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AU's Spinal Tap Connection


Tony Hendra. (By Preston Keres - TWP)

Since several highly trained media professionals thought of this line simultaneously on Sunday afternoon, let's get this out of the way first: Meet American freshman swingman Nick Hendra. He notched a career-high point total in the Eagles' Patriot League semifinal win over Army: four field-goals (including a three-pointer), and two free throws in the final seconds. Which means that, yes, Hendra's scoring goes to 11.

Hendra's father, the writer Tony Hendra, has a few fairly notable lines on his resume. He was the co-editor of National Lampoon, co-wrote the screenplay for The Great White Hype, worked with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin and authored the best-selling memoir 'Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul.' Which is all great, but go ahead and ask Nick Hendra whether his dad ever gets recognized on the street, or while he's standing and shouting and waving his arms in the bleachers at Bender Arena, and here's what Nick will say:

"He was in this movie called 'This is Spinal Tap,' which was, like, a big cult movie."

Ah, yes. Spinal Tap. Seems to ring a bell. And so, naturally, the entire Eagles roster is well-aware of its Spinal Tap connection, a connection that by rights should make the Eagles national darlings when they play for an NCAA tournament berth Friday afternoon. Right?

"I'm not familiar with that movie," star guard Garrison Carr said.

"No, I've never heard of that," point guard Derrick Mercer said.

"I knew about the books, I didn't know about the movie," said forward Travis Lay, who at least had seen Spinal Tap.

"Never seen it," Coach Jeff Jones said.

Sigh.

"I think there's a certain disconnect there between the people who like 'Spinal Tap' and the people who like basketball," observed Tony Hendra, moments after Nick's breakout performance on Sunday.


Nick Hendra, scoring two of his 11. (By Preston Keres - TWP)

For the record, Hendra played Ian Faith, the band's manager, the chap responsible for the 18-inch tall Stonehenge prop, who later trashed the band's equipment after he was fired. Also for the record, Nick Hendra--who's seen the movie twice and read none of his dad's books--is a 6-foot-3 freshman from Manhattan's Xavier High who signed early with AU and received limited playing time before Sunday, when Bryce Simon's knee injury suddenly thrust Hendra into a featured role. He only began pursuing basketball seriously when he was a sophomore in high school, and said his childhood was perfectly normal, aside from the occasional lunch with Bob Saget or wave hello to George Carlin.

"My dad's like this guy that some people say is so famous and all that, but he's just my dad to me," Nick Hendra said.

He doesn't keep a journal or write for pleasure but he considers himself a capable writer; "you'd have to ask my college writing teacher though," he added. Teammates said he has a fine sense of humor--"You can see where his dad has played a role in his life with some of the jokes he throws out there; some of them, you have to think about it for a minute," Carr said--but he wants to follow his mom into business and marketing. He has no Spinal Tap memorabilia--"I don't have a Tony Hendra shrine in my dorm room," he said--and has never asked his father for advice on appearing on the big stage. And dad?

"Biting my nails all the time; it's terrifying, terrifying," he said of watching his son play college basketball. "I mean, the days when I was a comedian, I would sometimes play to two, three, five thousand people. And getting a laugh out of two, three, five thousand people is great. But it's nothing compared to watching your son slam dunk in the semifinal of the Patriot League in Division I. It's fantastic."

(See Stonehenge clip below.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 10, 2008; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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