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ESPN2's Skip Bayless: James Harden should be Thunder point guard, defends tweet about Northwest Classen career

Bayless stands by his comment that Harden was partially to blame for elbow jab by Metta World Peace. He also discusses his own high school basketball career and playing for Henry Iba disciple Don Van Pool.
by Mel Bracht Published: May 9, 2012

Again, I do not condone the elbow, but I get what was happening that Harden got into harm's way. Again as a young team trying to make it's way, it was a neat move. I appreciated it. It probably would have worked on just about anybody but this wild man and then mayhem ensued.

Do you regret your tweet about your Northwest Classen basketball career?

Absolutely not. I know in your article (in The Oklahoman) Bruce Scott (former teammate) said if I had seen fit to transfer to John Marshall my senior year I would have averaged 18 a game. I would have. What happened was we were having an abbreviated summer league season. It seemed like about six games at the Downtown Y. Remember those teams were always ranked 1 or 2 in the state under the great Don Van Pool? I started every game because it was clear that I was going to be a starter. I would score a lot. Van Pool didn't like me but Van Pool couldn't coach those games. It was against the rules.

This reminded me after your piece came out there was one night against a kid named Dave Fisher from the old Edmond High School that I had 22 against him. So everybody thought I was finally going to relax under Van Pool and finally get the start that I deserved. I showed up the first day of school and he had transferred in his son Donnie Van Pool from Southeast High School, who was a year behind me and the handwriting was on the wall.

I started early. Pretty quickly was the sixth man, then the seventh man. It was a classic case that he just didn't like the way I played. But I agreed with Bruce. John Marshall was a run-and-gun team at that point. If I had gone over there, I would have scored a lot of points. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The irony was that I had in the original tweet. Bruce Scott and I, when we were 15 years old before we played for Van Pool, went to a camp run by the Iba family at Bishop McGuinness High School. Kids came from all over the state. They had a couple hundred kids there, some of the best players. On Saturday night at the awards ceremony, I was chosen the MVP and Bruce was chosen the most outstanding, which was the runner-up to the MVP. We went into the parking lot. My mom had taken me over because I couldn't drive yet and she didn't follow my career very closely. And Bruce's mom started yelling at my mom that Bruce should have won MVP. She was looking at me like “what is this about?” It's really competitive between Bruce and I. But Coach Van Pool loved Bruce and should have because Bruce was a perfect fit for him.

Van Pool was an Iba disciple. We were “pound the post.” We had 6-10, 6-8 across the front. I couldn't play that way. He tried to make me a point guard. I had no vision. I was Russell Westbrook. That's the irony of it. I wasn't that good. All I wanted to do was shoot. I was a pretty good shooter. We had an AAU select team the next year, with four kids that went on to play Division I basketball and football. I led that team in scoring, but not for Van Pool.

by Mel Bracht
Copy Editor, Sports Media
Mel Bracht is a copy editor on the presentation desk and also covers sports media. A 1978 graduate of Indiana University, Bracht has been a print journalist for 34 years. He started his career as sports editor of the Rensselaer (Ind.) Republican...
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