Former Tustin High and Oklahoma State basketball player Doug Gottlieb heard about the airplane crash that killed eight members of the Cowboys' basketball traveling party, including two players, on an international call from his father.
Gottlieb is in Perm, Russia, playing basketball for the country's best team, Ural Great. The night before learning of the Oklahoma State tragedy, he was joined in Russia by his wife, Angie, whom he married in August.
"It was really tough," Gottlieb said. "If she hadn't been here, I don't know what I would do. I knew everybody on that plane.
"I've lost people before, but never 10 people," he said of the crash, which also killed two pilots. "It was a crushing blow because we were close to the people on the flight, and we couldn't come back to share our feelings."
Nate Fleming, one of the players who perished in the crash, attended Gottlieb's wedding. At Christmas, Fleming had been telling Angie about scoring his first basket.
Gottlieb finds himself isolated in a foreign culture on the Kama River, virtually alone in a city of 1.1 million. "It's my first year out of college, my wife and I have college degrees, yet we're illiterate in this country," he said. "It's a very interesting experience. This has brought us so close. We have so much to talk about, trying to teach each other new words. It's a nice experience."
Gottlieb graduated from Tustin High in 1995 before attending Notre Dame for a year.
A heady point guard whose shooting never matched his passing, Gottlieb arrived in Russia on Jan. 12, with an open mind and a hunger to sustain his career. He played in the CBA for the Idaho Stampede and for the Salina (Kan.) Rattlers of the IBA, but his playing career wasn't taking off. Perm, he says, is a good gig.
"We like it so much, I would come back again next year--wouldn't give it a second thought," Gottlieb said. "We're actually trying to enjoy ourselves and learn something in the process."
Ural Great is in first place in the Northern European Basketball League, and second in the Russian Cup. The team is undefeated since Gottlieb's arrival.
FROM ORANGE TO CARDINAL
Stanford, the top-ranked men's volleyball team in the nation, boasts two of the last three Orange County players of the year selected by The Times. But last season's player of the year isn't the freshman with local ties starting for the Cardinal.
Billy Clayton, a 6-4 freshman from Newport Harbor High, starts for Stanford and is third on the team in blocks. Kevin Hansen, a 6-5 setter who was the player of the year in 2000 after leading Corona del Mar to the Southern Section Division I title, is also at Stanford.
Marcus Skacel, a 6-5 outside hitter from Santa Margarita, was the county player of the year in 1998. He is second on the Cardinal in kills.
Other volleyball players of note from the county:
* Beau Rawi, from Capistrano Valley, and Miles McGann, from Laguna Beach, both start for USC, the eighth-ranked team in the nation.
Rawi, a 6-5 junior middle blocker, leads the Trojans in blocks. McGann, a 6-5 sophomore, averages 13 1/2 assists per game.
Greg Burden, a junior from Corona del Mar, is the team's starting libero.
* Tim Gerlach, formerly of Santa Margarita High, had 11 kills to help Pacific defeat then-No. 1 Long Beach State on Feb. 3.
Gerlach, a 6-5 junior, leads the Tigers in kills.
* Jon Alleman, a freshman at Brigham Young from Esperanza High, had a school-record five aces in the first game of a 30-16, 30-25, 30-27 victory over UC San Diego Friday in Provo, Utah.
Alleman was The Times' Orange County player of the year in 1997.
Staff writers Michael Itagaki and Paul McLeod contributed to this report.
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