Flint hoops legend, Cory Hightower, now coaching elementary school ball in Grand Blanc

Cory Hightower, at age 20, sits in his bedroom on Pasadena in Flint waiting for them to call his name during the NBA draft almost nine years ago. More than 30 family members and friends, including from left, Rod Larry, Kelvin Torbert, Johnnie Selvie, and far right, Cory's father, Curtis, crowded into the Hightower's home to hear the result. Cory was picked 54th in the NBA draft to play for the San Antonio Spurs, and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. After being released by the Lakers, Hightower became a star in the CBA and USBL. These days, he is coaching 4th grade hoops in Grand Blanc.

I've never had more fun watching anyone playing basketball -- and I've watched a lot of it in the past 20 years.

Cory Hightower was a freak of nature, a 6-foot-8 guard with bounce, handle and a heater from the outside. He was the most talented Flint baller that I'd ever seen (yeah, yeah, I never saw Eric Turner), and now he's coaching the 10-year-old son of my friend and colleague in Grand Blanc.

He asked me about Hightower the other day, and just hearing that name brought back a lot of memories.Hightower prepped at Flint Northwestern before leaving for greener pastures after his sophomore year. He moved to Mount Zion Christian Academy (yeah, Tracy McGrady went there, too.) in North Carolina and then on to Indian Hills Community College in Iowa where he became an All-American.

Hightower had, at least early on, the intention of finishing out his college career at TCU -- where former Flint Southwestern standout, Corey Santee, played his college ball -- but opted to turn pro. Hightower was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000 NBA Draft and promptly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hightower didn't last long in L.A., however. He was released for committing the cardinal sin of NBA rookiedom. Apparently he refused to carry Kobe Bryant's bags, or so the story around Flint goes.

Hightower did get another shot in the NBA with Charlotte (they were the Hornets at that time) a year later, but was again released.

Since missing his shot at sticking in the NBA, Hightower did his best Johnny Cash impression: he played everywhere: for Marinos de Anzoategui in Venezuela, for the Michigan Mayhem, the Yakima Sun Kings, Gary Steelheads, Rockford Lightning and the Great Lakes Storm, all in the CBA. He also suited up for the Harlem Globetrotters and for teams in the USBL.

Hightower was a stud in high school, an All-American in college, an NBA Draft pick out of the JUCO ranks (that's rare, remember Qyntel Woods?) and an All-Star in the semi-professional ranks.

Sometimes things don't quite work out the way you expect them to. I'm confident that Hightower was blessed with more native ability to play the game than his former high school teammate, Morris Peterson.

I remember watching him play at the Pro-Am in Flint every summer and his antics never ceased to amaze me. This guy lived for the show. He would rather twist his man into the hardwood than to make a pass and set a screen. Crossing halfcourt, he gave himself the green light every time.

One of my favorite highlights of Hightower can be seen in a little-known Flint basketball documentary called "Flint Star": the clip shows Hightower making his man almost fall while being guarded in the far corner, and then rising up and hitting a 3-pointer in his face.

OK, I lied. My favorite clip comes later when Hightower goes ballistic after a no-call and whips the ball at the guy holding the camera.

I remember running into Hightower several years back at the YMCA on Pierson Road. My team had just gotten done with our 7-on-7 flag football game and Hightower's was just about to start.

"See that guy over there," I said. "He was drafted by the Lakers."