clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hoop Dreams vs. Hoop Reality

If you're a fan of Big 10 basketball or college basketball in general you know about Evan Turner, the stud wing and bellcow for a top 10 Ohio State Buckeye club.

Additionally, if you're a Big 10 hoops fan you've probably heard of Demetri McCamey as well. McCamey is a star for the Illinois Illini and a classic pass first point guard in every sense of the term.

What you may or may not know is that these two elite collegiate players played in the same backcourt for one of the most famous, or infamous depending on your slant, high school prep schools in America, the Saint Joseph's Chargers of Chicago, Illinois. Coached by hall of fame coach Gene Pingatore, St. Joe's is one of the premier magnet basketball prep schools in America, proudly claiming Isiah Thomas as its most famous alumnus.

St. Joe's fame is all well and good if you're a Chicago area baller looking to take the next step, but for a high school player growing up in west Texas like myself, St. Joe's might as well have been Larry, Curly, and Moe's School for the Arts. That is, until two independent filmmakers decided to expose the dark and often exploitative underworld of scholarship high school basketball with their movie Hoop Dreams. This film, which was a Sundance Film Festival award winner and instant cult classic featured the divergent high school career paths of two of Chicago-land's many talented high school basketball players--William Gates and Arthur Agee.

In 1992 William Gates was everyone's all-American backed by whispers of being the next Isiah Thomas prior to blowing out a knee his junior year. Arthur Agee was a rough around the edges inner city talent that had to jump through all kinds of academic and financial aid hoops, pardon the pun, to get into St. Joe's, before "falling through the cracks" when it was deemed he wasn't good enough to play. That was the unofficial reason anyway.

"Hoop Dreams", which was released in 1994, was an expose providing a glimpse into the shady business of scholariship high school basketball. This talent acquisition model served as a precursor to all of today's shenanigans with respect to AAU rackets, street agents, and quid pro quo backroom deals going on in high school and college basketball. Call it the gateway drug to the dark under-belly of contemporary college basketball recruiting we carp abut in 2010.

As for the film and "where they are today", William Gates went on to have an undistinguished post-injury career at Marquette, but was still able to earn his degree. In one of the most prescient and poignant moments of the film William Gates had this to say, remember he was 17 years old at the time:

"People say, 'When you make it to the NBA, don't forget about me.' I feel like telling them, 'Well, if I don't make it, make sure you don't forget about me."

Gates didn't forget about himself as he's now providing for his family after going back to school to finish his degree. He did get his shot at the ultimate hoop dream when Michael Jordan called him and asked him to come try out for the Wizards.

Gates committed to giving the game one more try at the outset of 2001. He put his ministry on hold and began working out with Michael Jordan during early preparation for Jordan's second comeback.

When Jordan began inviting NBA players to ratchet up the level of competition, Gates stayed home. Until Jordan called and insisted he come down.

"Will, we got your spot," Jordan told him. "I didn't give it away just because these guys showed up."

Gates held his own against NBA players, and Jordan promised him a tryout with the Wizards. He was all set to play in the team's summer league when he fractured a bone in his foot. The youngster in the film whose knee betrayed him was suddenly cursed again.

"That was my NBA dream," he said. "I never put that uniform on, but I knew I was good enough to play."

Arthur Agee, on the other hand, was still trying to live the dream when he bypassed a chance to play for the CBA and instead took a bit part in a TNT film about interracial basketball in Lousiana called "Passing Glory." When the role didn't bear Hollywood fruit, Arthur Agee tried to start a Hoop Dream clothing and apparel line, which is now a defunct venture.

Agee also finds himself hamstrung by having 4 kids from 4 different mothers.

The stark contrast in this pair's respective hoops career paths cannot be better illustrated than in one final exchange between the two as described in the Chicago Tribune's "Hoop Dreams Ten Years Later" piece.

"What's up, A-gee," William said, affectionately.

"What up, dawg?" They clasped hands, embraced and laughed long and hard.

The family man and the class cutup, together again.

They were supposed to hang out on Saturday, but Agee forgot to call Gates back.

"What happened?" Gates said, laying on the guilt. "I keep tryin' to tell you, man, you my only outlet. You the only cat who can get me out of my element."

Later, when Arthur leaves for family court to make sure his child-support payments are current, Gates reflected on his bond with Agee, a bond transcending the film 10 years later.

"Arthur was always doing the things I wanted to do," he said. "I think we need each other. I keep his feet on the ground and he keeps mine off of it."

For Gene Pingatore and the St. Joe's program, they finally realized their hoop dream reality post Isiah Thomas driven by the on court successes of Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey.

"What the heck, they've been so much fun to watch that I wish they could stay in college for 10 years," Pingatore said. "It's awesome. I'm really proud of them. They've had an excellent year so far, and hopefully they'll continue it."

It's funny how things can come full circle. The dreams of one pair are reality for another.

If you haven't already, you need to check out this movie.