DETROIT -- I think we can safely say that Jim Bartolotta was the only player in the Hershey's College All-Star Game with a double major in Management Science and Physics, with a minor in Economics.
MIT, you know.
Thanks to the largesse of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), both the Division 2 Player of the Year, Josh Bostic of undefeated Division 2 champion Findlay (Ohio) and the Division 3 Player of the Year, our friend Jimmy Bartolotta, were invited to participate in the annual college All-Star game, which was played this year on Friday afternoon at Ford Field, and which was televised nationally by CBS College Sports.
Bartolotta didn't know anything about any of this until he returned home from a spring break trip to Mexico with his MIT basketball teammates. It had been a no cell phone, news blackout, get-away-from-it-all holiday on the beach. Upon arrival back in the states, he phoned his parents in Littleton, Colorado to let them know their boy Jimmy was back in one piece and he was told he'd be going to Detroit, both to play in this game and to receive the Division 3 Player of the Year award at the annual Guardians of the Game gala at the Max M. Fisher Music Theater on Sunday afternoon.
"I was really excited," he says, "but there was one problem. I'd been away from the game for a few weeks. I needed to get ready. So I called Coach (Larry) Anderson and said, 'I need a workout.'" So that's why you may have seen the light on at the MIT gym around 1 a.m. a week ago Friday. That was Jimmy B., hoisting jumpers and the like.
Bartolotta averaged 27.6 ppg this season as he led the Engineers to both their first NEWMAC Conference championship and the first Division 3 NCAA tourney bid in the school's history. MIT defeated Rhode Island Collge in its first game (73-68 in OT) before losing a 67-61 decision to Farmingdale State in the second round.
Bartolotta's "Hershey's" team was defeated by the "Reese's" squad, 105-100. His coach was ex-Arkansas mentor Nolan Richardson, who was accompanied by his long-time lieutenant, Missouri coach Mike Anderson. Predictably, his eight minutes of playing time were the fewest of anyone, but he didn't mind.
He had one basket, a nice lefty put-back in the lane. He had an artful lefty scoop shot spin out. and he rushed an open straightaway three-pointer he can ordinarily make in his sleep. Like just about everyone else involved, he was startled that sly old fox Richardson, in violation of every unwritten rule ever laid down in any All-Star Game, ordered his team into a dead-serious, major full-court press with about 10 minutes left and his team trailing by eight or so,
That press definitely rattled the opponents, and indeed the Reese's squad would take the lead before the Hershey team asserted itself behind BC's Tyrese Rice to secure the W.
I just had to ask Nolan if he realized that he had broken every rule known to man by putting on a press in an All-Star Game.
"Had to get back in the game, baby," he shrugged.
Tyrese had a game-high 24, to go along with three official assists (I promise you the stat guy robbed him of one assist and that three or four of his excellent passes were mishandled by not-too-alert big men). He was named the Hershey teams's Most Outstanding Player.
"I call this "Grind Time,'" he said of this period between the end of the season and the NBA draft. "Just working hard and getting ready."
He plans on being in the famed Portsmouth Tournament. What he needs is a chance to get into a more up-tempo style than he was allowed to by BC coach Al Skinner, who favors a more controlled half-court offense known as the "flex." It is well-known that Tyrese often chafed under that system.
As for Jimmy B., he, too has plans to play professional basketball. He is in the process of selecting an agent. He's already heard from Denmark, and he might also get involved in Australia.
He thoroughly enjoyed his experience, which, frankly, was unique in that this was an All-Star Game with some structure. People actually passed the ball, for example.
"I was sitting there with Josh Carter of Texas A&M," he says, "And we were agreeing it was nice to be in an All-Star Game that wasn't just a launchfest."
Now about those majors. I kidded him about being a Business major, since those people are now society's pariahs. "You think that's bad," he replied. "My Economics minor is actually in finance. Those people aren't too popular these days, either."
If all goes well, that stuff will go on the back burner for a while. "I'd like to play ball in Europe or Australia for a few years, and then see what happens," he said.