Work, work, work

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Thursday, November 2, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Thalo Green painted houses this summer.

And realized once again what a hard working man his father is.

What a persevering man his father is.

What a great man his father is.

Maybe he isn’t the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and maybe he didn’t invent the Internet, but Sandy Green did something more important: He raised three kids by himself.

“I worked for him for about two weeks this summer,” Thalo said, “and then asked myself: ‘How’s he been doing this for 30 years?’ Not only is it hard work, but it takes skill. It’s something I admire him for – for putting in all that hard work for us.”

Us are the three children Sandy Green raised after his marriage broke up. Thalo was 2 when his mother up and “kinda took off.”

“He took care of us and supported us in everything we did,” Thalo said. “Just to see what he did and how hard he worked to provide for us was something that rubbed off on me. He had that consistent work effort. Even when the going was tough and he felt like he wanted to give up, he just kept going.”

Is it any wonder that Sandy Green is the person his youngest son most admires in life?

Sandy Green kept his kids together. He raised them to understand the importance of hard work. He taught them that they could achieve whatever they set out to do in life. And he warned them about the setbacks and how to handle them.

“One of the main points of emphasis he’s always told me is if you get knocked down, you’ve always got to get back up,” Thalo said. “It’s something I’ve always done and something that’s helped me through all the injuries I’ve been through.”

Now look at those Green kids.

The oldest boy, Rish, 30, has his own band – Miss Pigeon – out in Boston. The group just came out with a new CD. Rish also edits videos for a company that produces educational cartoons.

The second oldest child, Crystal, 28, is pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles. She’s done some movies and commercials, but hasn’t quit her regular day job – managing a bar – as she waits for that one big break.

Then there’s Thalo, a 22-year-old senior on the University of Washington basketball team. He’ll graduate with a degree in communications this quarter. Then he wants to take some art classes that he could never find time to squeeze into his hectic academic-basketball schedule the last four years.

“I do a lot of drawing, a lot of abstract stuff,” he said. “I have had an extreme passion for it for a long time.”

He has also had this extreme passion for basketball. It’s what got him a scholarship to the UW coming out of South Salem (Ore.) High School in 1996.

It seems as if he’s been here much longer. Maybe it’s because he’s played in so many games – 90 in the last three years. “I would like to keep Thalo for another four years,” coach Bob Bender said, “but unfortunately, this is it.”

Green hasn’t put up huge numbers. But numbers aren’t what he’s all about.

His game is about passion. It’s about hard work. It’s about floor burns. It’s about stitches above his eye. It’s about elbows in his gut. It’s about doing the dirty work.

“That’s always something I’ve prided myself on,” he said. “Just growing up the way I grew up, having a father who raised three kids on his own and worked his butt off to provide for us. Everytime I’ve gone out and done something, I’ve done it to the best of my ability and gone all out. The high school program I was in, the coach asked a lot of that of me. That’s something every team needs and it’s something I enjoy doing.”

The son of the house painter brings a black and blue mentality to the game of basketball. If you play against Thalo, you’d better be prepared for a long, tiring, bruising evening. Not that he’s going to beat up on you. He isn’t big enough (6-foot-7, 220 pounds) to do that. But he’s kind of a pest. He’ll always be moving, he’ll always be trying to do something, he’ll always be a pain in the butt. He’ll drive the lane when you least expect it and score. Or he’ll dive into the crowd after a loose ball. Or he’ll snatch a rebound he shouldn’t get. Or he’ll be down on the floor in a tangle of bodies.

If Thalo had extreme talent, he’d be unfair. But then if he were loaded with skills, he might not be the battler he is.

Check that. Yes, he would. He’s Sandy Green’s kid, remember.

Sandy Green’s youngest has a soft side, too. A compassionate side that led Thalo to let his hair grow for 16 months without seeing a barber. Now that mop of curls – it was 10 inches long by the time he got it cut in July – is being made into a wig for some child who has had chemotherapy treatment for cancer or suffered burns. The program is called Wigs for Kids and when Thalo found out about it, he decided as a major college basketball player that he was in a position to get the program some publicity.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” he said. “I had people come up to me who had never heard of this program. In fact, when I got my hair cut, there was one lady who came in and donated her hair, as well. I’ve continued to get e-mails here and there from people asking who they can send their hair to. It’s something that has definitely opened the eyes of a lot of people. And that was my ultimate goal – to get that word out there.”

Now he has another message he wants to circulate. A less vital message, but still important to him. It is this: He got sick and tired of losing last year and he aims to change things this season.

In his first four years at the UW, Green had known nothing but winning teams. He had played on three teams that reached the postseason, including the NCAA Sweet 16.

Then came the downer last year – 10-20.

Green has done his part to get better. He’s worked on a medium-range jump shot that he says is “always open in college basketball.” He’s right, you know. Everybody’s either launching the 3-pointer or slam-dunking. The unglamorous little 15-footer goes undefended. “I’ve always been a driver and my jump shot has always been there but I’ve never really looked for it,” he said. “I’ve never worked on it as hard as I did this summer and I’m going to knock it down if it’s given to me this year.”

Knock it down and maybe get knocked down.

But you know what he’ll do. He’s Sandy Green’s kid, remember.

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