Harold Deane Jr. peers through the glass moon roof of his
'92 Acura Legend and appraises the thick clouds hovering
above Charlottesville, Va. "I hope it rains," he says. "My car
could use a wash."
This is an article from the Oct. 24, 1995 issue
In the 2 1/2 days since Deane bought the car with his summer
earnings, his gleaming black ride has apparently acquired a
patina of unbecoming grit, invisible to all but the most
critical eye. On another day this might call for a pit stop at a
nearby car wash, but today Virginia's junior point guard will
have to depend on nature to keep his car looking sharp. He's
already late for a scrimmage at the gym, and the traffic around
campus is as dense as the clouds. Still, it's a good opportunity
to test some of the car's hardware. The stereo bass, currently
featuring the rap group Grand Puba, works well. Deane sees a
friend's car approach from the other direction. Beep-beep. The
horn works fine too. He sees another friend on the sidewalk.
Beep-beep. Deane brakes, presses a button, and the window slides
down quietly. "Hey!" Deane calls out, his cheeks dimpling. "Good
to see you!" He presses the button again and the window squeezes
shut. The windows work flawlessly. He drives on.
Up ahead, another friend. Beep-beep. In the last 10 minutes of
patrolling the campus, Deane has failed to acknowledge only
about one out of every four people, which is perfectly logical
when you consider that approximately 25% of the undergraduates
on campus are freshmen who haven't yet had the chance to get to
know him. Soon enough, they'll learn what every upperclassman
already has: One of the nation's toughest players on the
basketball court is one of its friendliest off it. Not to
mention one of its most fastidious. You think Deane likes his
car looking showroom perfect? You should see the house he shares
with two roommates. Martha Stewart would weep. "Everything is
lined up perfectly in his closet," says sophomore Curtis
Staples, Deane's backcourt mate. "Harold is the most clean-cut,
particular, perfectionistic person I've ever met. But you need
picky people on your team."
Especially if that perfectionism produces a player who can
shoot, pass and penetrate on one end of the court and nag an
opponent to distraction on the other. Playing both point and
shooting guard as a sophomore last season, Deane averaged 16
points and 4.3 assists per game and shot 79.5% from the free
throw line. He was probably even more valuable to the Cavaliers
on the defensive end, though his stats don't reveal much. His 46
steals and 83 defensive rebounds don't give the slightest hint
of his pestiferous presence in the Cavs' pressure defense. "What
Harold does is make people uncomfortable," says Staples. "You
can throw at him your best combination of moves, and he'll still
be in your face. It's very frustrating."
"He is physically intimidating," says Pittsburgh coach Ralph
Willard. "He directs you and pushes you where he wants you to
go. You don't get by him. He moves you and gets away with it
because of his strength."
A chiseled 6'1", 180 pounds, Deane is, pound for pound, the
strongest player on Virginia's team. Add to that a 39-inch
vertical leap, lightning-quick hands and feet and an on-court
attitude of menace, and you have a regular Cerberus at the
gate. Oh, and one more thing. "Guys don't realize how long my
arms are," says Deane. "I'll keep them down when I'm in a
crouch, then I reach up and grab a pass out of the air."
"Harold is the best defensive player I've seen on any level,"
says Virginia senior Jenny Boucek, the shooting guard and
defensive workhorse on the women's team, a perennial NCAA title
contender. "I don't even watch the ball when Harold is playing,
I watch him. Off the court he is laid-back and secure, but on
the court he always plays like he has something to prove."
Deane will tell you he has a lot to prove. After all, nobody
made much of a fuss over him when he came out of Matoaca High in
Ettrick, Va., in 1992. His only scholarship offers his senior
year were from Virginia Military Institute, Boston University,
Radford and Virginia State, where his father, Harold Sr., was
head coach. Virginia, the school he had long dreamed of
attending, passed on him after Cav coach Jeff Jones saw him play
as a sophomore. "To be honest, I didn't like his game," says
Jones now. "The thing that bothered me most was the way he was
always fooling with his uniform, making sure his shorts were
just so and his wristbands were in the right place and all that.
He was more worried about how he looked than how he played. He
just didn't seem all that tough."
Not happy with his options after high school, Deane took a prep
year at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy to improve his
prospects. Before Deane even got there, though, Jones saw him
play in a summer AAU game and reconsidered his position. "In
just a matter of months, Harold had become a different player,"
says Jones. "The style stuff was gone. He was more athletic,
more reckless and more hard-nosed."
At Fork Union, Deane suffered dawn inspections, parade marches
and starched uniforms while doing 200 push-ups a night and
working out in the weight room every day. "From the first day to
the last, I thought about getting my body in shape for the next
level," he says. Deane also thought a lot about his best friend,
Chris White, who had died of heart disease the year before at
the age of 17. "I still think about him all the time," says
Deane. "Before every game I say a prayer for Chris, who was a
great basketball player. When he first came to Matoaca, he
pushed me and gave me the aspiration to play in the NBA. All the
dreams he had, I try to carry on for him."
When he finally arrived in Charlottesville as a freshman in '93,
Deane came to practice and made himself right at home--in junior
point guard Cory Alexander's face. "Harold was a challenge for
me," says Alexander, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs
last June. "I had never had someone who could really guard me in
practice. But I'll tell you, I got a lot better because of him."
When Alexander broke his ankle 12 minutes into the first game of
the season, Jones turned to Deane, his only other point guard.
After a rocky start Deane directed the Cavaliers to 18 wins and
a second-round appearance in the NCAAs, averaging 33.7 minutes
and 12.3 points per game. He started at shooting guard last
season until taking over the point again when Alexander broke
his ankle for the second time, on Feb. 8 against N.C. State.
Deane then led the Cavs to a berth in the Elite Eight after
upsetting Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region.
"After his freshman year there were guys taken in the first
round of the draft who weren't as good as Harold," says Jones.
"His future in the NBA will depend on his head."
If his NBA prospects ride on his work ethic, his future is
assured. "A big part of Harold's game is his determination--or
stubbornness, if you want to call it that," says Jones. "He
remembers where he came from, that he wasn't highly recruited.
It keeps him hungry, but it can be his enemy. He's a coach's
son, so he knows that what the coach says, goes. But he also has
a mind of his own."
That may be because Deane is also a referee's son. In addition
to coaching Virginia State from 1969 to 1979 and again from 1987
to '93, Harold Sr. spent several years officiating high
school games. Little Harold would often tag along and wait
patiently, ball in hand, for timeouts, when he would run out
onto the floor to shoot baskets. "He would look forward to that
so much," says Harold Sr. "I'd always give him a goal, like, see
if you can make 10 in a row."
"My dad taught me a lot of things," says Harold Jr. "But
probably the most important thing was hustle. If you have a bad
shooting night, hustling will always pull you through."
Another thing his dad might have taught him: If you're named
Harold, you're sure to pick up a nickname or two. Deane's father
calls him Duke, after a childhood friend, and his teammates call
him Dean-o. Though Duke and Dean-o can be hard on the ears
during certain weeks of the ACC schedule, Deane prefers both to
a third he acquired for his relentless defense. "Some of my
coaches call me Badger," he says, grimacing. "But that's not me.
It's just not smooth."
Clearly, Deane's "style stuff," as Jones calls it, has not
completely disappeared. His preferred outfitters are Donna Karan
and Tommy Hilfiger. When he takes off his shirt to play in a
pickup game, his baggy shorts--"everything has to be baggy:
shorts, shirts and jeans," he says--droop enough to reveal his
underwear brand of choice: RALPH LAUREN.
"I just know what looks good," says Deane, his voice as soft as
Sea Island cotton. "Curtis and [junior swingman] Jamal Robinson
have similar taste, but then again, I could pick up an ugly
shirt and they might consider actually buying it." Not Deane, of
course, who, walking past an action photo of himself, sighs, "I
don't particularly like that photo. I'm not wearing a tight
haircut. Look--my hair's all messed up."
As particular as his tastes are, Deane is, at heart, a
blue-collar worker. This summer he arose at 5:30 every morning
to get to his job as a beer distributor's assistant. Eight hours
a day, he loaded and unloaded cases of beer around Lynchburg.
"Man, that was hard work," says Deane as he fusses over the
reward for his labor--this car. Laying a towel down on the
driver's seat in an attempt to protect the ocher leather
interior from his workout sweat, he adds, "But working hard is
something I have to do. There will always be doubters. And you
never know when you're going to run into that guy who has been
working just as hard as you."
But if you're Harold Deane, you do know when you're going to run
into another friend. Any minute now. Beep-beep.
The pressure defenses that dominate today's game have put a
premium on particularly disruptive defenders like Harold Deane.
He isn't alone in throwing offenses into a tizzy. Here, listed
alphabetically, are 10 more of the country's top defenders, with
comments from those they disturb most--opposing coaches and
Ray Allen, SG, UConn: Says Pitt coach Ralph Willard, "He plays
great in the lanes. He denies you. He controls you. He does
Erick Dampier, C, Miss. State: Says Utah coach Rick Majerus,
"Playing him is like going against a Star Wars defense system."
Tim Duncan, C, Wake Forest: Says Davidson coach Bob McKillop,
"His timing and extension make anything inside very difficult."
Reggie Geary, SG, Arizona: Says Cal guard Anwar McQueen, "He
is really disruptive. He has good size, he's strong and he talks
Allen Iverson, PG, Georgetown: Says Syracuse coach Jim
Boeheim, "He's a Deion Sanders type--he takes the ball away from
Kenyon Murray, SF, Iowa: Says Ohio State coach Randy Ayers,
"He picks his spots and does a good job anticipating the next
Johnny Rhodes, SG, Maryland: Says Virginia coach Jeff Jones,
"His style fits with the Terps' aggressive, pressing style."
Frank Seckar, PG, Vanderbilt: Says South Carolina coach Eddie
Fogler, "He pressures the ball and takes the charge."
Erick Strickland, SG, Nebraska: Says Oklahoma coach Kelvin
Sampson, "He dominates others with strength and quickness."
Jacque Vaughn, PG, Kansas: Says Nebraska coach Danny Nee, "On
the ball he's an absolute terror. He's a worker. He gets after