In the boys schoolyard, we had all kinds of ball players.

We had good outside shooters.  We had good defenders.  Ferocious rebounders and slick passers.

Some players were more athletic than others. Some were good team guys; some were a cancer. Some were winners and some, well some you just didn’t want to be stuck on their team.

Timmy Kemp 1

Yesterday, while watching some kids try to dunk on a low rim, I thought about the description we used to tag people with if a guy couldn’t jump very high (which was most guys that played in the yard) we’d call them a “rock.”

I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus for their lack of jumping ability but it was more of a comical exchange if someone playing ball in the yard had a vertical of less than three inches. We played games like Around-The-World, Taps, 21, Horse, one-on-one, three-on-three but the one thing you never saw in the yard was a slam-dunk contest unless it was on the taps court.

Jump Higher

“You’re a rock!” we would say to someone who couldn’t get up.  Guys tried ankle weights, they jumped rope and the best of all, whenever you walked past a street sign or store awning, you jumped as high as you could to touch it.

Guys like Curtis Walker and Timmy Kemp could strut their stuff “talking to the Lord” at times.  We also had Willie Lanzisera who could throw it down from time to time.  For a smaller guy, the late Michael Rauthier had some hops too. My guys Jackie Ryan from East fifth street could jump as well as Jimmy Parker from St. Saviour.  It was always a treat as a kid going up to Bishop Ford to watch guys like Tommy Walsh and Warren Whitlock show their “hops” on the warm-up lines before the game.

I don’t recall many high jumpers from the yard.  When God was giving out jumping ability back in the day, I think he skipped right over the kids in our neighborhood.



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  1. richie k says:

    i think the hoops were higher in holy names yard compared to p.s. 154 lol i could even grab the rim in 154’s, as far as guys who weren’t all that good not only did they also get picked to play, but they wanted to play, they were there to play also, they didn’t walk the other way and just give up and say i’m not good enough to play!!!!!

  2. Glenn Thomas says:

    Count me in on the “vertically challenged” club! LOL!

  3. jimmyvac says:

    Gerald Trapp had good hops and so did Bundy.. as you said Michael was quick and could jump.. I think Jackie Ryan was the most athletic..
    I played in a summer tournament in Bedford Stuy.. when I was on the layup line, I did my little dunk ( I am just under 6’5), the kid behind me was about 5’9 , threw it against the backboard, caught it and slammed it.. I pretended to tie my shoe so he was way ahead or behind me… but he was not much of a player, all athleticism but no game…. I think the dunk and the three point shot has added excitement but has taken away some of the things we were taught early to do like pull up and take a ten footer or use the backboard…..Starks was a good player but always felt he did not go to the hoop nearly enough or take mid range shots…..still love the dunk against the Bulls….

    • hoopscoach says:

      Starks should be applauded for beating the odds and dealing with some tough off the court issues. One of my favorite Knicks of all-time. Played very hard. Was a great teammate too…

  4. Jack Kelly says:

    Coach I believe that would make a nice movie …oh wait it was already done with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes 🙂

  5. jimmyvac says:

    Definitely.. not drafted, 4 schools, almost cut by the Knicks early.. no Starks, no finals.. I just think a lot of guys in the NBA focus on the three and not enough on the 15 footers.. I think there were more pure shooters in the NBA than now that could hit anywhere on the floor…

  6. Glenn Thomas says:

    I remember as a kid seeing Tommy Kash always walking aeound th neighborhoood with ankle weights on to help him improve his jumping. LOL. He just retired from Corrections. I see him from time to time. Good guy!

    • hoopscoach says:

      I also recall Tommy’s parked car outside the boys schoolyard on Howard Place. He would always walk over there in between games and sit inside and relax until the next game.

  7. jimmyvac says:

    Hey Cuz.. Bill Bradley tried it and complained it strained his calves. I tried running up and down hills in the park meadows .. did not help much. Kash was a crazy fun guy..he must have had about 35 years on the job.. Starks was a good 3 pointer, shooting 34 per cent but only 41 per cent from the floor Houston hit for about 800 threes at 40 per cent..But I would take Starks over Houston because of his better all around game…

  8. Jack Kelly says:

    I refuse to jump vertically…..if God intended me to fly he would’ve gave me wings.

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