A Fresh Look at Laettner's Big Moment


It hardly seems like it, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of the famous Christian Laettner shot that lifted Duke to an overtime victory against Kentucky in the East Regional final of the 1992 NCAA tournament.

When this season's tournament starts in March, the replay of Grant Hill's long pass, Laettner's jumper with 2.1 seconds left for a 104-103 victory in Philadelphia and Thomas Hill's priceless reaction -- all captured by CBS cameras -- no doubt will roll again.

There's a new book out that recaptures the drama of that day -- "The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball," by ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski.

In addition to providing great detail about the game, Wojciechowski extracts stories and fresh quotes from the main players and coaches from both programs.

There are stories about Mike Krzyzewski and how he handled the talented Blue Devils and coached them to their second straight NCAA title.

Wojciechowski also provides great insight about the Wildcats and their resurrection from NCAA sanctions under the guidance of obsessive Rick Pitino, who left the NBA and the New York Knicks to coach in Lexington.

Wojciechowski's reporting details how Laettner's mother cried when her son chose Duke over North Carolina and how Hill grew up a UNC fan and nearly went to school in Chapel Hill instead.

The book discusses the fact that Laettner and star point guard Bobby Hurley didn't always see eye to eye but how Laettner's constant needling seemed to bring out the best in Hurley, who never quite understood Laettner's brand of humor.

Laettner was one of the best college players of all time, with a work ethic second to none. Even though he constantly drew the wrath of teammates, he also wanted them to receive credit for the team's success.

Duke played at Canisius, a small Jesuit college located near Laettner's hometown outside Buffalo, during the 1991-92 season. Playing close to home was a big deal for Laettner, but instead of dominating the game, which he usually tried to do against lesser opponents, Laettner deferred to his teammates in the first half.

When Krzyzewski asked about his passiveness at halftime, Wojciechowski writes, Laettner responded: "Coach, I get so much attention and so much credit. I want my hometown to see how good my teammates are."

Even diehard Kentucky fans who no doubt wish the book ended with Laettner missing the shot will be intrigued by the story of how the Wildcats came together that season.

Kentucky had one star player in Jamal Mashburn. Although the other starters and key reserves weren't as talented, they, too, were intent on returning the Wildcats to national prominence. The big key was landing Mashburn, who nearly ended up at Wake Forest before settling on Kentucky.

There's also plenty written about the final play, which Duke tried in an earlier game against Wake Forest at Joel Coliseum. The play didn't work that time, because Hill's pass was too far to the sideline and Laettner stepped out of bounds. But Wake Forest also had a defender on Hill and Kentucky didn't, making the inbound pass easier for him.

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