Leo (Bee Bee) McGainey and James (Chub) Pannell have a dream. Both can see it very clearly. With the score tied, 99-99, and one second left on the clock, Pannell takes a pass from McGainey and hits the winning basket to give the Los Angeles Lakers the NBA championship.
"What will I be doing when I'm 30?" asked McGainey. "I plan to be playing pro ball."
The glamor and the money are enough to entice McGainey to arise at 6 a.m., jog around the Theodore Roosevelt track and play basektball throughout the hot days of summer.
"He's out of the house so fast, somethimes I don't know where he is," said Leo McGainey Sr. "When I wake up and he's gone. I walk up to Petworth Playground and he's there, practicing."
Practicing to be a pro.
Pannell, one of six children, doesn't get up quite as early but manages to get in just as much playing time at Edgewood Playground.
"My family has never seen me play," said Pannell. "I'm afraid I might choke up. I thought I would rest after the season was over but I've been to the court every day since the day it ended."
It was the past junior high session that may have been the clincher to convince the two 5-foot-11 quick, muscular ninth-graders they can buck the odds.
McGainey provided the leadership and Pannell lit the fuse that carried Langley to a 24-0 mark and the city championship. Area coaches clamored around the youngsters, already proclaming them almong the best prospects to come out of the junior high schools since Craig Shelton (Dunbar Georgetown) and James Ratiff (Eastern) dominated the circuit at Evans.
"A lot of high school coaches have talked to me," said McGainey. "They tell me things like, I'm not making any promises, but I'm sure you'll play if you come to my school.'"
Pannell has been approached, too.
"Some asked me to come to their school. One even told me if I wanted to come to his school, I would have to write a letter saying his school (out of zone) had a course I wanted."
Neither athlete has decided whether he'll attend public or parochial shool. Fortunately for both, they have someone knowledgeable to consult for advice and guidance.
"Sure, they dream about the pros," said Eddie Meyers, counselor and coach to both players. "Kids can't see themselves becoming anything else. Roots the kids didn't have anybody Before Alex Haley hit the scene with else to identify with except athletes. Let's face it, many think of basketball first, everything else second."
The one thing Meyers refuses to allow his players to put second is academics. He also never mentions the word "pro" to them.
"I tell them about the books. I tell them about life. I tell them how high the odds are of them making it, period, if they aren't prepared mentally," said Meyers.
But for Mcgainey and Pannell, basketball is the focus of their lves. Both plan to attend college before joining the pros and now they are trying to pick a high school.
The sudden attention from their peers and several high school coashes, eager to recruit them to their schools, is terribly exciting.
"It makes me, feel good that they want me to play for them," said McGainey, an honor student. "Most of them do tell me to keep studying because it's important."
More than 7,000 students, parents and coaches attended the quart-final games of the junior high tournament recently at D.C. Armory. In that oneday affair, the young stars of tomorrow entertained as many people as the Interhigh League post season tourney drew in three nights.
Langley, like so many other city schools has been engulfed in the rat race world of sports.
But Meyers, athletic director Charles Christian and assistant principals Leroy Adams and Tony Upson stress that Langley is a school first, not a sports factory.
"Their dreams get puffed up early," said Christian. "It's very easy to fall behind in your classwork when you're competing with the social inducements out there now and the pressure of peer groups."
Added Upson, "when our kids hadv a problem or we foresee one, we try to take them individually and help them work it out," said Upson. "We try to stay on top of them. It's important they learn the right habits now."