Michael Ferdman, a 40-something executive from New York, accepted a pass from a teammate with three seconds left on the clock Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
The man who recently scored a game-winning goal in overtime in a Mark Messier/New York Rangers hockey fantasy camp game in Madison Square Garden, calmly swished a three-pointer to lift his Bill Self Fantasy Camp hoops team to a 47-45 come-from-behind victory over a shell-shocked Norm Roberts-coached squad that was burned at the buzzer.
“It’s the most exciting thing. I’m sweating. My heart is pounding. I’m a nervous wreck. I was like, ‘Gosh,’’’ exclaimed ESPN announcer Holly Rowe, one of the coaches of Ferdman’s team.
The shot improved the Rowe/Ferdman squad to a perfect 3-0 with two games left to play. It was so clutch — so Mario Chalmers-esque — it raised the question: Did it come off a scripted play from the bench?
“It was a set play. I don’t think we were running it quite right,” Rowe said. “Michael has hit clutch shots. He hit four free throws to win our last game. He hit the three to win this game. He has ice in his veins. He’s been terrific.”
Many of the 48 players (and six non-playing participants) who paid $4,995 ($2,995 for Williams Fund members) apiece to compete at the weekend camp had ice applied to their aching joints Friday and Saturday nights. One of the campers (they range in age from 35 to 74 years old) actually tore an ACL and will have a date with the surgeon sometime next week.
So far, Ferdman has remained injury-free — knock on wood.
“I’ve gone to 15 camps — Michael Jordan’s (in Vegas), Duke’s (Mike Krzyzewski in Durham, N.C.). For a first-time camp, this is as good as any,” said Ferdman, who was born and raised in Chicago.
Of his penchant for making the big play, he said: “The guys know I like taking it at the end. I don’t mind shooting the ball. Maybe I have a good ‘no memory’ thing. I forget about it if I miss.”
Some of the campers take the games more seriously than others.
All seemed to be having a blast Saturday, fresh off a party at coach Bill Self’s house Friday night with another to be held at a local restaurant Saturday evening.
“This camp is great. Coach Self is a funny guy. You’ve got to have tough skin around him. He’ll nail you,” joked Richard Rosenzweig, another executive from New York. He’s playing on a team coached by KU assistant Joe Dooley that’s off to an 0-3 start. “Coach Self coached against us. I heard a lot of yelling at me from the sideline when I hit a couple threes against his team. He wasn’t very happy.”
Like Ferdman, Rosenzweig travels to camps all over the country. Pro Camps Worldwide (procamps.com) out of Cincinnati puts on a total of 65 fantasy camps and/or youth camps run by players in the NBA, NFL, college basketball and major-league baseball.
“Coach K has a camp we go to every year, which is awesome,” Rosenzweig said of Krzyzewski’s Duke camp with a $10,000 price tag. “Jordan ($17,500) had a camp many years in Vegas. Syracuse and coach (Jim) Boeheim has a camp, coach (Jim) Larranaga at Miami. This one is right up there. “We met coach Self in Vegas at the Jordan camp,” he added of he and buddies. “He’s a nice guy ... when they put this together, we figured, ‘Why not come to Kansas?’ We’d not had an excuse to come here before.
“This building is pretty cool. It’s a lot nicer than the Garden. The rims are really soft. I know why you guys win a lot of games here,” he added, smiling.
KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend held a film session with some of the campers Saturday after one of his team’s games.
“They definitely want to be coached. They want me to tell them how you are supposed to guard ball screens, what they are doing offensively,” Townsend said of the players on the six teams, which consist of eight players per team. No KU players compete on the teams, though some former Jayhawks competed in a camp-opening scrimmage Thursday.
“They told me they’re getting tired — some have hip flexors. They’re always looking for the trainer for ice. They are having fun, a great time. The coaches are having a great time meeting a lot of people,” Townsend added.
Gregg Darbyshire, chief executive of Pro Camps Worldwide, said plans are to return to KU next year. Part of the proceeds of this camp go to Self’s Assists Foundation.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Darbyshire said. “Coach Self is one-of-a-kind. He is what made it special. He’s been part of everything, social events, the camp itself.”
Added Sean Rowland, director of operations of Pro Camps: “The players are having an awesome time. To live the life of a Kansas basketball player is something money can’t buy.”
Of course, many of the participants have money to burn.
“We have millionaires and decamillionaires here,” one observer said of the participants who for one weekend have provided ESPN’s Rowe what she considers an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m here to learn about basketball, help me be better in my job,” Rowe said. “We had a film session with coach Self. He broke down the second Missouri game. I wrote down stuff I’ll use in my reporting for next year. I felt I’d be shy (coming into the weekend). I’m the only woman. I didn’t want to be annoying. The guys say they love my scouting reports. They’re encouraging me to be part of this. I’m invested.”