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Day 1 Of T.O.C.

We took in some of the action at the Gibbons soiree Friday night, choosing
the Dean Dome for our first look at the talent on display. This will sound
like a Duke thing to say about UNC, but really it's not: the Dean Dome needs
some work. It may just be that State's arena is still new and glittering, but
the Dean Dome needs some updating. It has rough spots here and there - the
fabric (or whatever it is) center of the roof has visible tears and some places
could use some paint. It's not like it's falling down, but more like the
stuff you wouldn't notice if you were there day in and day out.

Anyway, on to the show!

We got to see some pretty fun players, and some who were disappointing.
Keep in mind that this was a cursory viewing, and that we don't know how today
stacks up against the last year of hard work these guys have put in. But
these are our impressions.

In the center court of the early game at the Demerol Dome were Terrance Ford and Daniel Ewing. We were especially impressed by Ford, not only
because of his lightning-quick passes but also because of his incredibly athletic hops. On a couple of
occasions, he went to block a ball on defense only to be successful but to crash down on the floor. Ewing tried
to be a little flashy but didn't pull it off as much as he obviously hoped.

They played - and outplayed - their opponent, USA Players from Washington, DC, but we have to give kudos to one player who really stood out - Ricky
Lucas. We saw him play, murmured among ourselves "Who's that?", looked in our program, and saw he was a ninth-grader. He showed great leadership and
marvelous passing. But, whoa --- the kid's in ninth grade. It does give
us pause that we should reflect on who's here now.

A buzz went up when Eddy Curry's team showed up, and we must say, Curry is a
very big guy. The comparisons to Shaq are a bit much - he's not 7-1, for
one thing, and he's not as thick. But he is pretty damn big. Unfortunately
he played like he was too big, either out of shape or just tired, and so we
didn't see a player who looked like a number one pick, as they are saying about
him. He didn't run hard, he didn't jump very much, and he didn't move a lot to
get the ball. Clearly he was bigger and stronger than the other kids, but
he never exerted himself. In spite of this, he was grabbing his shorts,
obviously fatigued.

On the positive side, he showed good hands, huge power, and on a couple of
occasions dominated the middle. He had one very powerful rebound. But defense
was non-existent, and he didn't put much effort out. Not that he's obliged to
entertain us, but why travel that far and not play hard? Still, you can see the
signs of potential greatness.

Our attention drifted from his game to the next court, where the vaunted
Maurice Petty was playing. It was a similar thing - you could see the
talent, but maybe he was pressing. He turned the ball over, missed a couple of
dunks, and seemed out of sync. But again, at the end, he made several
plays, offensively, which justified the raves we heard earlier. He can really
get off the floor!

Another guy we were lucky enough to see was Rick Rickert. Nick Horvath was
there, too, and we're pretty sure he came to watch his homeboy.

Rickert is very intriguing. He's listed at 6-11, and while he's thin,
like most 6-11 17 year old kids are (not true for Curry), he's very agile. He
wasn't chained under the basket, but stepped out and jacked up a few jumpers. He
also runs the court extremely well. You could see him fitting in at Duke
in a Ferry/ Laettner/Alarie type role.

Rickert played for Belmont Shore, a California team, which was very athletic
compared to most of the others. One of the most impressive players on that
team was Evan Burns, who, while not always sound, was pretty sharp about
attacking the basket.

Belmont Shore was up against the Durham Disciples, who were almost
startlingly athletic compared to the rest of the field we saw. We can't
name names because we were concentrating more on Rickert, but they had the best
run-jump athletes we saw. Put it this way - if the Curry we saw Friday had
played for them, he wouldn't have lasted very long.

So since most of the players we saw weren't' elite level, what drew our
attention - what should always draw our attention - were guys who just played
the game the right way. A guy who caught our attention was Dan Heimos who
played for St. Louis Gateway. He's 6-10 and skinny, but he has a lot of
savvy. His athleticism isn't that great, but his intelligence is excellent.

Another guy who we initially made fun of for his hair, saying he stole Quin
Snyder's, was Kevin Clark of the New Jersey Gym Rats. It did look a lot like
Quin's. Clark played harder than most kids, contested everything that came his
way, and generally did his best. He's not a huge talent, but he was fun to

All things considered, we're realizing you have to develop a fine eye to
judge talent. Some of these guys are obvious, but a lot of them you have
to really know what you are doing.

We also ran into Vasco Evtimov, who was there to watch his brother Ilian, who
probably isn't too crazy about his name right now, much like guys named Darrell
in the 80s (my other brother Darrell got old quickly). Ilian is a reasonable
player at 6-7 and 212, has good range, and is fundamentally sound. He also
guarded Curry a few times, which was gutty.

Incidentally, Vasco was also very happy and proud as he is the father of a
baby boy, only a few weeks old, so congratulations to him. We'd never spoken to
him before, but he seemed like a really good guy. He also said he thought
Cota would get drafted.

All things considered, it was a pretty fun night of hoop watching. On to