Pretty Ricky slumps into one of the red chairs by the window at Common Grounds, clearly exhausted but still ready to begin his shift behind the counter in a half hour or so.
He’s just gotten off the road, a last-minute trip up north with his buddy Grady Riddle, made in haste after Syracuse University Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Boeheim besmirched the good name of their city. That Syracuse drew UNCG in the first round of the NIT Tournament seemed like a harbinger of destiny. Plans were laid immediately.
“Screw that guy,” Pretty Ricky says now.
They stopped the first night in Washington, DC, Pretty Ricky says, and told their story to this dude they met in a bar — Greensboro, Boeheim, HB 2, the NIT, all of it — and he offered to put them up for the night at his place, a four-story suburban manse housing a crew of post-college professionals. The digs came with a putting green on the third floor, of which Pretty Ricky availed himself, he says, immediately.
“Their first question was,” Pretty Ricky says now, “‘Do you understand that this is a blizzard?’
“Hell yeah!” he says.
They drove through a record snowfall in central Pennsylvania to arrive at the Carrier Dome, a good 650 miles from the corner of Walker and Elam, in time to catch the game between UNCG and Syracuse, which had been delayed for a day because of the weather.
Their reputation preceded them. Pretty Ricky learned that his social media posts were the talk of the Spartans buses on the long ride up Interstate 81. When they entered the arena —conspicuously bereft of UNCG fans in the Orange home court — the UNCG’s athletic director, Kim Record, was ready for them.
“You’re those two guys!” she said.
Record hooked them up with sweet seats, according to Pretty Ricky — “We were all over TV!” he says — and enough UNCG swag to fill a suitcase. He’s wearing the toboggan now, so new you can still see the knit of the fabric and crisp lines of the logo.
UNCG hung in there long enough to make it interesting for the guys, though the Spartans eventually fell to the higher-seeded team. After the final buzzer sounded, Pretty Ricky says, he had his moment.
“I got right up there at the tunnel,” he says, “and I was like, ‘BAY-haym!’”
The memory makes him chuckle with satisfaction.
“Oh,” he says, “I made my presence known. He had to have seen me.”
Just then a woman approaches him in his red chair, a fresh cup of coffee in her hand.
“We watched you at the game!” she says.
And Pretty Ricky accepts his due.
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