Friendship: The Promise

The strange sort-of love story of two South Philly basketball stars

Scoop felt so in synch with Boeheim and the Syracuse program that he made an oral commitment as a junior, just to quiet the clamor. He didn’t ask Rick about it first; he just assumed Rick would follow along. After all, that had been the pact. What had changed was that Rick now had every major college in the United States after him. “I tried to tell Rick to hold off and see what happens,” says Arrigale. “He took it as that we didn’t want him to go to Syracuse. And we told him — no, no, we just want you to enjoy it for a little while. He said, to his credit, ‘This is what we said we were going to do.’” Rick committed to Syracuse a week after Scoop did.

So in the fall, Scoop and Rick will head there on full athletic scholarships, together. And you’re thinking how lucky it is that the two of them found each other, because otherwise who knows what would have become of them? “They’re each other’s family,” Coach Arrigale said. And that makes a great story. But it isn’t the right story — at least, not the complete one — because it turns out that Rick is really tight with his mom, whom Arrigale credits with keeping Rick in line academically, and she came to all his games, and so did Rick’s three little brothers and his little sister. And they sat in the stands with Scoop’s grandma and mom and Scoop’s stepdad and little brother and four little sisters, and with Scoop’s other grandma, and all of them cheered like mad. And Scoop and Rick were careful to behave themselves, because they take the responsibility of being good role models to all those siblings very seriously.

And guess who else was in the stands? Rick Sr. and Antonio Sr., who, it turns out, gave their sons a lot more than their names. “The best part of my game is my hook shot,” says Rick Jr. “My dad taught me how to drop the hook shot. We played a lot as we went along.” And Scoop? “My dad never let me back out of a commitment,” he says. “When I told someone I’m going to be there, I had to be there. My dad taught me about being a man, about stepping up and doing what you say you’ll do.”

It’s a happy story, Scoop and Rick’s. And such a Philly story. It’s just like Rocky, where the good guys win in the end. It gets you so pumped that you can’t help thinking about the future. Rick wants to go on to the NBA. Scoop wants the same thing. So you say to Scoop: Hey, how about the NBA? Will you make that a package deal, too?

And Scoop, open-book Scoop, sitting in the bleachers in Neumann-Goretti’s tired old gym, glances at you sidelong and says flatly, “Nah. It’s a business now. You do what you gotta do.”