This was going to be Roger Phegley's most boisterous moment in what otherwise has been a quiet first season as a pro basketball player.
The bustling town of Peoria, Ill., had planned to salute its native son with a rousing cheering section and appropriate banner worship at Friday night's game here between the Bullets and Chicago Bulls.
Then the snows came.
"I've got friends in Peoria who didn't dig themselves out for three days," said Phegley, the Bullets' rookie from Bradley. "They got to the grocery store to restock and found out that there wasn't any food on the shelves.
"Maybe as many as 75 to 100 people were coming down. They had chartered a couple of buses. I had so many demands for tickets that I finally told the mto go ahead and buy them on their own. I couldn't handle it. Now I'm sure they will stay home and I can't blame them."
Nor can Phegley blame the Bullets for the way they have introduced him this season to the toils of the NBA. As he constantly must remind his hometown fans: "This is a veteran team and it's the best in the league and I play for a coach who never has played many rookies. That's a tough combination to beat."
And so Phegley will take his usual spot in the middle of the Bullet bench Friday night and dream not of delighting his fans by scoring a bundle of unexpected points. His wish will be much less glamorous. He just would like to play, even for a few minutes.
With forward Bobby Dandridge nursing a sore ankle, perhaps a combination of injuries and foul problems could answer Phegley's prayers and Coach Dick Motta might turn to him for a rare midcontest appearance.
But Phegley also realizes that Motta needs only to win either this game or one against Indiana Saturday hight to secure his first all-star coaching assignment in 11 NBA seasons. With those stakes Motta is unlikely to go with anything less than his aces.
"I've adapted better the last few months than I did at first," said Phegley about his infrequent game appearances. "At the beginning, I thought if I came in and was really impressive, I might get more playing time.
"Now I realize that no matter how well I play, my role won't change. We have too many veterans for me to get much playing time. It's been hard on me at times."
Now his basketball future has become even more complicated. With the return of Phil Chenier to practice, Phegley knows the Bullets eventually will make a roster change, probably within a month, to accommodate the veteran guard. As the fifth guard on the roster, Phegley realizes he is in a precarious position.
"For the last month, I've seen my name linked with Phil's," he said. "But I have no reason to suspect they will cut me or trade me. They have told me they are pleased with my progress.
"They also told me I'd have an opportunity to show what I could do here. As long as I eventually get that opportunity, I'd have no hard feelings if something happened to me.
"But if I don't get the chance, that would be different. I don't think about it. I try not to put any pressure on myself. Anyway, how do they go about telling you you are traded or released?"
Phegley is convinced the Bullets would not have used the 14th pick in the first round of the draft to secure a half-season player.
General Manager Bob Ferry is handling the Chenier-Phegley matter in low-key fashion. Before meddling with the roster of the league's best team, he wants to make sure Chenier's back can withstand the rigors of the NBA. And with Tom Henderson and Kevin Grevey potential free agents this summer, Phegley's status could improve dramatically next season.
Wouldn't it be wiser, ask some team sources, to trade a veteran guard when Chenier is activated and keep Phegley around to develop?
Phegley would just as soon see his name not involved with any controversies. He is a quiet, understated, somber person who would prefer the spotlight of publicity be focused somewhere else.
His game reflects his personality. Phegley does things simply and efficiently on the court. He moves so effortlessly that it is difficult to get a good reading about his quickness or his intensity.
But Motta has seen enough of his 6-foot-6 youngster with the Paul Westphal tendencies to feel Phegley has an outstanding future.
"He has good court sense and all the tools you look for in a player," said Motta. "You can't teach the touch he has. It's beautiful. This hasn't been an easy season for him but I think he has adapted well."
The Chicago game will be televised by WDCA-TV-20, beginning at 8:30... This also is a homecoming for center Dave Corzine, a Chicago native who attended DePaul.