McNamara was close to finishing that project when he was murdered — one of five victims in the June 2018 mass shooting at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md.“I guess for the two months after he died I couldn’t bring myself to go into his den,” Chamblee told Sporting News. “I kept the door closed. I shuddered when I walked past it. He should have been in there working on this book. He was every night when we were home and he wasn’t at a game.“But after about two months I opened the door and tried to remember what it was like when he was there. And the boxes of the files were so conspicuous to see in the middle of the floor — just boxes and boxes of microfiche that he had printed out and telephone numbers he had called. And there was a list of people that he wanted to call back pasted above his desk.“And I decided to take a look to see how far along he had gotten.”McNamara was a staff writer at the Annapolis paper at the time of his death, but his enthusiasm for sports was addressed most nights by wrapping himself in the history of D.C.-area high school basketball. The region long has been extraordinarily rich in basketball talent: Dave Bing, Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, Victor Oladipo, Danny Ferry, Adrian Branch, Sidney Lowe, Sherman Douglas and Len Bias all were products of its high school teams. There is a listing of all-area teams near the back of “The Capital of Basketball,” starting in the 1920s and carrying forward to 2000, that is loaded with eventual All-Americans, NBA All-Stars and Naismith Hall of Famers.He expressed in the introduction to this book how, already an enormous fan of the NBA and colleges, he came to fall in love with the high school game by attending with his father a matchup of Archbishop Carroll and the private school he had entered, St. John’s. He was “hooked” for life.“In terms of value for your entertainment dollar,” McNamara wrote, “I still believe you can’t beat a good high school basketball game.”McNamara wrote a couple of books about the athletic program at Maryland, his alma mater, one each about football and basketball. Like many writers, he had in his mind a project or two he wanted to address when he found the time. He wanted to write about the history of D.C. high school hoops, but when he learned about the death of legendary coach Bob Dwyer, who had led Archbishop Carroll to 55 consecutive victories in the 1950s, McNamara told his wife he’d missed his chance. She knew better.Chamblee reminded McNamara that Hall-of-Famer Morgan Wootten of DeMatha Catholic and Joe Gallagher of St. John’s were among the elite coaches still around then, with lifetimes of stories to tell. She urged McNamara to contact them and collect their memories and, when the time came, to put it all on paper.“He had been working on it, and I had helped him back up those files, so I knew where they were,” Chamblee said. “He didn’t like me to read his works in progress, but I had put them on a thumb drive and on the cloud and then a few places, so that if we lost one we’d have other backups. I decided to search them out and download them and open them up.“He was so close to finishing. I thought I had to be able to do this for him and finish it.”With help from D.C. area sportswriter David Elfin, who had collaborated with McNamara on “Cole Classics! Maryland Basketball’s Leading Men and Moments,” Chamblee was able to complete the book in time for it to be published as the 2019-20 basketball season commenced.The idea of the book was to cover the 20th century, ending with Wootten’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2000. He’d covered all but the final two years of the 1990s, and Chamblee said Elfin was an enormous help in addressing those seasons and proofreading the entire work. The opening chapter covering 1900-1950 was not yet done, but McNamara had so thoroughly outlined what he had planned, Chamblee said, “Really, all I had to do was turn his outline into complete sentences and write it the way he would want it to be written.”The completed work is a tribute to McNamara’s encyclopedic knowledge of the basketball scene in the D.C. metro area. It is published by Georgetown University Press. Academic houses often prefer the work they produce to have been peer-reviewed before publication. But no one could find a “peer” in this arena; McNamara was the authority.Chamblee is a former newspaper reporter who became an attorney and now works as senior regulatory counsel for the Food and Drug Administration. She was out of work, temporarily, during the government shutdown earlier this year, but that provided her time to finish her husband’s book project.“If the government hadn’t shut down for those six weeks, I don’t think we’d be talking about this book today,” she said. “I couldn’t take on another job — that’s not allowed — so I just worked 12-hour days finishing the book.”Some of what was required was identifying the subjects of photographs; McNamara didn’t always write them down because he’d have known them at a glance. Chamblee got some help from other writers and credited Wootten and Maryland basketball voice Johnny Holliday for being generous with their time in helping to assure accuracy. Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams, who coached at Maryland from 1989-2011, agreed to write the foreword, explaining he got to know McNamara on a professional level, “and then as a friend.” There is a special feeling for an author when the first copy of a book arrives, usually in the mail or by courier service. So many years of labor can go into such a project, and to hold it all in one’s hands is an extraordinary experience. Few, though, have felt anything like what Chamblee did when “The Capital of Basketball” was delivered to her.“I was so conflicted when I held that book in my hand,” Chamblee said. “Of course, these days you email off the files, so even just hitting the send button on the files felt like I was letting it go. Maybe it feels a little like a parent dropping their child off at college.“And when it came back, part of me wanted to keep it like this was my secret between John and I, and I didn’t want to share it. But certainly, I knew I needed to share it. John wanted people to know these stories, so I have to let it go.” For about two months, the last words John McNamara had to share with his readers — words that represented over a decade’s worth of research, conversation, investigation and, above all, passion — sat untouched in his office.In 2007, he began the project that would become “The Capital of Basketball” at the urging of his wife, Andrea Chamblee. She knew was no one was more qualified to write the history of the incredible high school basketball competition that has flourished for over a century in the Washington D.C. metro area.