetration still usually stops short of the basket. His point off the fast break and on tip-ins still are not what they could be.
"There are shooters and there are scorer, like John Havlicek."
The most tantalizing mystery about Dutch, however, is not the mixture of ingredients in his game, but the mixture of traits in the personality behind it.
"I'm very serious-minded," says Dutch, a history major pointed toward law school, "you play one way and carry yourself off the court another."
Al is very sensitive, very modest, very soft-spoken, yet very confident," says Thompson. "It's a strange combination. Sometimes I wish he has a little more vanity, a little more showoff in him. He'll actually hide some of his talents from me. I have to make him made at me to get them out."
The meticulous Dutch, who often wears a velvet bowtie and a crushed velour cap to games, carries some of that gentlemanly Dapper Dan style with him onto the court.
Whether in clothes or basketball, Dutch is a purist who likes a clean line. "He's suave, not a conspicious hustler.He may pick himself up off the floor in sections like O.J. Simpson, but he's not lazy," says Thompson.
Neither, however, is Dutch a glutton for work. Weightlifting and diving on the floor for loose balls are tastes he still is acquiring. Rebounding and traffic isn't all fun, either.
"Al is playing well now. I'm proud of him . . . He can become as good as he wants to be," said Thompson "but he is not an arrived gentleman yet."