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Ready to be pumped up

Ready to be pumped up

With March madness comfortably behind us, and the summer playground leagues still a month or so from startup, it's a good time for those of us who never outgrew dreams of playing in the NBA to take stock of our skills and look for every tool we can find to improve our game.

And so it was with no small amount of fascination that we read about the Infusion basketball, a new product from Spalding. It looks and feels like a regular ball, but it's got something extra: a 3-inch-long, 0.5-inch diameter pump concealed inside the ball. When the ball loses air-which Spalding's research says is the number-one consumer complaint about basketballs-you just press and turn a dime-size section of dark rubber and out pops the piston. Push that piston a hundred times and you add 1 psi to the ball, hopefully enough to resume dribbling toward the basket.

We wondered how Spalding could put a 16- to 19-gram pump inside the ball without affecting the balance. Engineer Tom Veilleux, who worked on the design, said it was simple. On traditional balls, there's a rubber-patch counterweight 180 degrees away from the valve for balance. On the Infusion ball, he says, the pump is heavier than the valve so they put the counterweight inside the ball on the valve side. Engineers eliminated a dead spot that created a stiffening effect, and the solution is one of the many they've filed patents for with this ball.

Okay, but will this ball lose air easily? Apparently not. Veilleux says their ball-tossing machine threw the Infusion against a wood wall at 30 mph 30,000 to 45,000 times (about the number of my free-throw attempts before I sink one) and it didn't lose any air.

So, is this the development that will let us quit our day jobs and make the big bucks in b-ball? Maybe for someone else. As for yours truly, I may as well sit in a rocking chair in mid court the way other players run around me, and the Infusion won't help that. But, if Spalding could adapt the design so that the pump would give me more air, I might have a chance.

Paul E. Teague [email protected]

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