In the 1960s, when Bob Ferry Sr. was banging the backboards and throwing in hook shots for the old St. Louis Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Baltimore Bullets during his 10-year NBA career, son Bob Jr. was busying himself with other things, such as learning the three Rs and playing hide and seek.
"He wouldn't remember me as a player. He was too small," said Ferry. now the general manager of the Bullets. "Anyway, he couldn't pick up any of my bad habits."
Despite his time-consuming duties with the NBA champion Bullets, the senior Ferry gets plenty of opportunity to see his son play and he likes what he sees.
"He's improved every year," said Ferry. Ferry Jr. -- 6-foot-3 1/2, 170 pounds and recently turned 15, is blossoming into an excellent shooting forward with No. 1-ranked De Matha High School. For someone who wasn't supposed to make the varsity, much less be a starter, that is quite an achivevment.
"At the beginning of the year, we weren't sure whether to keep Bobby on the varsity or let him get that experience by playing 25 junior varsity games," said De Matha Coach Morgan Wootten. "We had two sopho-mores -- Phil Coles and Adrian Branch -- and we knew we were going to keep them on varsity. But Bobby was outplaying them in scrimmages and just kept coming on.
"Fortunately, we had a few games where all the young kids could play and Bobby looked real good," Wootten said. "Now all three of the sophomores are playing very, very well."
The younger Ferry, who is five inches shorter and more than a few pounds lighter than his father, says "people don't compare me to my father much. He played a while ago. It would be nice to follow in his footsteps to the NBA but I've got a long way to go before I even think that far ahead."
Ferry first began attracting attention at Belair Junior High in Bowie where he averaged 17 points a game under Coach Bob Campbell. Ferry also played Boy's Club ball under George Sullivan. Both Ferrys credit the two coaches with teaching Bob Jr. the rudiments of the game.
"I taught him a few things too," said the elder Ferry, "But those men were excellent coaches. Bobby is a good student and is very coachable but the decision to attend De Matha was his."
Ferry Jr. said he wanted to attend a high school that had both a good basketball reputation and a good coach. De Matha had both. He led the freshman team in scoring (13 points per game) and helped the young Stags to a 25-0 record last year.
"I felt I had a good chance to make the varsity but if I didn't I wouldn't have minded playing jayvee and getting experience," said Ferry. "I wanted to be on the varsity, so I just worked as hard as I could."
Ferry also picked up added experience last summer when he played on the Youth Gang Team (15-0) that traveled to Detroit and the Police Boys' Club AAU team that finished third in the nation in a tournament in Iowa. Both experiences improved Ferry's overall skills and helped his confidence immensely.
"And after that, I was practicing against the best players in the city every day so I had to improve," Ferry said.
Ferry had his share of bad moments too. One evening the senior Ferry stopped by to watch practice and his son was having a horrible time.
"He looked awful and on the ride home I was just trying to tell him not to worry about it," Ferry said. "At that time, we didn't dream of him being on the varsity. But he did and Coach Wootten was playing him a few minutes a game, just as he said he would."
Ferry's big break came when guard Dereck Whittenburg suffered a broken toe during De Matha's big game against Wheatley of Houston in December. Ferry came off the bench to score 25 points in the second half and the five overtime periods to help the Stags outlast the Houston team, 98-94.
"He did an outstanding job that night," Wootten said. "I knew then we had another fine sophomore."
Whittenburg returned to the lineup several weeks later but Ferry, slated to go back to reserve status, earned another starting spot when strong forward Eric Peek became ill. Ferry continued his fine overall play and has been a fixture in the starting lineup ever since.
"I tell him life is timing," Ferry Sr. said. "When you get a break, you take advantage of it."
Ferry Jr. has played in all 24 games (22-2) and raised his scoring average to 9.5 on 57 percent shooting from the floor and 73 percent accuracy from the free throw line. He has scored in double figures in each of De Matha's big games, including a 17-point effort to help the Stags rally to a 70-68 overtime victory over St. John's last Sunday.
He also is averaging 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game.
"I'm pretty pleased with my play right now," said Ferry. "My strengths are my shooting and rebounding. I may not grow as tall as my father so I have to work on my ball-handling a lot. Coach Wootten can stick me anywhere, guard or forward. I'm just glad to be playing."