The Maui Invitational in Hawaii provided the first opportunity to see if Loyola Marymount is the kind of team it used to be, and if Indiana freshman guard Damon Bailey is the kind of player he's supposed to be. The answer in both cases is, not yet.
Loyola Marymount's first three games under new coach Jay Hillock suggested that it may be a while before the Lions are burying opponents under a ton of points, as they did so often under Paul Westhead, who moved on to coach the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. Loyola Marymount's opening-round game was a ragged 100-93 loss to West Coast Conference rival Santa Clara, a team the Lions had beaten eight consecutive times over the last three seasons. The Lions' offense was more effective the next night against Northeastern, but the Huskies beat them at their own game, 152-123. On Sunday, Loyola really got rolling with a 162-129 win over Chaminade.
Loyola Marymount played without injured guards Tony Walker and Tom Peabody. More important, however, was the absence of departed Lion starters Bo Kimble, Per Stumer, Jeff Fryer and, of course, the late Hank Gathers, who died during a game on March 4. Without those players, Hillock, who spent five years as Westhead's assistant at Loyola, said his team's half-court offense had a "frantic" look. To say the least. The Lions left Maui knowing they have work to do.
The same is true of Bailey, the focus of so much publicity that he got a vote for the AP's preseason All-America team before he even played his first game. He proved himself to be a good freshman guard—nothing more, nothing less. Certainly, Northeastern coach Karl Fogel wasn't particularly impressed after Bailey had five points, six assists and five turnovers in Indiana's 100-78 victory over the Huskies last Friday. "To be honest with you, he was just another guy who played," said Fogel.
Indiana coach Bob Knight conceded that, against Northeastern, Bailey "didn't cut well. [He] looped and played at a pace he can't play at, [not] at this level of competition." But Bailey started again the following night, in a 73-69 victory over Santa Clara, and responded with 12 points and eight assists. In Sunday's final against Syracuse, a 77-74 loss, Bailey ended up with 10 points. All in all, a satisfactory beginning.
DISTAFF DUNK WATCH
Nice girls do dunk, according to a new poster that shows Southern Cal's 6'5" freshman Lisa Leslie doing exactly that. We didn't know the matter was in doubt. In any case, Leslie is the heavy favorite to become the second woman in NCAA history to dunk in a college game. The first to do it was 6'7" Georgeann Wells of West Virginia, in 1984.
"I think it will come," says Leslie. "It's just a matter of when the right situation arises. I'm not going to go out looking for a chance, but when it comes, I'll be ready. It's not that big a deal to me, but if it brings more attention to the women's game, then great."
Leslie, who has been dunking since the ninth grade, didn't get a chance to jam in USC's opener, but she did score 30 points in an 88-77 upset of Texas on Sunday. And she's not especially concerned about the possibility that someone might beat her to the first dunk of the season. Still, it could happen. Virginia, for instance, has four players with designs on dunking. Katasha Artis, a six-foot freshman, has dunked before in an organized game, most recently in a 72-point performance as a senior at South Shore High School in Brooklyn last season. Tonya Cardoza, a 5'10" forward, and twins Heidi and Heather Burge, both 6'4¾", have also been flirting with the feat.
"It doesn't matter whether I do it or someone else docs," says Leslie, who is best known for scoring 101 points in a game for Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif., last season (SI, Feb. 19). "Dunking is something guys care more about than girls. There's something about jumping that seems to fascinate guys. Girls are more like, As long as the ball goes in, who cares how you got it there?"
Division II Southern Indiana, which plays Georgetown on Dec. 1, promises to be another in the long tradition of early-season patsies for the Hoyas. Still, this game at least has something special to recommend it—a matchup of the brothers Mutombo.
You are probably familiar with Dikembe Mutombo, Georgetown's 7'2" shot-blocker from Zaire, but his brother Ilo, a 6'10" center for Southern Indiana, may have escaped your notice. He's a gregarious 29-year-old senior who ended up at Southern Indiana largely because as a 26-year-old freshman, he was too old to play for a Division I team.
"We've been looking forward to playing each other ever since we heard the game might be arranged," says Ilo. "I really appreciate [Georgetown coach] John Thompson doing this. It will be like a family reunion."
Like Dikembe, Ilo is fluent in a number of languages, among them Swahili, French, Portuguese and English. And he's no pushover on the court, either, with career averages of 11 points and eight rebounds, but he does have to grudgingly concede that his younger brother's basketball skills have now surpassed his.
"Back home, I had more knowledge of the game and I used to dominate, but he's at least up on my level now," Ilo says. "At first, he didn't even like the game. When I was playing in Zaire, I used to make him come to practice with me just to carry my bag."
The game, which will be played at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., has been the focus of a good-natured sibling rivalry for weeks. "I told Mutombo he better work out, because I'm coming to get him," says Ilo, who almost always refers to Dikembe by his last name. "But in truth, I know he's good. He's still my little brother, though. I'm going to keep telling him that all night."
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT
As often as not, people get the name of the team wrong. The players usually travel in a pair of station wagons with U-Haul cases strapped to the roofs, and they play the kind of schedule that would make NBA players weak in the knees.
That's life for Marathon Basketball, which many people—the ones who have heard of it at all—still refer to as Marathon Oil, recalling the oil company that used to sponsor the team. Marathon is typical of the clubs that barnstorm around the country during November and December, providing the opposition in exhibition tune-ups for college teams.
When the exhibition season is over, Marathon spends most of the next several months playing in various European tournaments, a schedule that can't be any more grueling than the one that the team plays in the U.S. This week Marathon will complete a stretch of 25 games in 26 days, a continuous road trip taking the team as far west as Tempe, Ariz., and as far east as Kingston, R.I. Many of those miles have been traveled in two trusty nine-passenger station wagons. Coach Glenn Sergent estimates that the team will have traveled 8,000 miles by car in November alone.
Last week the coach and his players left Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day and drove to New Jersey for a game against Rutgers on Friday night. From there they drove to Philadelphia to play St. Joseph's on Saturday, then went on to Baltimore to play Loyola on Monday. Still to come were games against Rhode Island on Tuesday and Massachusetts on Wednesday.
"The travel gets pretty tough sometimes," says forward Todd May, a former Mr. Basketball in Kentucky who hopes that playing for Marathon will help him catch on with a European club. "We fix up the cars pretty nice, so the two-or three-hour trips aren't so bad. It's those five-and six-hour ones that'll get you."
The team is largely made up of ex-college players, like May, who are looking for a spot in Europe or, for the real dreamers, the NBA—anywhere that will pay better than the modest per diem and expenses they get with Marathon. The roster changes constantly—31 players have appeared on the roster in one month—but May, Earl Kelley (Connecticut) and John Flowers (UNLV) are among the big-name former collegians who have recently played for Marathon. The team loses more often than it wins, but Marathon is not an easy touch. It has already beaten Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Clemson this season.
"It's not real glamorous, and you never have a home game," Sergent says. "Most of the guys play for us because they just can't get basketball out of their blood."
After missing three weeks of practice because of a mysterious viral infection that had drained him of energy, Pittsburgh forward Brian Shorter, the defending Big East scoring champ, played only 15 minutes and scored 11 points in the Panthers' season-opening 84-50 win over Northwest Missouri State. It is still possible that Shorter might sit out this season as a medical redshirt, a move that would be devastating to Pitt's title chances....
Texas-Arlington made only 11 of 51 three-pointers in a 136-99 loss to New Mexico last Friday, falling two short of the record for attempts set by Kentucky last season....
First-year Colorado coach Joe Harrington wants to make sure that opponents don't forget they are playing at high altitude when they meet Colorado at home. He had mountains painted on the floor of the school's Events Center, along with the Words WELCOME TO BOULDER, COLORADO. ELEVATION: 5,345 FEET....
A special citation goes to the Czechoslovakian national team, which earlier this month beat Marquette 79-62 in Milwaukee and lost to DePaul 88-65 in Chicago. On the same day. Now that's hustle.
PETER READ MILLER
The 6'5" Leslie may soon make dunking an exciting part of the women's game.
Marathon is a fitting name for Sergent (third from right) and his long-distance road crew.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Arizona's 6'6" sophomore forward Chris Mills averaged 27 points and 9.5 rebounds as the Wildcats beat Notre Dame 91-61 and Arkansas 89-77 to win the preseason NIT in New York City (page 60).
Lisa Leslie, Southern Cal's 6'5" freshman forward, made her collegiate debut with 30 points, 20 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots in the Trojans' 88-77 win over Texas.
Bill Perkins, a 6'2" sophomore guard for Villa Maria College of Buffalo, made 17 three-pointers, a junior college record, while scoring 64 points in a 118-73 win over Jamestown Community College.