Fade-in a long shot of a very big basketball player standing at ease under a hoop. His right hand is hooked in the net and he is hanging there nonchalantly. He wears high-top Nikes, a trench coat, wraparound shades and a hat Bogart would have killed for. As the camera moves in, we hear the player saying . . .
"My name is Ralph Dalton .
"Oh, you doesn't have to call me Mr. Dalton .
"You can call me Ralph .
"Or you can call me Dalton .
"But if we're in Boston, please call me Ralph Brown ".
"Fade out is a closeup of Ralph Dalton/Brown's enigmatic smile .
Big-time college recruiting sometimesturns good men into merchants of foolishness.
So we have Ralph Dalton, a real person from Suitland, Md., playing in New York and Boston under the pheudonym Ralph Brown.
An average high school basketball player, Dalton has grown nearly four inches and 40 pounds -- to 6-foot-8 and 240 -- in a year at Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, Va.
He played in the Urban Coalition League this summer for the team 1789, largely a collection of Georgetown University alumni coached by Steve Martin, a Georgetown star two seasons ago.
Now a major college prospect, Daltonhas said he wants to play for Georgetown and Coach John Thompson after another year at Fishburne.
That's why, he said, he used the alias in the three summer all-star games his Urban Coalition League teamplayed in New York and Boston.
He wanted to keep the recruiters away.
"It was my idea," Dalton said, unconvincingly.
More likely, it was Thompson's idea.
And while it is understandable, it yet remains foolish and pretty.
It is understandable that Thompson would want nobody to know of Ralph Dalton's whereabouts. Every coach hasthis dream of finding another Jerry West or Oscar Robertson hidden away in a dark corner of New Mexico, there shooting baskets by moonlight just waiting for a coach to give him a chance.
Thompson has extra reason for worry, too. Unlike 95 percent of the major basketball schools in the country, Georgetown chooses not to abide by the national letter-of-intent regulations. That means that if a player signs for a scholarship at Georgetown, he can change his mind and go somewhere else without losing that season's play. So Georgetown can never feel fully at ease until the player is enrolled.
At the same time, Georgetown is not bound to honor the letter, either. It can take another school's player even after that player has agreed to another school's scholarship -- and the player is eligible immediately.
While Ralph Dalton has promised to come to Georgetown, then, a promise 18 months in advance is a far thing froma fact.
So it is understandable that John Thompson, ever a cunning coach off the court as well as on, would look for any edge, however slight.
And the edge here is so slight as to be invisible.
If 200 coaches, to pick a number, saw"Ralph Brown" play in New York and Boston, how many of these big-time barracudas would not discover it was really Ralph Dalton, the kid who got big in prep school?
"I don't understand why anyone thinks changing a kid's name would make any difference," said Joe B. Hall, the Kentucky coach. "My recruiters would find out."
"Everybody knows everybody," said Bill Foster, the South Carolina coach.
"And if you don't know somebody, you're going to find out."
Jack Kvancz, the Catholic University coach who signed a top player last year only to lose him at the last moment to Georgetown, thinks the idea of a pseudonym "is a joke, a complete farce for anyone to come up with . . . There's no rule against it, but that's because no one's ever heard of it before. You can bet that if it happens a couple times there would be a rule. There ought to be."
All Thompson is trying to do here, if indeed he is up to anything ("I've been called a lot of things, but I've never been called dumb," Thompson said the other day during his nondenial of the alias story), is throw maybe one of 200 recruiters off the scent of asuddenly blossoming player who has promised to play at Georgetown a year from now.
"But you can't keep anybody secret anymore," Joe Hall said, "There aren't any more Jery Wests hiding under rocksin Cabin Creek."
South Carolina's Foster sees a darker tone to it, a deception of the public practiced by a college basketballcoach. "This is just what our profession needs," Foster said, "something else to create doubt about us in people's minds."
Therein lies the foolishness of a Ralph Brown.