On Derek Jeter, AAU basketball prospect with the Kalamazoo Blues
From "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter"
Jeter was so serious about baseball and his favorite team, said Monter Glasper, one of his roommates, “he even wore Yankee boxers to bed.” The Blues joked with him about that. “But you could tell he was never joking when he said he’d end up playing for them,” Glasper said.
Once on the court, Jeter was no longer a daydreaming shortstop, but a basketball player as serious as Glasper and Kenyon Murray, who would earn scholarships to Iowa. If Jeter was not a strong ball handler, at least not by top-shelf AAU standards, he was among the Blues’ best shooters and defenders and perhaps their most fearless presence in the final minutes of a frantic game.
Jeter’s favorite shot was the three-pointer from the corner. David Hart, a point guard who would earn a scholarship to Michigan State, would penetrate and kick it to the gunner many Blues likened to the Pistons’ trigger-happy reserve, Vinnie Johnson.
“It didn’t matter if Derek had missed twenty shots in a row,” Hart said. “If the game was on the line and he got the ball again, he was putting it up.”
Jeter’s parents, Charles and Dot, took in every game from the stands, “and it was definitely unique,” Hart said, “because I came from a two-parent home, too, but a lot of our guys didn’t.” Charles and Dot filmed the Blues’ games, and with no operating budget to speak of, the Blues’ coaches would borrow their fi lm and show it to the team on the locker room or hotel walls, complete with Dot’s running commentary on her son’s play.
Dot knew the game. “Sometimes she was hollering, ‘Go, baby, go,’" Williams said, “but she was very on point. She could be very critical of Derek’s performance.”
So could the Blues’ coaches. During one film session, Williams drove Jeter to tears by repeatedly pointing out open big men in the paint while he was firing away from the perimeter. The assistant coach had to apologize to Derek a few times for shredding him in front of the team.
But all in all, Jeter was a basketball coach’s best friend. The Blues played a powerhouse Oklahoma team in one prominent national event, “and on paper,” said Hall, their head coach, “we didn’t belong in the same gym with those guys. And Derek came off the bench and shot Oklahoma right out of the tournament.”
Everyone agreed Jeter had major college ability, even if basketball rated as a distant second love. Derek had what his father called a quiet arrogance on the court. “He always wanted the last shot,” Charles Jeter said. “He usually didn’t make them, but he was never afraid to fail.”
from The Captain