The people at Rodale were good enough to send me a review copy of Ian O'Connor's fanatically researched book The Jump, about Blazer guard Sebastian Telfair's jump from high school in Coney Island to the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA.
As a fan of both good basketball books and the Blazers, I have been thinking about it since I picked it up on Friday. One of the prominent characters so far is AAU coach Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano. Ziggy is thought to have been the guy who devised the scheme to raise the profile by the Gold Club--the mob-affiliated Atlanta strip club--by offering sexual services to top athletes like Patrick Ewing and Dennis Rodman. In a measure of how fantastically filthy American basketball development is these days, Ziggy comes off as one of the most positive influences in Telfair's young life.
Here's one of my favorite passages so far:
Ziggy shared with Telfair everything he'd learned from Marbury about coaching a pro on training wheels. Ziggy would run him through point guard drills, take him to tournaments all over the country, drive him up to Providence to visit Jamel Thomas, and offer a healthy dose of tough-love guidance.
Brooklyn USA was was playing a tournament in Harlem once, and a 10-year-old Sebastian was acting like a jackass to the refs, his opponents, everyone. Ziggy cursed him out, and Sebastian returned the favor. The kid said he wanted to go home, and the coach handed him a subway token. Sebastian walked away, turned back, and sat at the end of the bench while Ziggy ignored him. The coach agreed to put his young star back in the game only after he apologized to all the wronged parties.
A couple of other gems: O'Connor notes that when Telfair squared off against Darius Washington, Jr. at the ABCD camp, they attracted so much attention that almost no one watched future #1 pick Dwight Howard dominating play on the next court. Part of the explanation comes from recruiting analyst Tom Konchalski: "Sebastian has the best crossover since Columbus left Spain."
I'll keep blogging about The Jump as I go, so check back for more.