The game against St. Dominic was less than 30 seconds old. The player wearing No. 22 in the home white inside Chaminade’s gym launched his first shot from beyond the three-point arc — swish. Second shot, beyond the arc — good again.
No. 22 is a big Knicks fan with basketball royalty in his genes.
When he goes to Madison Square Garden, he looks up toward the ceiling and sees the team’s retired numbers.
There’s the white banner, the 22 in orange, KNICKS below it and DeBUSSCHERE above it, as in Dave DeBusschere, as in the same first and last name as this Chaminade player, the grandson of the late Hall of Famer.
"It’s a surreal feeling, I’d say, seeing your last name up in the rafters," he said.
His grandfather died from a heart attack at age 62 in 2003, the year before the 17-year-old junior from Garden City was born. He wears 22 in honor of the eight-time NBA All-Star.
So how’s he doing carrying on the name in varsity basketball?
Well, this Dave DeBusschere is honoring that name and that number rather nicely.
The 5-11 shooting guard scored 17 points in that game last Saturday in Mineola. He’s averaging a Chaminade-high 15.9 points with 62 three-pointers (43.4% shooting) as a second-year varsity starter for a balanced team that is leading the NSCHSAA at 9-1 and is 19-3 overall after its 16-game winning streak ended Friday at St. Anthony’s.
"He shoots the hell out of the ball," coach Dan Feeney said. "I’ve known him since he was in seventh grade, coming to camp here. He’s always been a shooter first. Other parts of his game have gotten better, but he’s never forgotten what’s got him here. It’s his ability to shoot the ball.
"Ask him to compare him and his grandfather’s game. The first thing he says is, ‘I’m a better shooter.’ He really believes that he’s the best shooter on the floor every time we step out here."
The fact that he has the same name as an all-time great — who came over from Detroit in December 1968, won two championships in six seasons with the Knicks and later became their director of basketball operations — brings greater expectations.
The younger DeBusschere is unfazed. "It’s pretty cool," he said about the name. "It’s something that stands out about me compared to everyone else. I’d say it comes with more pressure, but also it helps me out because it gives me eyes that maybe another kid the same talent level wouldn’t have, because of my name.
"But once you get to the game, the pressure and expectations in your mind doesn’t really come up for me at all. You just want to win."
He loves to work on his shooting at Island Garden in West Hempstead, where his Crown AAU team is based.
"He’s always been a very good player, and he puts the time into it," said his father, Pete DeBusschere, a former Knicks ballboy and shooting guard for Garden City and Division III Curry College who works in financial sales. "There’s not a day that doesn’t go by where he’s like, ‘Dad, can we go shoot?’ I’ll rebound for him. He’s just always looking to shoot. It’s a passion."
Pete and Kristie DeBusschere have two other sons. William is a fifth-grade travel CYO and intramural player. Pete Jr. is a sophomore guard with the Chaminade JV.
"I enjoy basketball, but I’d like to go to college for lacrosse," Pete Jr. said. "David is a lot more of a basketball guy."
The elder Dave DeBusschere — who pitched for the Chicago White Sox for two seasons and became the Detroit Pistons’ player-coach at the age of 24 — was a rugged 6-6 forward and solid rebounder who also could shoot from the outside. He averaged 16.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in his 12-year career and would have averaged several more points if the three-point line had been part of the game. His acquisition was the final piece as the Knicks won their first NBA championship in the 1969-70 season.
The elder DeBusschere also served as commissioner of the American Basketball Association in its final season (1975-76) before four ABA teams, including the Nets, joined the NBA.
He represented the Knicks at the 1985 draft lottery, and his excited reaction when they won it and got the right to draft Patrick Ewing is a famous moment in franchise history.
The grandchildren have seen basketball footage of their grandfather. They learned a lot about him from their dad and their aunt, Michelle DeBusschere. Dave also learned something from Oscar Robertson and other Hall of Famers at an All-Star Game a few years ago.
"They were telling me he was a great man, a hard worker on the court but an even better guy off the court," he said. "I think that’s more important because you’ve got to carry yourself well."
Like grandfather, like grandson.
"He’s a great kid," senior guard Greg Cantwell said. "He’s a really special teammate and a special friend."
DeBusschere is hoping for a growth spurt. "I think he wishes he was a little taller," his father said. "Unfortunately, I think he’s going to be my height, 6-2. But like I tell him, it’s not the end of the world."
DeBusschere is shooting for a Federation championship this season and then 1,000 points and a ticket to D-I. Only a few of those schools have expressed interest so far. Maybe more will want an elite shooter with a Hall of Fame name.
"I’m going to keep playing hard and do the best I can," DeBusschere said. "It’s out of my control, but hopefully teams start looking at me."