St. John’s Boo Harvey Says Life Can’t Get Any Better
A 2-for-5 week in the life of Greg “Boo” Harvey isn’t what it used to be. Last season, denied competitive basketball because of academic deficiencies, Harvey led a forlorn existence. “Things were going bad for me; they couldn’t get any worse,” he said. He went to class, met with his tutor three times a week, and ran the B team every day in practice. He watched away games on television and was merely a spectator to St. John’s NIT title.
Ah, but this season he has become the team’s spectacle. As subdued as he is as a person, that’s how flamboyant he’s been on the court. Four of St. John’s 23 wins were secured by Harvey’s fantastic final-second shots.
“Some great players haven’t had the opportunity to win any game with a final shot, and he’s done it four times,” assistant coach Ron Rutlege said. The headlines--"UnbelievaBoo,” “Deja-Boo,” “Just Say Boo"--speak volumes while Harvey rarely says anything in his own behalf. Everything has gone his way. Everything.
Take last week for example.
Monday: He pulled out a game the Redmen should have lost by making a 14-foot jumper against a double-team to win at Pittsburgh with :03 left.
Tuesday: WABC sportscaster Corey McPherrin ran Boo’s clutch-shot highlight tape. (It was more like a documentary than a short subject.)
Wednesday: The fifth-year senior honored a commitment to speak to his former team at Andrew Jackson High about doing the right thing. “They were listening, but I don’t know if it seeped into them or not,” said Harvey, who knows all about learning your own lessons.
Thursday: He had to cancel a newspaper interview to take his wife, Bridget, for an emergency obstetric appointment. Thursday, their second child is due. If it’s another boy, the plan is to put a Jr. behind his name. Boo Jr.? “You could say that,” the expectant father said.
And then Harvey was the coaches’ unanimous choice for first-team Big East along with Derrick Coleman and Mark Tillmon.
Yes, all is right with the 23-year-old Harvey. And best of all, he knows it. “I don’t think it could get any better than right now,” the point guard said. The only drawback to all this happiness is insomnia. “I’m up late all the time,” he said. “I’m just thinking, ‘I’m doing it,’ and I can’t believe it sometimes.”
The wiry youngster called Boo has been known in New York for nearly a decade. At Andrew Jackson, he started as a freshman, went 88-7 in four years, led the team to three city finals and won one. As a senior, he averaged 38 points, and is still the school’s scoring leader with 2,039 points.
In 1984, Malik Sealy was in the stands when Harvey went one-on-one with Truman’s Rod Strickland for the city championship. Sealy wasn’t playing organized basketball at the time, but that game convinced him to get serious. “It was almost inconceivable the things he did,” Sealy said of Harvey. “I thought, ‘He can’t get any better than that,’ but he’s improved so much.”
Harvey was named the best public school player his senior year and was the tournament MVP. He was on his way to Syracuse when grades derailed him for the first time. He went instead to San Jacinto College in Texas. That team went 73-1 and won a junior college title in his two years.
Harvey returned home to Queens in 1987, but had a hard time adjusting to the Big East and Lou Carnesecca’s halfcourt philosophy. An open-court player who prefers his jump shot off the dribble and his drives off the break, he averaged only 11.9 points and had 131 assists to 86 turnovers in 27 games. “I was no halfcourt player,” he says now. He showed little, if any, range that season, making only 15 of 39 three-pointers.
Harvey credits his great leap from then to now partly on having to sit out and study his sport as well as his courses. “I got a chance to watch the halfcourt game and understand it,” he said. And he probably took a million jump shots.
Harvey kept a fairly low profile until senior forward Jayson Williams went down for the season with an injury. Since then, he’s taken over. In those eight games, Harvey has averaged 23.4 points, hit 20 of 44 three-pointers (45.4%) and made three of his four game-winning or saving shots.
When the season began, Sport Magazine rated him the 12th-best senior point guard in the country. Now, the NBA folks consider him right behind Oregon State’s Gary Payton and Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson at No. 3. “Before, they thought I was out of control and couldn’t hit the jump shot,” he said. “I’ve proved them wrong this year.”
Denver scouting coordinator Rob Babcock, whose team is looking for a backup point guard, said Harvey “has all the point-guard skills you like to see. He pushes the ball up the floor very well, has good hands, good instincts for playing the passing lanes and is very much a creator-type player.”
The NBA has seen him as a prospect all along, said Brad Greenberg, director of player personnel for Portland. “The only concerns people have had is whether he’ll be a consistent enough outside shooter when bigger guys are being double-teamed.”
How high will he go in the draft? “That’s hard to say because guards have a tendency to slide,” said Ed Badger, director of operations for Charlotte. “Payton, Robinson and (LSU sophomore) Chris Jackson would be the only guys to hurt him. He does so many things for St. John’s. Without him, they’d be hurting.”
Despite the big shots and the 18.4 league average, Harvey still considers himself a true point man -- pass first, shoot second -- and probably always will. That’s his personality. A coach’s dream, said Carnesecca: “He dances with you, if you know what I mean.”
Has fame changed Boo? “I’m more talkative now. Before, I was more shy,” he said. “Playing well has made the difference.”
Now, 12 credits stand in the way of Harvey becoming the first member of his family of nine to graduate from college. He needs Cs in his final four courses: computer science, algebra, a film course and Aspects of Communication.