How do most players get to the NBA? Usually they play four years at a major Division I institution, get drafted by an NBA team, make the cut in training camp, then go on to a long career, capping it all off with a speech in the Springfield Hall of Fame.
Of course there are exceptions that disprove the rule. Larry Bird switched colleges. Magic Johnson left college early. Moses Malone didn't even go to college. Lloyd Daniels never finished high school. Scottie Pippen and Manute Bol never went to "big-time" colleges. And as for the draft, many players, including Paul Graham and Scott Brooks, were never drafted by the NBA.
6'6" forward Vincent Askew took the one of the longest pathways ever known towards the NBA. He switched colleges. He came out early in the NBA draft, only to be chosen in the low rounds. He got dropped by the 76ers, toiled with the CBA's Savannah Spirits, then signed on with Albany in 1988. Halfway through the season, Askew bolted the team and headed for Italy. For the next two years, Askew's career stretched between Italian teams willing to pay top dinero, and a little Northeastern squad that recently moved out of a cramped Armory.
"Vince was a great guy, I like Vince immensely," recalled team statistician Doug Dickinson. "And I just think he got in the middle of something. Something that he couldn't handle. Vince was young, and Vince liked money, like we all do. And I really think, in my opinion, and I've heard this from other people, that he was getting bad advice [on where to go and with whom to sign]."
During his tenure with Albany, Askew received special coaching from coaches George Karl and Gerald Oliver. Both men not only helped Askew improved his game on the court, but also to help deal with life away from the hoop - how to deal with the quagmire of Italian contracts, lawsuits and bad advice. Thanks to Karl and Oliver, Askew kept playing hard, hoping for that brass ring known as the NBA.
On March 12, 1990, Albany visited the Pensacola Tornados in the last regular game of the season. Only nine Patroons dressed for the game - guard Steve Burtt had a pulled groin muscle and could not play. Still, Albany needed to send the word to those unlucky enough to face them in the playoffs.
Although Albany took the first quarter, 33-24, Pensacola woke up in the second. Clifford Lett, always a thorn in the Patroons' side, scored 13 in that quarter, helping Pensacola tie the game at 39-all. And with four minutes left in the first half, Pensacola got their scoring machine together and ran off 21 points to Albany's 7. Their 44-21 second-quarter outburst was more than enough to pick up the win, although Albany did manage to snare the other three quarter points.
But that night, Vincent Askew went point-happy. In the third quarter, Mario Elie twisted his ankle and had to leave the game. Askew, who scored 17 points in the first half, got handed the ball almost every time. He sank 23 of the Pats' 34 points in the third quarter, and scored seven more in the fourth before Pensacola figured out how to double-team and triple-team him.
And Albany can thank Steve Shurina for helping pick up the fourth quarter. With two seconds left on the clock and the quarter tied at 36-all, Shurina arced a jumper that went through the hoop just as the buzzer sounded.
Although they lost four of their final six games, Albany still finished with the best record in the league for the third year in a row (41-15), and space was being set aside in the Knickerbocker Arena for another CBA Eastern Division banner.
Askew finished the season with a whopping 1,484 total points, breaking the league record (Ron Davis sank 1,441 in 1979-80). Askew also broke Patroon records for scoring average (26.5 ppg), field goals (587), free throws (301) and total points in one game (47). And during his career, Askew had more triple-doubles (6) than any other player in team history (Clinton Smith is in second place, with 4).
And thanks to the lessons he learned from Karl and Oliver, Vince Askew finally made it to the NBA.
Pearson 4-15 1-2 9, Askew 18-33 11-13 47, McDuffie 2-5 2-2 7, Smith 5-6 0-0 10, Elie 6-10 3-3 15, Queenan 4-10 5-6 13, Shurina 6-10 4-4 16, Patterson 2-4 0-0 4, Stroeder 1-1 3-4 5. Totals 48-94 29-32 126.
Hollis 8-18 2-2 19, Wright 6-11 3-4 15, Houzer 4-8 2-2 10, Wade 6-12 4-5 18, Lett 11-19 6-7 28, Edwards 6-8 4-6 16, Jedlow 5-12 6-6 16, Taylor 4-6 5-6 13. Totals 50-94 32-38 135.
ALBANY 33-21-34-38 126 3 PENSACOLA 24-44-31-36 135 4Three-point goals: McDuffie, Wade 2, Hollis. Rebounds - Albany 48 (Askew 14), Pensacola 35 (Howzer 7). Assists - Albany 22 (Pearson, Askew, Elie 4), Pensacola 27 (Wade 13). Total fouls - Albany 27, Pensacola 27. Technical fouls - none. A-1,188.
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