The "unheralded" Doctor J

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The "unheralded" Doctor J

Postby rlee » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:58 pm

We've often heard that the Doctor was "unheralded" coming out of college.
However, I recently came across this 3/7/70 Sporting News story on Erving (then known as "Julie") toward the end of his sophomore year at UMass. The story included a large picture of Julie in action & covered 60% of a Sporting News page. It included the following quotes:

Boston U coach Charlie Luce: "To me he is a 6-5 Connie Hawkins. He can shoot inside and outside and the way he controls those boards is something else, He can drive well, too...His overall ability, timing and reaction are just fantastic."

Chuck Daly: "As good as he is now, he'll be better. He has unlimited potential and I think he's just scratching the surface. He has a neat scoring touch from 18 feet. If he gets within six feet of your basket, you just can't stop him. I like his rebound range. He doesn't just go up like a guy in a test tube. If that ball is within four or five feet, he'll get it. The way he can extend his arms, use those long fingers and control a game is remarkable. I'm sure he'll get bigger, better and stronger. He has the makings of a superstar."

Jack Donohue: "He's sensational...he runs a lot faster than most big guys...what a future he has."

UMass coach Jack Leaman: "He's as important to us as Russell was to the Celtics...People see really se only half of his ability - his scoring & rebounding. But he can also make the super pass like Cousy. Then he can hit a man at 3/4 courtwhen we fast break. Add to this his excellent defense. When a player his size is ranked nationally in rebounding, he has to be doing something right. I can't believe that there's a better sophomore in the country."
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Postby Bob Kuska » Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:21 am

They called him "Julie the Jumping Jack." I lived in Western Mass when Erving was in college, although admittedly I was real young. But the quotes below match my recollection. Julius Erving was a big star at UMass because he led the country in rebounding. At the time, UMass didn't lead the country in anything but maybe annual snowfall. The full story is in Marty Dobron's Going Bigtime, published in 1996. It's worth the read.

I heard a great Julius Erving story at a party a few months back. So, yes, it's vintage might be suspect - I really don't know - but the story is first hand. A guy at the party used to be a contractor in Philly during the 1980s. He was doing a home renovation when somebody in a suit showed up on his job site clutching a piece of paper. He approached the contractor (the guy at my party) and explained that he represented the next-door neighbor. The neighbor was holding a party the next day and wanted to make a deal with the contractor. If he and the construction crew didn't work on the day of the party, the neighbor would pay everybody for the day, plus invite them to the party. All they had to do to finalize the deal was sign the paper. The contractor thought the arrangement sounded good. He signed. Who was the next-door neighbor? You got it - Doctor J. According to my source, a bunch of NBA big shots were at the party, and a good time was had by all.
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Postby MCT » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:23 pm

It's very interesting to see a national publication giving some attention to Erving at this point in his career. But even with those accolades, there may have still been a sense that anything he was allegedly doing was against inferior competition, and there wasn't any reason to believe he would make a better pro than past star players from schools at that level. UMass had never produced an NBA player, and the schools represented by those quoted above were also mid-major types that hadn't turned out a lot of prominent pros anytime recently; there hadn't been any Holy Cross products in the NBA since Tom Heinsohn retired. BC with Gerry Ward and Terry Driscoll (at this point, Driscoll had been drafted in the 1st round, but was actually yet to play in the NBA) was about as good as it got. You could probably find other players from mid-major schools for whom TSN provided a similar amount of coverage at a similar point in their careers who never went on to play in the NBA.

It looks like The Sporting News archives are back online -- I hadn't realized that. That's good news!
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Postby rlee » Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:50 pm

Unfortunately, these excerpts were not obtained online but, rather, the old fashioned way.

Comparable stories in that ish are about UCLA (Wicks, Vallely, Bibby featured),
Penn (Bob Morse, Corky Calhoun, Dave Wohl featured) & Marquette (Dean Meminger featured)
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Postby mtamada » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:44 pm

MCT wrote: You could probably find other players from mid-major schools for whom TSN provided a similar amount of coverage at a similar point in their careers who never went on to play in the NBA.


I think the context and "intent" of the article is key ... and not being able to see the actual article, I don't know what they are in this case. Two good examples; first this quote from Jack Leaman the UMass coach: "He's as important to us as Russell was to the Celtics."

He's pretty clearly saying that within the context of a DivI-but-not-top-flight college basketball program, Erving was a big contributor. But he's not claiming that Erving will actually have a Russell-esque NBA career. Similarly when I was a senior my high school's basketball team was built around its all-important center, he was our Bill Russell. But we knew he wasn't going to be an NBA player, he didn't even end up going to a Div I basketball program (Joe Leonard was a pretty good Div III player though, had his number retired by the University of Puget Sound, and allegedly got drafted by the SuperSonics).

But this quote from Charlie Luce the BU coach could be taken in two different ways: "To me he is a 6-5 Connie Hawkins".

Maybe Luce was saying that, for that level of college ball, Erving was like Hawkins. Or maybe Luce was making a literal NBA comparison: Erving would be the next Connie Hawkins (which turned out to be inaccurate only because Erving turned out to be even better than Hawkins).

With today's nonstop worldwide coverage of basketball players, it would not be surprising to hear UMass's coach muse about the NBA potential of one of his players. Even high school players are getting scouted, having their NBA potential scrutinized, and having documentary films made about them.

But, especially given that this was several decades ago, it's also possible that Luce was describing him as a collegiate version of Connie Hawkins, not a literal Connie Hawkins.

IOW, we see that Julius Erving was being heralded rather than unheralded. But we he being heralded as a good Atlantic 10 conference (or whatever conference UMass played in in those days) player, or being heralded as the next Connie Hawkins? Can't tell, just from the excerpts.
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Postby John Grasso » Fri Aug 20, 2010 12:13 am

mtamada wrote:


But this quote from Charlie Luce the BU coach could be taken in two different ways: "To me he is a 6-5 Connie Hawkins".

Maybe Luce was saying that, for that level of college ball, Erving was like Hawkins. Or maybe Luce was making a literal NBA comparison: Erving would be the next Connie Hawkins (which turned out to be inaccurate only because Erving turned out to be even better than Hawkins).



The reference to Hawkins might have been the size of their hands.
Both have really huge hands and normally held the ball in one hand.
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Postby rlee » Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:23 am

Having read the whole story, I certainly got the impression that no one was trying to say that "Julie" was great just for that level. In fact, the headline was "Julie the Jumping-Jack Lifts UMass to Elite Cage Class." Luce's Connie Hawkins comment was followed with his observation that there was no question that Erving was going to be as dominant in New England as Jimmy Walker was. Holy Cross was ranked #1 in NE & UMass, led by Erving, defeated its team, impressing Donohue in the process. And the UMass coach said that he couldn't believe that there was a better soph in the country.
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Postby MCT » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:08 pm

MCT wrote:It looks like The Sporting News archives are back online -- I hadn't realized that. That's good news!

rlee wrote:Unfortunately, these excerpts were not obtained online but, rather, the old fashioned way.

In a happy coincidence, the TSN archives are in fact back online. I just looked at the article that Ray is referencing (March 7, 1970 edition, page 34). You can access the archives at http://www.paperofrecord.com/search.asp; you need to register, but there is no fee (at least not at the moment).
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Postby rlee » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:46 pm

That is excellent news, Patrick! Nice detective work.
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Postby MCT » Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:38 pm

MCT wrote:In a happy coincidence, the TSN archives are in fact back online. I just looked at the article that Ray is referencing (March 7, 1970 edition, page 34). You can access the archives at http://www.paperofrecord.com/search.asp; you need to register, but there is no fee (at least not at the moment).

I just realized that in the above post there is a semicolon on the end of the URL that isn't supposed to be part of the URL. For anyone trying to use this link to access the archives, here's the correct URL:

http://www.paperofrecord.com/search.asp
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Postby MCT » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:18 pm

paperofrecord.com seems to have gone missing again. Typing in the URL or clicking on a link just leads to an error message (unlike last time, when it redirected to Google News, but with no access to the paperofrecord content). The site was up as recently as the early part of this month. Does anyone know what's going on with it? A web search did turn up a mention on a baseball discussion board (scroll down to the most recent posts; some of the earlier discussion concerns its previous disappearance and reappearance):

http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthrea ... ine./page3
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Postby meej » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:14 am

I was using it and it disappeared from one day to the next. The whole site has simply vanished.
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Postby meej » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:41 pm

Paper of Record has returned, but apparently it is no longer free. My free membership has been terminated, and all registering options seem to start at a minimum $10 a month fee.
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Re: The "unheralded" Doctor J

Postby Mike Hamel » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:53 pm

Access to PaperOfRecord is also available if you join SABR.org (Society of American Baseball Research). SABR membership is $65/year.
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