Indeed, it was. The legendary UNLV and Fresno St. basketball coach had just quietly entered the gym and sat at the top of the bleachers. He was here for what everyone else was here for. Who everyone else was here for.
There were whispers and rumors floating around the gym. Had this 13 year old kid from South Africa really done what they said he had? In this day and age, not having any video evidence of a basketball prodigy’s exploits from as young as 10 is unheard of. However, since Coetzee had been buried in the outskirts of Johannesburg until six months prior, there was no way to confirm, or deny, the kid’s alleged talents.
The only contact anyone from the western basketball-sphere was SLAM Magazine‘s notorious Arthur “Arthur Ashe” Anderson. Arthur wasn’t gay, didn’t played tennis, and didn’t have AIDS, for all I knew. The only thing I knew he had in common with the famed tennis star was a first name. So I didn’t get the reference. Either way, given the controversial and cultural story of Arthur Ashe, I was uncomfortable using the nickname. Anderson seemed to enjoy that from other journalists.
We had all heard the stories, from Anderson, that had graced the pages of SLAM for the passed six months. About some freak of a kid from South Africa that was the most incredible athlete to ever grace a court. How the game came naturally. The tall tales never seemed to end: A first dunk at age 11. Running local university kids off the court at 12. An offer to play professionally in Europe at 13. And now, here Coetzee was supposed to be. In this dingy gym in Charleston, South Carolina, with every coach and scout from every major college in the country baring down on it, and him.
We were still a good hour from the showcase, and I spot Anderson in the corner of the gym. I hustle down there to get to him before most other journalists recognize him. I run up to him, and he is visibly distressed.
“Hey Anderson, you getting amped for your kid to show?”
He half-way smiles at me, but doesn’t respond.
“Yo, man. There’s someone up there in the bleachers saying this Coetzee kid has already fielded offers from Coach K and Calipari? Is this true? The kid is only 13, right? Isn’t that illegal somehow?”
Anderson turns to face me. Attempts to say something, but stops himself. As he slips out the side door he’s next to, he leaves me with this:
“Yo, man. For sure. Tonight should be dope. Dopest ever.”
The door closed behind him before anyone else noticed he was in the building.