Piano Row gets Heated

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

The Miami Heat descended upon Emerson's Brown-Plofker gymnasium on March 17 in preparation for their March 18 game against the Boston Celtics.

Forward-Center Jermaine O'Neal, who has practiced in the gym twice before, said he finds the gym to be an excellent place to work out while in Boston.

"It's very convenient," he said. "It's very hospitable to the team. It's a quality court, so we really enjoy coming here."

Emerson assistant athletic director Stan Nance said over the past year and a half, several NBA teams have made Emerson their court away from home court. The combination of the gym's security and location make it an ideal place to practice before games against the Celtics, he said.

"In the past, they've stayed at the Mayflower [hotel], which is a couple of blocks away from us, as well as the Park Plaza hotel, so it's an easy distance," he said. "We have a secure court in terms of the floor. It's all the way down on [floor] L3. Once they're down there they can close the door and no one bothers them."

Two former Emerson student-athletes, Rob Hennigan and Sam Presti, are members of Oklahoma Thunder's administrative staff. It is this connection to the NBA that initially led teams to start playing here, Nance said.

Though it would make sense for a Boston school to be a hostile environment for an opposing team, O'Neal said this hasn't been the case. Instead, he has found students to be curious about their presence in the gym.

"We get some people coming in, up top, looking at the practices, but nobody's really been angry with us," he said. "It was more people want to really look and see what pro basketball teams do when they practice."

O'Neal, who was wearing headphones during practice, said he listens to a wide variety of music while getting his game on.

"It depends on what part of the day it is, and how I'm feeling right then," he said. "Walked in, listening to some Young Jeezy. I'm a wide-range type of a guy when it comes to music."