What's Up, Doc?
The best ones have a sort of radar--the ability to hit the clutch jump shot with a defender's hand in front of the face and time running out. Walter "Doc" Hines has that radar. Last year, in the second half of a game against Ivy champion Penn, Hines pumped in 22 points, bringing Harvard fans to their feet in admiration. With the likes of pro prospect Ron Haigler guarding him tenaciously, the bearded junior scored almost at will from all over the IAB court.
There's a lot more to Hines than the fact that he is very tall, hails from New York City, and can put a leather projectile through an iron hoop with greater consistency than most of his peers in Leverett House. But Dr. Naismith's game is not the only thing in Hines's life. Because Hines doesn't follow the script, his athletic career at Harvard has been tortured by false starts and stops.
When he came to Cambridge from Alexander Jackson High School in Queens, Hines had the credentials and talent to be a star. High school play brought him all-Queens and all-New York City honors, and selection to several scholastic all-American teams. But he chose to sit out his first year. He wanted time to study.
Last season, Doc changed his mind and decided to play varsity basketball on a "trial basis," mixing hourlies with fast breaks. The start of his sophomore adventure proved initially disappointing. Hines fractured his hand and couldn't get untracked for a while, but in the latter half of the season he showed enough against teams like Penn, Princeton (scoring 13 points and leaping for nine rebounds), Cornell (again 13 points on top of five for five shooting from the field) and Tennessee to bring welcome praise from head basketball coach Tom Sanders.
Then, in another turnaround, on November 12 of this year, Hines quit the squad. (In an apparently unrelated move, sophomores Roosevelt Cox and Roland Smart also left the team.) At the time, Hines refused to comment on the matter. Now he is willing to say the conflict between his life on and off the court had become too great. He felt he was cheating himself in both his athletic and academic pursuits. When the crunch came, Hines decided to take the off-court life more seriously.
"My original intentions in coming to the University was not to play ball," Hines said last week. "I had over 200 athletic offers from other schools, so if I had wanted just to play ball I would have taken one of them," he said.
That was not the final word, though, for Hines returned to the team shortly afterwards. He reconsidered the demands on him and decided he could handle the pressure, he said.
"We talked about it numerous times," Sanders said last night, "and in the end, the team voted to take the Doc back." There was another reason for returning, according to Hines--the chance of Harvard winning an Ivy championship.
"It'd be awful nice to have that," Hines said. "I hope this is going to be the year."
Hines has shown occasional flashes of his talent since returning. In the IPTAY tournament over the Thanksgiving vacation, he chipped in ten points in a little over 20 minutes of action against Clemson and later added 14 against Syracuse in 23 minutes. On Wednesday, an off night for him, Hines dropped in six against a powerful UMass team. "A ball player of his talents can certainly make a contribution," Sanders said.
What about the future? Hines seems to have momentarily reconciled the conflicting tensions that led him to quit the team in November. "I'm going to try it this year," he promised. But he is leaving the door open for the more distant future. Hines said he wants to go on to graduate school, and he's involved in clubs and other non-athletic ventures which consume a fair share of his time.
Whether the economics major with the soft jump shot and deceptive baseline drive can handle those involvements and basketball at the same time remains to be seen.