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Rondo: Master of Connect 4

Chuck - Red's Army November 16, 2009 Uncategorized Comments Off

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The Globe's Charlie Pierce has an epic piece (7 web pages!) on Rajon Rondo.

He recaps Rondo's childhood and athletic career. I didn't learn a whole lot, but I did pull out some of the interesting tidbits. Here are some excerpts:

On Rondo's defensive genius:

And throughout, he has become unquestionably the most vividly athletic
player on the team. Garnett is an emotional cyclone and Allen has his
spun-gold jump shot. Pierce has a dozen ways to score he hasn’t tried
yet. But it is Rondo who brings people out of their seats. Defensively,
he appears to be possessed of the same kind of athletic clairvoyance –
in reality, a kind of hyperattuned anticipation — that Bird once had
on offense.

As a child Rondo was extremely competitive, especially during games of Connect 4.

And central to everything was Connect Four, a Milton Bradley game from
1974, an upright version of checkers in which the first player to get
four of his pieces in a row — vertically, horizontally, or diagonally
– is the winner. The sessions went on for hours. If Rajon was losing,
they went on ever longer. “Connect Four, I was pretty much the man,” he
says today. “I ran a couple guys here. You can ask Mr. Allen — talking
about Ray there. You can ask a couple of kids. They came to watch
practice, and they ended up getting beat.”

On Rondo's love for football:

When they all hit Meyzeek Middle School, it was Bentley who was the
basketball star. Rondo’s heart was in football. He lived for the
contact, and he loved how, as the quarterback, he was the focal point
of any team on which he played. However, when Bentley began to play
basketball in an open gym program run at Eastern High School by Doug
Bibby, the school’s coach, Rondo tagged along. “The first time I saw
him,” Bibby says, “I knew he could be an incredible ballplayer, because
it was open gym, and he was in eighth grade, and he was pretty much
dominating the game against young adults.”

On playing at Oak Hill Academy:

“When he came to us,” recalls Steve
Smith, the longtime coach at Oak Hill, “he was probably borderline Top
100. After about a month, I thought, ‘This guy’s really good.’ He had
those huge hands and that long wingspan.” During that season, Smith
took Oak Hill to Barcelona to play against some Spanish teams. In one
game, with Josh Smith in foul trouble, Rondo put up 55 points, many of
them against Sergio Rodriguez, a Spanish star who now plays for
Portland in the NBA.

“You
try to go into a game figuring any guy can embarrass you,” Rondo
explains. “He can be better than you on a single night if he’s on. You
don’t want that to happen to you.”

On playing at Kentucky:

In 2004, Rondo was recruited by the University of Kentucky, and he
played two seasons there, chafing under the patterned offensive system
favored by then-coach Tubby Smith. Rondo wanted to run, and Smith
didn’t want him to, and the two clashed regularly, with Smith benching
Rondo for six games. It was here that Rondo’s reputation for
stubbornness, and for uncoachability, was born, even as he led the
Southeastern Conference in assists as a sophomore. (Now at the
University of Minnesota, Smith declined to return phone calls for this
story.) When Rondo decided to declare for the 2006 NBA draft, more than
a few people at Kentucky were not sad to see him leave.

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