Hell Hath Frozen Over
In high school I drove a 1978 light blue Volkswagon Rabbit with a dark blue racing stripe, which at the time, I found to be humiliating. (Now, I remember it as the coolest ride ever.) "Dad," I'd say. "When are you going to buy me a new car?"
Every time, he'd reply: "When hell freezes over."
Well, Dad, as of this afternoon, you owe me a new car. Hell hath frozen over. It's snowing in Texas...
God messes with Texas.
It was supposed to be a relaxing day for the Hoops Odyssey after a brutal stretch of driving across the plains. We caught a doubleheader last Saturday in Indianapolis before truckin' across three states to games in Lawrence and Manhattan, Kansas. Then we headed down to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the Bedlam Battle. Today, all we were supposed to do was drive four hours from Stillwater to Denton, Texas, to catch a North Texas shoot-around and interview a few Mean Green seniors on the possibility of playing in their last college basketball game.
Easy, no problem, smooth sailing, right up until about 20 miles from the Texas border, when this frozen white powder started to fall from the sky. As a knee-jerk New England response, Cyrus scoffed at the wintry weather. He grew up in a town where sixteen feet of snow couldn't cancel school. This was nothing, but a freak dusting. Yet, the flakes kept falling and by the time we hit the Texas border, visibility was down to 100 feet and there was at least six inches of snow on the ground. Seriously, cotton puffs are falling from the sky.
All of a sudden, our four-hour car ride becomes a seven-hour trek through the heart of a blizzard on the outskirts of the Lone Star State. What's even worse is that our story has dried up on us. Due to more snow than anyone can remember in a decade, North Texas has shut down their campus and the shoot-around has been canceled. Fortunately, Mean Green star forward, Quincy Williams, brother of former Duke center Sheldon Williams, agrees to stick around the gym until we show up.
U Can't Touch This kind of weather.
I'll give credit where it's due. My partner, this madhatter from outside Boston, handles the Impala admirably in these nasty conditions. Unfortunately, he isn't the only one driving. The problem with snowstorms in Texas is that you're surrounded by Texans, who know as much about driving in snow as Bostonians know about quail hunting. No joke, every mile there's another spin out. Texans blow past us and then ten minutes later we see them standing next to their Camaro's in a ditch on the side of I-35.
Seven hours later, we finally pull onto the North Texas campus. Both Cyrus and I are in foul moods, and not just because of the traffic, but because Quincy must've been waiting for two hours and that's just not a cool thing to do to a player who's brother is the Landlord. The vibe on campus sets us straight, though. Students pour out of UNT housing with pool toys, kitchenware, tops to plastic storage bins and basically anything that can be transformed into a sled. Snowmen thumb their carrot noses and wave at us from every corner. It's all the beauty of a snow day without any of the usual winter props.
The best is yet to come. A student stands on the side of the road, smiles and waves us down. Cyrus thinks the kid wants a picture so my partner pulls over and rolls down his window. The student steps up and nails Cyrus with a snowball. (Obviously, they didn't teach Cyrus that trick growing up in Massachusetts.) Yes! Amazing!
North Texas has a snow day.
Quincy Williams is still waiting for us when we finally make it inside The Super Pit, UNT's arena, and he's not even mad. "This weather is crazy," Williams says.
No, what's crazy is that we're interviewing Sheldon Williams' brother and he looks nothing like "The Landlord". Quincy lacks his older brother's massive build - although he's still 6-8 - and unique facial structure. (I'd say that's a pretty diplomatic way of describing Sheldon's face.) I almost don't believe that they're really related. Quincy swears they are. "'The Landlord' was actually my nickname," he says. "Sheldon stole it from me."
Regardless of their physical similarities, the Williams brothers play a similar game. Quincy owns the paint just like his brother. In the four games before the Sun Belt Tournament, he's notched double-doubles and on the season he's averaging 10 ppg and 7.8 rpg.
Sheldon's numbers in college might've been more impressive than his little bro's and he obviously received a lot more attention playing at Duke, but I'd argue that, when he graduates later this year, Quincy will leave a more permanent mark on his college program.
Dallas - the nexus of American highways. Here's the view from our hotel lobby.
When he first arrived in Denton, UNT was one of the worst teams in the country. In the late '90's, it took the Mean Green four seasons to win 20 games. Now, under the guidance of Coach Johnny Jones, who convinced Quincy to come to Denton, UNT is at the top of the Sun Belt Conference. The Mean Green have boasted 20 win seasons for the last two years and made their first Tournament appearance since '88 last season. Quincy has no doubt been a large part of North Texas' basketball revival and he seems genuinely happy hanging out and chatting in the gym.
Finally, at the end of the interview, when we've exhausted all meaningful topics, I get to what I've been meaning to ask since I first shook the Quincy's hand. "What do you think about your sister-in-law?"
That would be Tennessee all-star Candace Parker.
"She's great," Quincy says. Apparently, on Thanksgivings, the Williams play these one-on-one-on-one tournaments between Sheldon, Quincy and Candace. How awesome is that?
I imagine the three of them shoveling off a driveway to shoot baskets. "Does it ever snow here on Thanksgiving?" I ask.
No. Quincy smiles. I told you, this weather is crazy.