Sunday, November 25, 2007

SunBear Press

The book is slowly coming together with a scheduled release date of March of 2008. We've put up a web site that can take orders at a prepublication price of $99.99.

With a limited edition printing of 1500 copies, the retail price will be $125 after the book's release. We are also showing short exerts of the book on this site starting now with the 1971-72 season:

Buffalo, Home of the Braves
Season Two, 1971-72

Heading into their second year, the Braves had nowhere to go but up. Elmore Smith, a shot-blocking specialist out of Kentucky State University, was taken with the team’s first-round pick, third choice overall. Then general manager Eddie Donovan selected guard Fred Hilton, a one-man scoring machine out of Grambling, in the second round.

Yet drafts, regardless of sport, are capricious, often humbling enterprises. Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady, for example, was a sixth-round choice of the New England Patriots. Often drafts are better remembered for the first-round flops and those who somehow come out of late-round obscurity to become superstars. Such was the case with Randy Smith.

A tremendous all-around athlete, Smith excelled at basketball, soccer and track and field at obscure Buffalo State University. When the Braves took him in the seventh round it appeared to be little more than a sop to local fans. After all, the organization had been roundly criticized for passing on Niagara University All-American Calvin Murphy the year before. A decision that John Hummer, the previous year’s first-round pick, the one taken instead of the popular Murphy, would spend the rest of his time in Buffalo trying to live down. So, why not take a chance on another local hero? After all, it was only a seventh-round pick.

At first glance, it was easy to underestimate Smith. Despite his athletic ability, he was so soft-spoken that his manner often bordered upon the laconic. Even though he was the greatest athlete in Buffalo State history, the school wasn’t a stop with many scouts. In fact, Smith won national honors for his soccer ability rather than his basketball play.

At Buffalo State, Smith was primarily a forward until his senior year when new coach Don O’Brien shifted to the backcourt in hopes of drawing any attention from professional scouts. It didn’t really work. As the Courier-Express’ Jim Baker pointed out, others chosen in the seventh round that year’s NBA included “such luminaries as Tom Bush, Gene Knolle, Mike Jordan, John Duncan, Eric Hill, Dennis Hogg, Skip Young, Steve Kelly, Curtis Ford, Gene Gathers, Ralph Brateris, Danny Davis and Gene Phillips.” None became a household name.

During his senior year at Buffalo State, Smith said he didn’t show as well as his junior year. Most of his baskets came on drives to the basket, which most scouts didn’t think would happen with any regularity in either professional league. Smith said he was surprised that “the ABA never drafted me at all, although they did when I was a junior.”

Most scouts felt Smith lacked a dependable jump shot. So, in the weeks before the Braves’ training camp at Paul Snyder’s resort in Darien Lake, New York, Smith worked to develop more confidence in it. He realized that too often he was releasing the ball at the very top of his jump, even on the way back down to the floor. Before attending the Indiana Pacers’ rookie camp, one of the few invitations he received from the rival league, he reworked the mechanics of his shot. He started to let the ball go on the way up. Right away Smith saw the jumper had better arch and rotation.