Random ruminations while wondering whatever happened to Mister Jennings . . .
FLY WASTED TALENT: The first time I saw James “Fly’’ Williams, he was a freshman phenom at Austin Peay. I was a rookie sports writer at the Johnson City Press-Chronicle and Austin Peay was playing at East Tennessee State. ETSU and Peay were in the OVC and Fly was leading the nation in scoring.
To hype the game up even more, we ran a full-page picture of Fly dunking back over his head on the front of the sports section on Sunday. We put a large headline on the top: “The Fly Is Coming.’’ The game was Monday night and Memorial Gym was packed like sardines.
Fly picked up two offensive fouls in the game’s first few possessions. Peay’s coach was the late Lake Kelly. Kelly motioned for Fly to come out of the game, but Fly paid no attention. He finally came out, but went into the stands and sat in the middle of hostile ETSU fans, telling them his team didn’t need him, they were going to handle the home team’s chumps with ease.
Fly later went down to Peay’s bench, but would not sit down. When the officials ran down the floor, Fly would run out on the floor gesturing at the officials while their backs were turned to him. He later jumped up on the stage behind the Peay bench and sat down on top of the media table and chatted us up. We learned what Brooklyn trash talk was.
He came back in the second half and put on a Harlem Globetrotters type offensive clinic. He used every trick in his Brooklyn book of moves. After the game Kelly would not allow the media to talk to him.
I followed Fly’s career, which turned out to be a checkered one. This week we learned he has been charged with being a major drug dealer, accused of selling heroin worth between $12-to-$20 million. When he heard the charges, Fly sat silent before uttering “Holy s…,’’
In 1974 he was a first round pick of the ABA Denver Nuggets. He left Austin Peay after two seasons. He was chosen in the ninth round by the Philadelphia 76ers after the ABA had merged with the NBA.
Fly failed to stick with any team for long and eventually returned to his comfort zone, the deadly streets at the Brownsville Rec Center where his street-ball game was legend.
He was shot later on in an argument with an off duty officer. He survived and roamed the playgrounds and streets. He was a heavy drug user, which led to his game failing.
Fly was a New York playground legend, but has become what he tried to warn playground kids to avoid. He may spend the rest of his life in prison, a sad end to what only he is to blame.
SKEETER’S OBIT: Another ETSU hoops star’s career was just the opposite of Williams. Harley “Skeeter’’ Swift Jr. was a 6-3 guard for ETSU, and was a third round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA draft. He chose to play five seasons in the ABA. He played with the New Orleans Buccaneers, Memphis Pros, Pittsburgh Condors, Dallas Chaparrals and San Antonio Spurs.
He died last month at 70 years old. The Alexandria, Va., native was a stocky guard who had a solid overall game. He had a celebration of life at the (Madison) Brooks Gym, where he played. He later coached at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
PREDS FUTURE: We will learn a lot about the Predators resistance under fire when they play the Blues Sunday at 2 p.m. in Bridgestone Arena. Fans are counting on them to be the first team to advance past the second round of the NHL playoffs.
They face a Blues team that is trailing 3-2 in the best out of seven playoff series. They need to put the Blues out of the playoffs because the Preds have outplayed St. Louis in all but one game.
Be assured Smashville will be on fire Sunday. The Preds don’t want to have to play a Game 7.
BIG BALLER JOKE: You may have heard of the Ball family, led by father LaVar. Oldest brother of three is Lonzo Ball, who is leaving UCLA for the NBA after one season. He has already announced his personal shoes, made by the Big Baller brand.
You can get a pair for only $495. Yikes. Who does he think he is, Jimmy Choo? Even his two younger brothers will not wear them. If they end up at UCLA, they will wear Under Armour, who has a contract with the Bruins.
REAL KICKER: Christ Presbyterian Academy’s JT Gilbert played soccer growing up. When he was a senior at CPA he went out for football just to enjoy the fellowship of the team. But when they saw him kick, JT became the team’s kicker and caught the fever.
He is now going to attend Samford University as a walk-on kicker.
PRICE IS RIGHT: It is being reported by larrybrownsports that former Vanderbilt star David Price could be back in with the Boston Red Sox as early as this month. He has been sidelined this season due to elbow issues.
They are not rushing the left-hander, but all signs point to his return being sooner rather than later.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.