The Ogg Man

AS A FRESHMAN FOR Gene Bartow's UAB Blazers, Ogg was solid in infrequent appearances, and improved significantly toward the end of the season. But it wasn't all roses. How could it be? Because of his ungainliness, and the one-syllable thrill of his name, other teams' fans had a field day dogging Ogg. A newspaper at the University of South Florida printed an Ogg cutout mask and handed copies to patrons entering the stadium. Each time the freshman glanced toward the stands, he saw a mocking sea of distressingly familiar faces. "I can remember one game in particular, when we went to Stanford," says Jimmy Armstrong, who left Gardendale at the same time as Alan to pursue graduate work at UAB and act as a volunteer assistant for the Blazers. "He was ridiculed so bad that he came off the floor in tears. Not hurt tears, but angry tears. Five thousand fans were shouting his name in a derogatory tone."

Part 3

A second thorn came courtesy of injury. As a result of a severe toe sprain he suffered his sophomore year during the Great Alaska Shootout (the sprain came against the Syracuse Orangemen squad, which included Ogg's future teammates Rony Seikaly and Sherman Douglas), Ogg missed four games and played poorly for the remainder of the season. Armstrong says the sophomore slump was excruciatingly frustrating for Ogg, who had just begun to feel his own potential as a player: "He never really fully recuperated that year. I don't think anyone really knows how bad an injury a toe is. I think that if I hadn't been there then to encourage Alan, he might have left basketball."

Still, the season wasn't a total loss - Ogg scored a career-high eighteen points against Mississippi Valley State in January 1988, and his sophomore year also saw the debut of the infamous Rocky the Flying Squirrel Haircut. "Every year when the seasons are over, the team goes to Panama City, Florida. The Redneck Riviera, we call it," explains Rick Segers, a high-school and college classmate of Alan's who was the Blazers' student manager. "Well, we were down there after freshman year and Alan wandered off, and the next thing we know he had a spiked crew cut on top, long hair in back, and no hair at all on the sides. The next season, he had gotten a finger to the eye and he was having to wear goggles, and he went through with a dunk one time and was flying through the air and the hair was flowing behind him, and one of the local TV anouncers said that he looked like Rocky the Flying Squirrel."

Determined not to be felled by another tragic toe-stub, Ogg weight-trained through the summer, and during his junior year he became a dependable starter. The most noticeable change in Ogg's game was his improved ability to use his height to its full advantage, mostly in the form of blocked shots. Against Florida A&M in December 1988, he came within swatting distance of the single-game NCAA blocked-shot record of another impressive big man, Navy's David Robinson, now an All-Galaxy center with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. "We were up by I don't know how much, I had twelve blocks, and coach took me out," says Ogg. "He told me to go after anything to try to block. I didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't know I was close to the record." Despite Bartow's instructions, Ogg was unable to turn away any more shots that game; his dozen, a UAB one-game record, left him two short of Robinson's NCAA mark.

While he consolidated his defensive terrorism - with 266 career blocks, he is the all-time Sun Belt Conference leader - Ogg's offense developed as well. In his senior year, he shot better than 59 percent from the field, a percentage helped substantially by a perfect twelve-for-twelve performance against Alabama State, a school record for consecutive field goals. His final senior averages: 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds, not celestial, but perfectly respectable for a developing big man.

Having exhausted his four years of college eligibility, Ogg looked toward the pros, and though he wasn't selected in the 1990 college draft, more than fifteen NBA teams were nosing around, asking questions. By the divine hand of fate he came to Miami, the city that would lionize him, hold him aloft, crown him king.

AS THE ONLY NBA player who ever actively pursued a bachelor's degree in philosophy (league officials in New York could not confirm this, but the odds are good), Alan Ogg may become an important asset if the NBA ever replaces jump balls with tossup philosophy questions.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Knicks and Heat locked in a close one tonight. Patrick Ewing with the rebound; Heat backup Ogg ties him up. Let's go to referee Jake Berman's microphone.

BERMAN: Patrick, Alan, you know the rules. And here's the question: In Plato's Symposium, who spoke directly after Pausanias?

OGG: Uh, Aristophanes.
BERMAN: Heat ball! [Wheeeet!]
EWING: Damn! I thought it was Eryxmachos.

But Ogg's training in higher thought (and thought doesn't get much higher than 7-2) strands him when it comes to explaining the trajectory of his renown. "I don't really know why they yell the way they do," he admits. Don't worry, Alan: even other great minds have pondered the matter of sudden fame and come up empty, from Lord Byron's unhelpfully expository "I awoke one morning and found myself famous" to Juvenal's fatalistic "Some believe that all things are subject to the chances of fortune."

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