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Top Basketball Players Called For Duty Against Soviets

May 15, 1991|JIM LINDGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — High school all-star basketball games typically provide little more than a few dunks, no-look passes, a last hurrah for hometown seniors and perhaps a scholarship opportunity for a guard otherwise overlooked.

But the one this Friday night at the San Diego Sports Arena hardly is typical. One glance at the rosters indicates that.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 16, 1991 San Diego County Edition Sports Part C Page 6 Column 1 Sports Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Basketball player--Because of a reporter's error, the Times on Wednesday misidentified Travis Knight, a member of the San Diego Police Athletic League Select team that will play the Soviet Junior National Team at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sports Arena. Knight is a junior from Ramona High.

At 7 p.m., the San Diego Police Athletic League Select team will face the Soviet Junior National Team, a squad that is to the Soviet Olympic program what North Carolina is to the NBA.

"This is truly a premier event," said Select Coach Michael Brunker, who helped organize the game and a similar one two years ago. "The Soviet team is one of the best if not \o7 the\f7 best in the world."

When it came time to pick the 1991 Select, Brunker did not limit himself to area seniors.

He figured that because the Soviet team has six players who were "suspect 18- and 19-year-olds two years ago," he would widen his talent search as well.

Enter Chris Webber, Chris Miller and Shane Knight, three players who figure prominently in Brunker's plans.

Fallbrook's Miller and Ramona's Knight are local players, but they are juniors, and this will be their first all-star game.

Juniors normally are not permitted to play in postseason all-star games, but the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union, which is coordinating the 10-city Soviet tour, has approved them.

Webber, a senior and Parade Magazine's national player of the year, is certainly no stranger to all-star games, but he is a stranger to these parts. Webber, who was the most valuable player in the McDonald's Classic in Springfield, Mass., and the co-MVP in the Dapper Dan game in Pittsburgh, is from Detroit Country Day, roughly 2,500 miles northeast of La Jolla Country Day.

Two of the top players in San Diego County, Miller and Knight were logical selections, as was San Pasqual's Erik Meek, San Diego's player of the year.

But how in the world did Webber land on this team?

The lure of playing the Soviets would appear to be the case, but Webber already has done that. He had 12 points and 10 rebounds and helped his Detroit team defeat the Soviets, 99-79, Friday at the Joe Louis Arena.

Brunker, a former assistant coach with the Pistons who still has connections in Detroit, gave one of those a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend explanations, but then he said the real reason for Webber coming here was the friendship Webber and Meek developed at various summer camps and all-star functions over the past few years.

Another Meek friendship nearly helped secure yet another Parade All-American, Cherokee Parks of Huntington Beach Marina High.

Parks and Meek, two of the top recruits in the nation, have played together before and both are headed to Duke this fall. Parks originally committed to play in Friday's game, but apparently a more attractive opportunity came his way.

"That same day is his prom," Brunker said. "The way he described it, this fantastic junior became available, and he finally got the nerve to ask her to go."

Said Meek, "It's disappointing not having Cherokee come down. We've played on the same team together a few times, but we've never had a chance to be in the game at the same time. That would have been nice."

Miller and Knight won't have their senior proms for another year, but they have impressed Brunker in training for Friday's game.

"They're bona fide," Brunker said. "I project both of these kids to be highly recruited around the nation next season."

At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Miller averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Fallbrook, which advanced to the Division I semifinals. A starter since his freshman year, he already is the Warriors' all-time leading scorer.

"(Miller is) a relentless competitor," Brunker said. "(He is) easily one of the most dynamic players I've ever seen in this area."

Said Meek, "I like the way Chris plays a lot. He's the kind of guy you like to have on your team. He's always ready. He's always moving. I think he has a lot of potential."

With 6-11 Parks out, Knight becomes even more of a factor because of the enormous size of the Soviet team.

Knight, 6-10, and Bulldog guard Alphonso De La Nuez, who also is playing for the Select team, led Ramona to its first San Diego Section Division III championship. Knight averaged 19.7 points and 12 rebounds, and he is one of those players who seems to get better every time he laces his hightops.

Brunker calls him a "terrific all-around player with great shot-blocking abilities."

Many on the Select team are finding out just how good those abilities are.

Said John Price of Mission Bay, "He has those long arms. You never know when he's going to get a piece of your shot. Most of the time, you just have to assume he is and adjust."

Added Brunker, "The only difference between Travis and Erik right now is the weight."

Knight weighs 195 pounds, Meek 235.

"Playing against Erik every day has really helped," Knight said. "You can't help but become better playing against him."

Notes

San Diego is the only California stop on the AAU/Soviet Junior Team tour, and the game is part of a 24-hour basketball extravaganza put on by the San Diego Police Athletic League, called "Hoop Hysteria '91." A slam dunk contest kicks off the event on Thursday at 6 p.m. Tickets for the entire event are $5 for general admission and $25 for reserved seating. Tickets can be purchased on Thursday and Friday at the Sports Arena or advanced purchases can be made at the PAL office, 9040 Friars Road, Suite 240. For more information, call Michael Brunker at 281-7783. All proceeds benefit PAL.

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