This weekend was to be the happiest of times for Henry Hall, a few days to be spent visiting his family and hanging out with the friends he hadn't seen for more than a year and playing basketball against some old acquaintances from his one-time would-be school, Georgetown.
His sophomore season at the University of Texas-El Paso has failed to fulfill the promise of an attention-grabbing career at Parkdale High School in Riverdale and a successful freshman year with the Miners. But this was to be a turning point: He was coming home.
He would be playing again in front of the people who had watched his breathtaking years at Parkdale. They would pack Capital Centre Saturday afternoon and watch him drain jumpers over the Hoyas, perhaps lead an upset. "I was looking forward to it," he said. "My family will be there, my friends, people from high school. . . . But now it's just not the same."
His plans suffered one late, painful addition: He also will visit the grave of Jay Bias, who was shot and killed last week in s parking lot.
"Maybe that will help me accept it," Hall said. "I've learned to live with it. I haven't really accepted it. . . . It's a heartbreak. I've spent a lot of time by myself the past week, talking to a lot of friends from home who called. I still can't believe it sometimes."
He and Bias grew up together, playing on playgrounds and on youth teams with former Georgetown forward Michael Tate. They went to different high schools -- Hall to Parkdale, Bias to Northwestern and Tate to Oxon Hill -- but the friendship persevered.
Hall and Tate comforted a distraught Bias when older brother Len died in the summer of 1986. They'd call one another before their teams played and threaten 50 points at the other's expense. Often, they were right -- especially Hall, who averaged 28 points a game as a sophomore, 28.5 as a junior and (with the three-point rule) 39 as a senior.
Stuck then with the nickname "Radar," he often pulled up several feet behind the three-point line for high-arcing jumpers. He was unconventional but oh-so-effective.
Despite his questionable size (6 feet 1, then about 190 pounds) for major college basketball and an admitted lack of academic commitment and overall discipline -- he was suspended several times for missing school and practices during his senior year -- Georgetown and other national powers wanted him badly. "All that stuff seems like a long time ago," he said.
He committed to Georgetown in the fall of his senior year at Parkdale and attended freshman orientation but never enrolled there. He said he would play for Coach Lefty Driesell at James Madison, but that pairing soon fell by the wayside -- as did later connections to American and Allegany Community College (where he briefly considered going to join Bias). UNLV also was mentioned.
He took a year off from school, working odd jobs with his father -- "it was everything: housework, painting, you name it," he said -- and palled with Bias. "We were together all the time that summer, every day and every night," Hall said. "We did just about everything together."
Hall was playing at a local recreation center when he was approached by Jim Barnes, the first star for Miners Coach Don Haskins. Barnes was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team and the NBA draft's No. 1 selection.
Barnes urged Hall to watch then-UTEP star Tim Hardaway on TV. "I loved the way they played, the way Hardaway played," Hall said. "I took one visit, and I loved the town."
As a freshman he started 25 of 32 games, helped UTEP to a 21-11 record and an NCAA tournament appearance and was Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year. He averaged 11.7 points. This season he has shot 21 of 53 (40 percent) and has 25 turnovers.
"He hasn't played all that well," Haskins said. "Of course, maybe basketball doesn't mean so much anymore when you put it next to what he just went through."