Rafer Alston's Youth

TrueHoop reader Jason sent over the link to a pretty amazing Tom Friend profile of Rafer Alston that was in The New York Times in 1994.

Back then Alston was yet another Junior College basketball enigma -- a guy who could play basketball with the best of them, but might never, it seemed, get everything else together enough to have a real professional career. (Friend writes: "Rafer Alston could do everything Kenny Anderson or Khalid Reeves could do, except go to class. He could solve a 1-3-1 press, but not the square root of 49.")

The article tells the tale of a tough home situation:

[His mother] was studying day and night to be a nurse and was not always a fixture in the household. As for his father, he was dabbling again in the streets and needed money to support his addiction. He stole Rafer's Michael Jordan rookie card, among other belongings, and sold them. "Some of what you heard is true, mostly the substance abuse," Richard Alston said. "I had a falling out with Rafer."

According to Rafer's confidants, the boy's complaint was that his mother did not kick his father out, and Rafer's revenge turned out to be self-destructive. Rather than reading and writing, he rolled dice, and he became a master at a game called C-lo. He pocketed as much as $1,500 one night, according to Bell, and kept the hours of an insomniac.

"I just had the knack for dice," Rafer said. "To us, we're just having a good time. No harm in it. It's like a hobby."

While he carried dice, his older brother, Ramar, began packing a loaded gun and was arrested on weapon charges. It was a harrowing era, and Rafer, in reaction, became more argumentative.

His mother had wanted to send him to Maine Central Institute after his sophomore year and later regretted not doing so.

"Because of basketball, Rafer had his own unofficial fan club," she said. "But when he'd come home, he'd expect his celebrity status to continue. If we asked him to take out the garbage, it was like we'd asked Isiah Thomas or Michael Jordan. I love him, but he was a spoiled brat."