A Spur’s path: From a crash to his dream

Column by Buck harvey

Ten years ago almost to the day, Eric Dawson saw his world turn upside down.

Literally. He was flipped during a game and landed face first. He was out cold, and his high school coach remembers one vivid detail.

A tooth jammed through a lip.

“I knew there was some damage,” Wayne Dickey joked Monday. “Because he kept talking about what a good coach I was.”

Sam Houston hung on to beat Kerrville Tivy without Dawson, advancing in the playoffs for a game the next day against Roosevelt. Dickey left it up to Dawson and Dawson’s mother whether he should play.

What followed is a reason Dickey says Dawson is among the top three players he had in more than 30 years of coaching.

And why Dawson finally reached his dream Monday night.

Dawson happened to be in Los Angeles last weekend with the Toros, the Spurs’ minor-league team. After Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili went down against the Clippers, the Spurs asked Dawson if he wouldn’t mind joining them on their charter to Salt Lake City.

Dawson says it was “the call I’d been waiting for all my life.” And ever since he got it, he says he’s asked himself, “Am I really here?”

He grew up a Spurs fan. Tim Duncan won his first title when Dawson was in high school, and now they are in the same locker room.

“It’s been a long journey,” Dawson said Monday night before the Spurs-Jazz game, and then he went through the journey: From the Dominican ?? Republic to Japan to Korea, with stops in between with the Toros in four different seasons.

He could have stayed overseas and made a nice living. But he kept coming back to the Toros, because this was the way to reach his goal.

“I wanted to get those three letters behind my name,” he said of the NBA. “I’ve got it now, and I’ve got to capitalize on it and stick.”

He will be pressed to do that; the odds are always against anyone with a 10-day contract. More than likely, the Spurs are giving a nod to the Toros and what they do, while also rewarding someone who had earned his promotion.

Dawson didn’t play Monday night when the Spurs won their 11th in a row. But he should be ready tonight in Portland, when a back-to-back situation might require Dawson to offer some relief.

Still, no matter what happens next, Monday night was worth a celebration for him. He’s the basketball version of Crash Davis, the fictional character of “Bull Durham.” After all the years, and all the chances to quit, Dawson was in The Show for the first time Monday.

That’s how Dickey sees it, too. Dawson didn’t start until his senior year at Sam Houston, then academic questions stopped him from going to a Division I school.

“So he was always working his way up,” Dickey said, “and he kept at it.”

Dawson kept at it 10 years ago, too. He returned the next day after his collision and, with the left side of his face noticeably swollen, he made his first five shots and went on to lead his school in scoring.

Sam Houston would lose, and that would be Dawson’s final high school game. Afterward, he talked about Dickey, who has since retired.

“He taught me to work hard in class,” Dawson said that day, “and never give up in anything.”

All of it was a signal of what would have to happen for Dawson to eventually earn a place on the roster of his hometown team. He would have to pick himself up, again and again.

On Twitter: @Buck_SA

Leave a Reply