I have a story.
It’s a short one, but seriously, that’s no pun intended.
Sitting on press row at the women’s basketball game – the Bulls’ heartbreaking 66-65 loss to No. 10 Rutgers – I got a little surprise.
This guy – all 5-foot-3 of him that starred in Space Jam – is the largest man in Charlotte next to Philip Rivers.
Muggsy Bogues. Former little man on the court for the former Charlotte Hornets, Bogues is now head coach for the Charlotte Sting, North Carolina’s WNBA team.
He used to be known as the hardest working man in the NBA. Now he’s a hardworking coach.
I asked him what he was doing at a tucked-away place like USF.
“Scouting,” he told me.
“Well,” Bogues said, “I’m looking at (Rutgers point guard Cappie) Pondexter. I’ve got a draft to keep an eye on.”
Charlotte had the No. 1 overall pick and chose Janel McCarville from Minnesota on April 16, but now Bogues has his sights on some new players.Pondexter is one.
But really, even though it’s early, he’d better keep his eye on Tampa and how the nation’s leading scorer, USF forward Jessica Dickson, does in the next year and a half.
Throughout Wednesday’s game, Pondexter and Dickson battled. That’s to say the least.
The Big East’s No.1 and No. 3 scorers went head to head, trying to figure out who could outdo the other.
Dickson: 37 points (career high), nine rebounds, an assist, 11 for 23 shooting from field-goal range.
Pondexter: 40 points (career high), five rebounds, four assists, 14 for 23 shooting from field goal range.
I’ll let you be the judge, because Bogues sure couldn’t.
“That was some show,” he said to me after the game. “(Dickson) was very impressive. I know that I am impressed. It was some game, and in the end, it’s a shame someone had to lose.”
Bogues hadn’t been to Tampa before to see Dickson. He admitted to “hitting two birds with one stone” when Pondexter and Dickson were on the floor together.
For a little guy, Bogues did a lot of talking. He also did a lot of smiling, which was brighter than the new scoreboards in the Sun Dome.
But then again, it is still early.
Dickson has her senior year left. Her coach knows that.
“She’s still got a year,” coach Jose Fernandez said, then breathed a sigh of relief that he wouldn’t be losing his junior, who had her fifth 30-plus-point game this season Wednesday. “But I think next year she is going to be on a lot of teams’ radars.”
Another understatement by Fernandez – he knows Dickson “is a not a very vocal leader, but still leads by example.” But honestly, coach, you better believe teams’ radars are going berserk.
Especially Bogues’ tiny radar.
He leaned over to me after the game. I looked down at him, and he said, “She could be drafted. And yeah, I’d play her in Charlotte.”
Men’s college basketball players leave early all the time.
Can women’s players?
Has any, ever?
Dickson isn’t about to, but she sure knows an honor – considering after scoring 37 points on the No. 10 team in the country she didn’t even pat herself on the back – when she hears one.
“Coach Fernandez took me into his office before the game and told me (Bogues) was going to be here,” Dickson said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to put any pressure on you,’ but I knew I had to just go out there and play ball.
“I didn’t really see him until my mom came down and handed him a towel to sign, and I was like, ‘What are you doing? You need to be watching the game.'”
I told her what Bogues had told me. It blew her away.
“That makes me feel good,” she then told me. “That’s been my dream, to play for the WNBA. Since I was 8 years old, from shooting shots in the driveway to playing against my brother and stepfather. That’s very uplifting to me.”
Fans who have come to USF’s nine home games know what Dickson can do. They must have spread the word, because Rutgers’ coach – the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, with her 734-248 record and preseason pick to finish first in the Big East – knew. Pondexter knew after Wednesday night.
Bogues had only heard rumors and half-truths before he saw Dickson.
“I’ll tell you what,” he told me. “Seeing is believing.”
Dickson was his little surprise.