The new Pistol?

November 9, 1997
Close your eyes, think back, and the image comes to you - the wiry body, the long hair, the floppy gray socks. One moment he dribbles the ball effortlessly downcourt. The next instant, he flips an impossible, no-look, behind-the-back pass to a teammate, or maybe he pulls up and buries a 25-foot jumper.

Open your eyes, and a young man with familiar features stands before you. Could this be the basketball magician himself? No, "Pistol Pete" Maravich died in 1988 of a heart attack at age 40 after playing in a pickup game.

No need to rub your eyes. Jaeson Maravich, 18, is the elder son of the late Basketball Hall of Famer and onetime Boston Celtic. He has come to the New Hampton School to quietly continue his relationship with the game that his father forever changed. 

While Pete Maravich played in the spotlight throughout his entire career - first at Louisiana State University for his father, the late Press Maravich, and then in the NBA - Jaeson Maravich came north from his home in Covington, La., just outside of New Orleans, to escape all the attention.

Every father's son must make his own mark in this world. For those such as Maravich - the offspring of famous athletes who happen to play the same sports - this is especially difficult.

"Maybe I can just come up here and just forget about all that," Maravich said. "In Louisiana, there was so much pressure.

"I don't like all the publicity. I just like to keep to myself."

In Louisiana, the Maravich name makes that extremely difficult. Pete reached legendary status at LSU, where he scored an NCAA record 3,667 points, an average of 44.2 per game, in just three years. After beginning his NBA career in Atlanta, he went on to New Orleans and then Utah before finishing up with the Celtics in 1980. He was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987, and a year ago he was named one of the NBA's 50 all-time greatest players.

With that pedigree and their love for the game, Jaeson and brother Josh, 15, were sure to undergo close scrutiny. By the time he reached his sophomore year at St. Paul's School in Covington - where Josh now plays as a freshman - Jaeson had been through enough.

"I don't like to say burnout," Maravich said. "Basically, I was tired of playing. I'd been playing since I was five, hours on hours, every day.

"It started getting to the point where it was more like I felt I had to get up and play instead of wanting to. I wasn't having fun playing, so I just decided to stop for a little while.

"I didn't miss playing . . . until about the summer before I started my senior year. I started to love the game again."

As a senior, Maravich led St. Paul's to the second round of the Class 4A Louisiana state tournament. Because of the two-year layoff, however, he decided he needed another year of basketball before college.

Maravich nearly enrolled at Iowa State, but its coach, Tim Floyd, suggested a postgraduate year at one of five prep schools. New Hampton was on the list.

Few places could be better suited to Maravich. Over the years, the New Hampton basketball program has had Pat Knight, son of Indiana coach Bobby Knight; Mark Raveling, son of former college coach and current CBS analyst George Raveling; and Jermaine Henderson, son of formerCeltic Gerald Henderson.

"I think sometimes it's the best of times and the worst of times for these kids," said Mark Tilton, assistant athletic director and former basketball coach at New Hampton. "They all have a crown that they have to wear, and that's the name. People oftentimes tend to judge them . . . based upon the name.

"That's something they have to fight through. When you're 17 or 18 years old, it's very difficult.

"Pat Knight dealt with it as well as anybody. We'd go to gyms where opposing fans threw chairs on the floor. But he dealt with that very, very well."

While a Knight or a Maravich cannot entirely disappear, he can blend in better at New Hampton than he would at home.

"They need a tremendous amount of support," Tilton said. "We just tell them, 'Hey, we don't care who you are or where you come from. We're going to deal with you based upon the type of person that you are right now.' "

It helps that they are surrounded by other outstanding athletes. Division 1 prospects are regularly found on the basketball roster at New Hampton, which has won three New England Class A prep championships in the last five years.

"My team last year, I had to carry them a lot," said Maravich of St. Paul's. "This year, from what I've seen, it'll be a lot easier, because there's so many good players."

Maravich will be playing alongside Darius Songaila, a 6-foot-9-inch Lithuanian, Brent Klassen of Kimball, Neb., who was placed here by Indiana, and Michael Causey, who has already signed with Texas Christian.

No surprise that Maravich's natural position is shooting guard, where New Hampton also has postgraduate Greg Friel of Durham, the former Oyster River High School star. Just how much Maravich will play initially is uncertain, because he is still recuperating from a torn ligament in his lower back, which he suffered while lifting weights in June.

"I just had my third shot of cortisone," Maravich said. "I'm not in a lot of pain, but it's still not back to where I want it to be. I like to think it's getting better."

Maravich, who willingly sat on the sidelines during his sophomore and junior years in high school, can't wait to get back in action. "It's frustrating for me to just go watch . . . because I want to be out there so bad," he said.

First-year head coach Jamie Arsenault, a former Portsmouth High School and Colby College athlete, is also anxious to have Maravich back at full strength. Arsenault puts New Hampton through its first practice tomorrow.

"I want to make sure that he's healthy and ready to go," said Arsenault, who previously coached for two years at Bridgton Academy. "His back's way more important than any numbers he can put up on the scoreboard. I'm excited about what he can bring to the team."

What exactly does the 6-3 Maravich bring to New Hampton? Will watching him on the court bring us back 20 years to the days when his father terrorized NBA defenses?

"I think I have some of his . . . I guess you'd call them characteristics," Maravich said. "My dad taught me everything I know. People have come up to me and told me I play kind of like him."

College recruiters must see the similarity. Maravich has narrowed his choices to Iowa, Iowa State, Oregon State and Louisville.

"I don't plan on signing until the late signing period in April," Maravich said. "I'm just keeping my options open."

Asked for a self-assessment of his skills, Maravich prefaced his remarks by saying, "I don't want to sound cocky." Then he added: "On offense, I've got strengths in everything, really. I've really tried to perfect my skills, get them down as much as I can where it just comes second nature.

"If I had to pick a weakness, it would probably be defense. Sometimes I get lazy on defense, kind of lackadaisical. I can play defense, but sometimes you're not into it as much as you are on the offensive end."

Arsenault had yet to see Maravich go up and down the court at full speed, but he noticed one thing immediately after seeing him in the gym.

"He can shoot," Arsenault said. "No question. The other day, he made 87 out of 100 three-pointers."

That probably would have brought a smile to his father's face. If Pete were around for the three-point era, there's no telling how many more records he would have set.

Along with the shooting eye, the son apparently has inherited some of his father's work ethic.

"I was playing four hours a day during the summer, and I was loving it," Maravich said. "I can't say I have his work ethic, because he'd practice eight, 10 hours a day. That's just crazy."

Make no mistake, however - Jaeson Maravich is crazy about basketball.

"It's the only sport I like to watch or play," Maravich said. "I just love the game just for what it is."

No comments:

Follow by Email