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Pretty Fair Touch When it comes to on-court look and feel, the hot new film 'Love & Basketball' is more hit than miss

The most difficult role in drama isn't playing Hamlet; it's
playing basketball. From Michael J. Fox in the 1980s flick Teen
Wolf to Mykelti Williamson in the recently canceled Showtime
series The Hoop Life, many actors have tried to hoop it up
on-screen, but only a few have scored. (We except Ray Allen,
costar of the 1998 movie He Got Game, whose real job is, after
all, shooting guard for the Bucks.) For instance, if we had
anything to say about it, the on-court sequences from NBC's Hang
Time would be relegated to pine time. Which leads us to the
endearing, if not All-Star-worthy, new film Love & Basketball.
Omar Epps stars as Quincy McCall, and the extremely appealing
Sanaa Lathan plays Monica Wright. Quincy and Monica are star
players and next-door neighbors whose mutual passion for the
game blossoms into love for each other. We're not about to
pretend we're Ebert or Entertainment Weekly; we'll spare you the
thumb and the letter grade. We'd rather be Hubie Brown and
"break down" the hoops verite.

Swishes

Contact. Quincy and Monica meet as 11-year-olds during a
two-on-two game in his driveway. The players check the ball after
each made basket. The game ends abruptly when Quincy (played as a
youngster by Glenndon Chatman), beaten on a give-and-go by female
interloper Monica (Kyla Pratt), flagrantly fouls her from behind.
It's as if Rick Mahorn had scripted it.

Uniformity. From Los Angeles's Crenshaw High and Southern
Cal--where McCall and Wright are point guards--to a women's
European club team, Vigo, to the NBA Lakers and WNBA Sparks,
every uniform seen in Love & Basketball is the goods.

Scheduling. The last two games of Monica's freshman season at USC
are against Oregon and Oregon State. First-time director Gina
Prince-Bythewood, the film's writer and a former runner on the
UCLA track team, clearly knows the Pac-10 basketball slate.

Air Balls

Ball Handling. If Quincy and Monica are proficient enough at the
point to play professionally, how come Ralph Reed goes to his
left more often? Behind-the-back dribbling, which Q, as Quincy is
called, deploys too often, is the hardwood equivalent of
overacting.

The Breakaway Trey. During a Southern Cal practice Monica steals
the ball and has an opening for an uncontested layup. Instead,
she pulls up for a three-pointer. Afterward her coach, Christine
Dunford, chews her out not for taking the shot but for failing to
get back on defense after sinking it. What is this, The Nick Van
Exel Story?

The Banks Shot. Finally, it's not a hoops gaffe, but Tyra Banks
plays Q's fiancee, and Monica's mother (Alfre Woodard) says, "He
can do a lot better, if you ask me." On what planet?

--John Walters

COLOR PHOTO: S. BALDWIN/NEW LINE CINEMA

BEAR MARKET
Cal alumni and Bay Area celebrities contribute some golden items
to an on-line auction

EBay, the internet auction site, is based in San Jose (as
opposed to Willow Bay, the CNNfn anchor, who's based in Los
Angeles). From May 7 to 18 the folks at Cal, across San
Francisco Bay from eBay, will stage a public on-line sale of
their own--the CyBear Auction--in hopes of raising $150,000 for
the endowment of athletic scholarships. You can register, bid
and/or follow the auction at www.cybear-auction.org. Among the
items for sale, mostly donated by pro athletes who are Cal
alumni or Bay Area celebrities, are:

--Lunch with the Oakland Raiders.

--A round of golf at archrival Stanford's University Golf Course.
(Sure, we'll replace the divots.)

--Four premium-level seats to Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the
Staples Center (presuming, of course, that the Lakers are
playing), courtesy of Vikings center Todd Steussie (Golden Bears
class of '94).

--A one-hour kicking lesson from Saints booter Doug Brien ('94).

--A piece by sculptor and Cal line coach Ed White ('69).

--A day of fishing (lunch included) with Giants manager Dusty
Baker.

--A corporate keynote speech delivered by superagent Leigh
Steinberg ('70).

--Our favorite: a program from the 1982 Big Game against Stanford,
the cover of which is signed by all four Golden Bears who touched
the ball during the desperation, game-winning kickoff return,
revered in Cal legend as The Play.

--J.W.

WEBWORDS

"What do I remember about Charles? His gluteus maximus. That's
the Number 1 thing. That's the biggest gluteus maximus in the
world. I didn't have enough gluteus maximus to defend him."
--Heat forward P.J. BROWN, on AthleteDirect.com, commenting on
CHARLES BARKLEY, who retired after 16 NBA seasons following a
six-minute, two-point, one-rebound, let-down-the-curtain
performance for the Rockets in their 96-92 loss to the Grizzlies
on April 19