Remembering the highs, the lows and the tennis balls of Cameron Indoor Stadium

James Padgett is taunted by Duke fans.
James Padgett is taunted by Duke fans. (Rob Kinnan, US PRESSWIRE)

One of my favorite Cameron Indoor Stadium memories came on one of my first trips, back in 1986. I came for a game a couple of days before North Carolina was going to open the Dean Dome, against Duke.  In those days, the Cameron Crazies on one side of the gym used to throw tennis balls to their counterparts on the other. I got hit in the mouth, but like many teams (including some from Maryland), I didn't get a call.

But I did see Len Bias put up 41 on the Blue Devils that season, on a night when Maryland’s starting point guard, Keith Gatlin, sat out with back spasms. And I did see Joe Smith get 40 his last two on a game-winner at the buzzer nearly a decade later, in 1995, on a night when both Gary Williams and Mike Krzyzewski weren’t in the building coaching.

A couple of my favorite memories didn't involve the Terps. In those days, I used to go down nearly every year for the Duke-Carolina game, and I can recall watching Jerry Stackhouse making a ridiculous windmill dunk to set the tone in one of those games.


One of the most vivid memories I have was of a famous shot I didn't see.

Press row at Cameron didn't have any electrical outlets until a few years ago, and I used to have to file my story from the press room inside the arena. During one of those games between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, I left the court to file a story of what I thought was a North Carolina rout. I kept hearing roars, went out and saw that the score was tied and that the game was going to overtime.


"How did that happen?" I asked another writer.

"Jeff Capel just hit a shot from halfcourt," he said.

Needless to say, it's the last time I went to the press room at Cameron before the game was really over.

Three of my favorite memories involve Maryland celebrations after victories.


In 1988, second-year coach Bob Wade and first-year athletic director Lew Perkins put aside their uncomfortable relationship for a few minutes after the Terps upset the No. 7 Blue Devils. Given the fact that both Wade and Perkins were fairly large men, I often called that the "Dancing Bears" game, since that's what they resembled.

After Smith tipped in the shot to give the Terps the win in 1995, assistant Billy Hahn, who had taken Williams' place after the Maryland coach stayed home with pneumonia, danced at midcourt with then-sports information director Chuck Walsh.

Then there was the win down at Cameron in 2001. It came a few weeks after the Terps had blown that 10-point lead in the final minute at Cole Field House and lost in overtime. After he led Maryland back with a decisive 41-20 run in an eventual 91-80 win, Juan Dixon slapped both his hands at the "D" at midcourt in mock tribute of what the Blue Devils liked to do.

I have long had this love-hate relationship with the students at Duke.

It might have started with getting hit in the mouth with the tennis ball, or the time I had the Blue Devils mascot fall on me after he bodysurfed over the crowd. I asked then-athletic director Tom Butters about moving the students back a few feet, and he asked me whether I wanted to contribute $25,000 a year to have that done.

I also remember the many nights when the students would look over my shoulder and comment on what I was writing “That was a pass, not an air ball,” was a favorite refrain or the night when a few started chanting “C-B-A” at Walt Williams, by then one of the best players in the league. One of their friends asked which one was Williams. I told him he needed to go back to the library.  

There was also the afternoon that I had the chance to play a game of pickup with some fellow writers at Cameron. Only five of us showed up, so we recruited a few students from a nearby gym to come play with us. After the game started, I decided to imitiate Baltimorean Steve Wojciechowski (Cardinal Gibbons), harrassing one of the students 30 feet from the basket.

"What are you doing?" he asked, obviously annoyed.

"I'm playing Wojo defense," I told him.

"What's that?" he asked, still annoyed.

"Go back to the library," I told him.

It will be interesting to see what the Cameron Crazies will have in store for the Terps come Saturday night. I think Lefty Driesell should show up just to hear them yell, "Bald head, bald head," and for Gary Williams to come so that they can yell, "Sweat, Gary, sweat." Since the NBA is on All-Star break, maybe Greivis Vasquez can come so that they can chant at him in Spanish.

I'm going to bring a tennis ball, looking for payback.

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