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U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Trials : Mourning Gets 18, Vindicates Thompson

May 23, 1988|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Mourning briefing:

Remember when they said that Alonzo Mourning, an 18-year-old high school senior, owed his Olympic invitation to the fact that his future college coach and the Olympic coach were both 6-10 and named John Thompson?

All that ended Sunday. In a practice game before a crowd of 12,400 in McNichols Arena, Mourney outplayed a pair of elders named Rony Seikaly and Duane Schintzius, scoring 18 points, blocking 4 shots and taking 5 rebounds.

Mourning had already become the first prep player ever to survive a cut in tryouts for the U.S. men's basketball team, is now assured of making it through Tuesday's cut to 20, and is probably even odds to go all the way to Seoul.

"If he had declared hardship, he'd be a lottery pick," said Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Brian Hill. "Who would you take ahead of him?"

The pros will have to wait. The filing deadline for (this year's) NBA draft has passed, so now he's someone else's problem.

Try seven Big East schools, for starters.

"Well, that's your first loss against him," said Billy Cunningham, laughing, to Villanova's Rollie Massimino, the losing coach, "and a lot more to come."

"He's going to bring great excitement to college ball and hasten the retirement of a lot of coaches," St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca said.

Mourning, a senior at Indian River High in Chesapeake, Va., is the prize of a fine class of centers, a young man who once blocked 27 shots in an AAU game.

Of course after he committed to Georgetown, there was speculation about what the Olympic/Georgetown coach, Thompson, might have promised him, and questions about whether Mourning belonged on any U.S. team.

"If he has to play a lot of quality minutes," said LaSalle Coach Speedy Morris before the trials, "we won't win."

Mourning, listed at 6-11 or 6-10 at Indian River, reported to Colorado Springs to be measured and weighed. Surprise, as often happens when a living legend leaves high school, he shrunk. He turned out to be a mere 6-9, 230.

Actually, he told reporters that officials had told him he was really only 6-8 but when the roster came out, he was 6-9. Whichever, he soon showed he played taller than that. More importantly, if he was nervous, he wasn't very nervous, and he got over it in a hurry.

He repeated the process Sunday. In the first half, he shot 0 for 4, scored one point and took one rebound.

In the second half, he scored 17 points, made 3-of-5 shots, including a couple of 18-footers, blocked 3 shots and took 4 rebounds. A star was born.

Not that he got star treatment, or asked for any. Seikaly threw him down once and they exchanged stares at the other end of the floor. Schintzius and he were called for a double foul when they started trading elbows in the low post.

"What did you think of the kid?" Seikaly was asked later.

"He's no kid, I'll tell you that much," Seikaly said. "He's going to be a hell of a player. He's gotten better every day. First day, second day, every day he's gotten better."

And the glare-off?

"There's nothing between us. We hang out together. It's just, he's physical and I'm physical. When you get two guys who are going to bang, those things are going to happen."

Said Schintzius: "He gives it his all every time he goes out on the court. It's very evident he doesn't care who he's playing against. He went in there and took after Rony Seikaly, who's a veteran. He has nothing to lose and he's just going for the gold."

Thompson, who begged off commenting on individuals, stood in a McNichols runway, beaming while everyone else oohed and aahed about Mourning.

Mourning?

He was asked what it would mean if he made the team.

"It'd make history," he said. Right again.

Notes

Four players who rose from anonymity in this camp and are rated good shots to survive the next cut: 6-5 Brian Shaw of Cal Santa Barbara, suddenly the new darkhorse candidate to win the point guard spot; Dan Majerle (pronounced Mayorly), a muscular 6-5 forward from Central Michigan, who had already impressed pro scouts by winning MVP at the Portsmouth Tournament; 6-3 Georgetown guard Charles Smith, who's also in the point guard running, and 6-6 Willie Anderson of Georgia, who can play small forward and either guard spot. . . . Two famous players who sank into obscurity: Rex Chapman, newly declared for the NBA draft out of Kentucky, was either playing under control, or comatose. He may have fallen out of the NBA lottery and cost himself serious money. And, Mark Macon, the once-legendary Temple freshman, whose final-game slump continues. Maybe it was from being in the same gym with Billy King, the Duke defender who shut him down in the NCAAs. Macon was shaky all week, shot 3 for 11 Sunday, with 4 turnovers and 4 fouls.

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