Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Look who's laughing now

Loved the story in yesterday's Indy Star about Pacers guard Danny Granger, whose scoring average has jumped by about six points in each of his four seasons in the NBA, going from 7 to 13 to 19 to 26 this season.

It's the story of how Granger's father "raised three children by himself in a drug-ravaged neighborhood outside New Orleans. How all three of Senior's kids, including his NBA All-Star-to-be son, Danny, have become high achievers in their chosen professions. How his steady, stern hand, his tough love (really tough, at times) ensured that his kids would rise above the drug- and violence-addled chaos that visited their daily lives."

"I could have gone the wrong way," says Granger. "Almost all of my friends did, the guys I grew up with. They ended up selling drugs, ended up in jail or were found dead. That was the neighborhood. That was how people felt like they needed to survive. They didn't have dads to keep them out of trouble. But my dad wouldn't have it with his kids. It was academics and then, with me, it was basketball. That's what he pushed. We could be from that area, but we weren't going to be of that area.''

According to the article, Granger's father's receipe for success is "Love. Discipline. Religion (the Grangers are Jehovah's Witnesses). Attention. A stern hand."

One day during Junior's childhood -- he was maybe 8 or 9 -- Senior had an idea. Instead of having his son play basketball all around the dangerous city, he figured he could better keep an eye on him by purchasing the land next to his house and building his own half-court. He put up floodlights, the whole deal. That court at 805 S. Cumberland became the basketball center of the area. The court developed Junior's skills and his toughness.

Senior didn't build that court because he saw his son as a future NBA player. Far from it. He just wanted him to survive the neighborhood and move on to an academic career that would help him succeed in a better place.

Despite the basketball court next door, Granger's priority was academics. But as Granger started to excel on the court, his father began pushing him to improve.

"Put your shoes on,'' he'd say. "We've got work to do. I'm like, 'Dad, it's 1 in the morning. I've got school.' We'd go out, maybe I'd missed a couple of shots during the game or made some move, he'd make me do drills. Meanwhile, in my neighborhood, people are just coming out at 1. The next day they'd see me at school, they'd be like, 'Man, what were you doing at 1 in the morning?' 'That's my daddy.' It was crazy. A little over the line at times.''

Said his father:

"Danny told me people at school would laugh at him because we'd be out there at 3 and 4 in the morning and they'd laugh at him. But look who's laughing now.''