Commentary: CIAA Tourney – memories from an ex-ball boy

Commentary: CIAA Tourney – memories from an ex-ball boy
February 25
00:00 2016

Wali Pitt

Guest  Columnist

Having grown up in Winston-Salem in the mid 1990s, CIAA Tournament season always brings back fond memories for me. It seemed like the tournament was held in Winston-Salem every year when I was in elementary School.

Between the basketball, the vendors, and the step shows, the CIAA tourney was always well worth the wintery wait for tip-off.

This is especially true for me this year. As the new Digital Manager of The Chronicle, I will be covering the action up-close from Charlotte, capturing on video the same type of clips that are stored in my memory bank from tournaments past.

As I flipped through those memories in anticipation of this year’s tournament, I can vividly remember the dominance of Ben Wallace and those legendary mid-‘90s Virginia Union teams, as well as future NBA player Ronald “Filp” Murray and his great senior season with Shaw University en route to Division II Player of the Year honors.

One year when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I had the great fortune to getting be a ball boy for a day’s worth of CIAA tournament games. I couldn’t have been more excited. I can remember walking down to the court before the game and the uncontrollable rush of excitement I felt as I was ushered to my spot under the basket. The man in charge gave me one task – when a player fell to the ground, I was to wipe up the sweat on the floor so no player would slip on it.

A simple enough task, but I had never seen a game of such magnitude from that vantage point before. I was so entrenched in the game that I forgot I was there on official ball boy duty. I cheered the swish of every three-pointer and jumped out of my seat during every thunderous dunk. I didn’t snap back into reality until I heard a voice scream “PITT!” and the accompanying buzzer for a foul on the play.

With all eyes on me, I had only a few precious seconds to do my job. I darted out onto the court and wiped the wettest looking spot I could find before running back under the basket, hoping I had effectively masked my incompetence. In no time at all the referee walks over with his arm outstretched in an undeniable “pass me the towel” gesture. I gave the ref the towel and he wiped up the spot where the player had actually fallen. The man in charge looked at me with the furrowed brow of disappointment and told the kid beside me, “You’re on sweat duty now,” thusly putting a swift end to my career as a ball-boy.

This year, as a member of the media, I will again be court-side at the CIAA Tournament for the first time since my quick stint as a ball boy.

This weekend, instead of sweat duty, I am tasked with bringing the action of the CIAA Tournament right to your door step with high-definition highlights, game reviews and in-depth retrospective from Charlotte. Let’s hope this time around, if I get too swept up in the action of the CIAA Tournament, I won’t miss my “shot” like I did nearly 20 years ago.


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