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Sidelines: Carlos Sr. learns the price of fame

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

Last month, former Juneau-Douglas High School and Duke University basketball player Carlos Boozer Jr. was selected 35th in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team is coached by John Lucas, a star for the Maryland Terrapins in the 1970s - when Carlos Sr. was playing basketball there.

Not only does a kid from the Last Frontier make it to the NBA, but he's going to play for his father's college basketball teammate. A great story, right?

It seems the stories that have circulated for years about Carlos Sr. playing for the Lefty Driesell-coached Terps with the likes of Lucas, Brad Davis and Len Elmore are tall tales. The Beacon Journal of Akron, Ohio, reported early this week that Lucas - a Terp from 1972 to 1976 - "drew a blank" when asked about his supposed former teammate.

Carlos Boozer Sr. "didn't play at Maryland while I was there," Lucas told the Akron paper.

When asked by the Beacon Journal about the inconsistencies in the story, Carlos Sr. admitted the stories about his playing days were embellished.

"Back in the day when John Lucas was there, I used to go to the East Gym (on campus)," he told the paper. "All of the basketball players were there. John Lucas. Brad Davis. Len Elmore. We used to play pickup games against them."

Over the years, he said, stories of those "pickup games" evolved into a spot on the team.

"After a while, the stories started that I played with John, and I kind of let it go," Boozer Sr. told the Beacon Journal. "I'm kind of embarrassed about it."

The Akron paper turned up a March 13, 1998, article from your very own Juneau Empire. The story - part of a series about the college feeding frenzy around Carlos Jr., then a junior at JDHS - discussed Carlos Sr.'s basketball experience and quoted him about being on the Maryland team.

"I had a little playing time, but not much because it was a great team," he said.

"Lucas always played against me (in practice)," Carlos Sr. continued, then joked that "if it hadn't been for me he wouldn't have made it."

So, at least in part, Carlos Sr.

had his hand in starting the stories about playing for the Terrapins. Whether the Empire was the first media outlet to publicize it is unclear, but we were far from the last.

On Dec. 13, 1999, GoDuke.com, the official Web site for Duke University Athletics, published a Q&A with Carlos Jr., in which the questioner noted that, "With your father having played basketball at Maryland, he must have been very instrumental in your development as a player."

Boozer never corrected the interviewer, but also didn't specifically refer to any of his father's college basketball experience when responding. He just described how his father had introduced him to basketball and gave him a good base in the fundamentals of the game.

Later on, the Akron paper reported, Dick Vitale told of Carlos Sr.'s playing days during an ESPN telecast.

All of this makes you wonder what Carlos Sr. was thinking as his son was selected by the Cavaliers; with Lucas as coach, it's probably the only NBA market where media outlets would care about Carlos Sr.'s college career, or lack thereof.

The questionable basketball credentials of Carlos Boozer Sr. come on the heels of a bevy of well-publicized false resumes. Obviously, though, this mea culpa is minuscule when compared to such notable gaffes as George O'Leary being dismissed as Notre Dame head football coach almost as soon as he was hired due to falsehoods on his resume, or the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee quitting for falsifying her academic credentials.

Carlos Sr. probably never got more than some admiration or bragging rights for the tales of his Maryland playing days.

What he did is no different than what millions of others have done, whether it's transforming yourself from a benchwarmer to a star high school quarterback while reminiscing, or magnifying the size of that fish that got away.

Because of his son, however, Carlos Sr.'s "fish tale" was spread far and wide, and got out of hand.

In the end, the people with the most at stake from this revelation are the five Boozer kids. Will this diminish the standing of Carlos Sr. in their eyes? For Carlos Jr., at least, it seems the news is nothing new.

The Beacon Journal reported last week that Carlos Jr. personally told Lucas that the stories about his father were false, and Carlos Jr. told the Akron paper he never paid much attention to the tales that appeared in news stories while he was in Juneau and at Duke.

"That was just one of the juicy things they put in articles," he told the Beacon Journal. "I cared more in the articles about what they were saying about me."

In the wake of Carlos Sr.'s dented reputation, Carlos Jr. continues to prepare for the upcoming NBA season, and will be playing with Cleveland's summer-league team this weekend. At least all that HE has done - in Juneau, at Duke - is real, and all of his NBA hopes are genuine. And no one can take that away from him - or us.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.



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