NEW YORK – In a small gym in Brooklyn, players were working on a dunking drill. They rib each other and laugh a bit, as teenagers do, while one assistant coach demands that each player actually dunks. No layups.
When Leroy Fludd takes his turn, he started a casual jog toward the rim and tossed the ball off the glass backboard. He was smiling through his braces before he even caught the pass to himself. The 6-5 Boys & Girls star guard/forward sprung off the ground, snatched the ricocheted ball and jammed it home with a thud.
There’s no question that Fludd can jump. He got his hops from his dad. He also got his name and his work ethic. The senior is the third edition of the Leroy Fludds.
It was his father, Leroy Fludd Jr., who ushered the younger Fludd into the game. Fludd Jr. played at Lincoln High in the late 80’s, on a squad that included Lincoln’s current coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton. The elder Fludd also played a year of college ball before he made his name as a street baller on the hallowed grounds of Rucker Park and West 4th. They called him “Flex.” They still do.
For years his son, a kid they called “Truck”, could be seen running around the park during Flex’s games, developing his own passion for the blacktop and the hardwood.
Most people think Truck earned his nickname on the court. Especially because the word is written on a basketball tattooed on his right arm. It suits the younger Fludd because Leroy Fludd III also bulldozes his way into the paint. But his grandmother, Patricia Perkins, gave him the nickname because Truck was always a huge kid. Born 8 lbs., 2 ounces, Truck was usually the biggest kid in class.
Now his broad shoulder and 220-pound frame resembles a football player but with the strength of a power forward and the moves of a two-guard. He can play all five positions for the Kangaroos, who own a 6-1 record and are ranked No. 3 in ESPNNewYork.com’s Boys Top 10.
For the last two years, Fludd was overshadowed by the scorers at Boys & Girls, guys like Mike Taylor, Jeffland Neverson and point guard Antoine Slaughter. Fludd became a supporting member of back-to-back PSAL championship teams. His father, at the time, didn’t think he should take a backseat to the seniors. Truck reminded his dad that his time would come.
“He told me, ‘Pops, when it’s time for me to do my things, I’m going to do my thing,” Fludd Jr. said. “Two championships later, I understand his concept.”
Even then, Truck did the dirty work. He rebounded and hustled. He guarded the other team’s biggest and best players. Fludd even manned up on Lincoln’s 7-foot center Jordan Dickerson during spurts when B&G beat Lincoln for the city crown last season.
Fludd enjoyed a coming out party of sorts against Christ the King two weeks ago. The Kangaroos matched up against the nationally-ranked Royals and Fludd against Omar Calhoun, the superstar shooter headed to UConn. Fludd did it all that game, outplaying CK’s leader with 23 points and leading his team to a 64-59 win.
“I think as a player, you kinda feel like you belong in a certain category but at the same time you know that talk is cheap,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said. “You kind of have to do it against that type of caliber player. Then to actually get the opportunity to play against them, we had the opportunity to play against Christ the King, and he did it against the best.”
Against CK, Fludd showed off a much-improved jumper an advanced mid-range game. He electrified the gym with two behind-the-back passes that even impressed his best friend, senior point guard Bryce Jones. That game started the buzz that Fludd was on a mission to be crowned the best player in New York City, a claim that he humbly refutes, but acknowledges he wanted to make a statement in that game.
“I’m not scared of nobody,” he said. “I’m not scared to hold nobody. I work hard everyday.”
He proved it over the summer. The graduation of Taylor and Slaughter left Fludd with the responsibility of carrying the team and furthermore, proving to college coaches that he could do more than play bully-ball. His father stressed that he needed to improve his handle and his jump shot. So they went to work.
Flex and Truck woke up around 5:30 a.m. everyday at home in Sheepshead Bay. They traveled to Coney Island, where Flex earned his stripes, and ran beach along Stillwell Ave to Kaiser Park. Fludd would hoist a few hundred jump shots and work on dribbling drills. Truck’s father made sure that he matched up against older, bigger players in pickup games, the way that he had for essentially Truck’s entire basketball life.
The one-on-one’s would become epic battles. Flex called it a clash of titans. This past summer was when dad would admit that his son had started to get the better of him. But occasionally a sharp elbow might remind young Truck who’s still in charge.
“We play for pushups,” Truck said. “If you lose you gotta do 200 pushups. Now he’s the one doing the pushups.”
At the end of practice, the team huddles around the coaches, who challenge the team to be leaders – each of them. If you don’t want to lead, you don’t belong at Boys & Girls, they said. They run through a list that includes Lenny Wilkins, Connie Hawkins and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington. There’s a quiet comment from Fludd, who sits at the back of the group.