Arne Duncan’s got game

One of the great things about retirement is that I’m able to do things that previously I couldn’t squeeze into my schedule. Like attending summer basketball league games.

The summer league at Georgetown University features a mixture of college players from the D.C. area and/or D.C. area colleges and older players who are still plying their trade or, in some cases, are just competing for the fun of it. The quality of the play is pretty good. To give you an idea, average players for mid-major schools like George Washington tend to do well but not to dominate. Outstanding talents like Alex Len and Nick Faust of Maryland, who may be a year or two away from stardom in the ACC, dominate in this league (or did on Sunday).

On Saturday, Lawrence Moten played. He’s a DC school boy legend who went on to star at Syracuse and then played for three years in the NBA. Now 40, he’s one of those who plays for fun, I imagine. Moten still has that sweet stroke and he held his own.

I figured Moten must be the oldest guy in the league. But on Sunday, during warm-ups for the second game, I spotted a graying player who looked to be pushing 50. It turned out to be Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education.

Duncan starred at Harvard in the mid-1980s and then played professionally in Australia. It is known that he still plays basketball, including with President Obama. But the notion that he could compete at this level seemed far-fetched, to say the least. Whatever else one might say about the league, it’s an intense, up tempo, high-flying affair. In other words, no country for old men.

Yet Duncan played well. His first shot was an air ball, but his next was a made three-pointer. He went on to score seven points in the first half (I didn’t stay for the second, but heard that he went scoreless). In addition, he passed the ball very intelligently and even played pretty good defense. Duncan clearly has learned a trick or two (including a very quick release on his shot) to compensate for the impact that aging has had on his game.

High marks, then, to the Secretary of Education for putting it on the line against college players less than half his age, and for competing with some success against them.

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