A FINE-TUNED YUGO
Of all the players who gave the final between South Florida and Houston in the Tampa Tribune Holiday Invitational such an international flavor—Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Yugoslavia were represented—the most interesting was Radenko Dobras, a 6'7" sophomore guard who got to USF by way of Banja Luka, Yugoslavia. With his long-range shooting eye and deft passing, Dobras calls to mind the late Pistol Pete Maravich of LSU.
During a 1987 tour of Europe with the Yugoslavian Junior National team, Dobras impressed U.S. coach Larry Brown so much that Brown, then at Kansas, offered him a scholarship. Dobras was receptive because he would have more time for his studies in the U.S. than in Yugoslavia, where the emphasis on basketball is so intense that practices often last five hours—after which Dobras would sharpen his touch by taking as many as 500 shots.
Dobras was ready to accept Brown's offer until Brown left Kansas for San Antonio of the NBA. A South Florida professor, Doug Hatch, heard from a friend in Europe that Dobras might consider another school. Hatch passed the tip on to the Bulls' basketball staff, which sold Dobras on the idea of a warmer climate. It also didn't hurt that one of his childhood friends attends Florida Institute of Technology, 127 miles away in Melbourne.
Coach Bobby Paschal discovered early that Dobras is a tireless worker. "A perfect example was when we were doing sit-ups during one of our workouts," says Paschal. "He did 818 without a break. I had never seen anything like that."
As a freshman point guard, Dobras led the Sun Belt Conference in steals with 56 and scored 16.2 points per game, mainly by shooting 43.5% from three-point range. Paschal has switched him to shooting guard this season, a position more to his liking, and Dobras has helped USF get off to a solid 6-3 start.
He has been in a shooting slump, however, converting only 23.4% of his three-point attempts through Sunday. In a 78-72 loss to Florida State, Dobras was a nightmarish 1 for 11 from that range.
"I'm never satisfied with my game," says Dobras, whose English has improved even more rapidly than his game. "Whether I play good or bad, I can always play better."
We wish, dear reader, that we could justify Georgetown's playing Northern Iowa in Las Vegas on Dec. 29. Alas, however, the matchup was just another example of the absurd scheduling that has made December a sort of throw-away month in college basketball.
Seems that coach John Thompson wanted a game with somebody—anybody—in Vegas. To arrange it, Thompson went not to his athletic director but to his good friend Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike sneaker wheeler-dealer. First Vaccaro tried to arrange a trip during the Thanksgiving hiatus, but all the usual early-season cream puffs were busy, so Thompson took his team to Hawaii to meet powerhouses Hawaii-Loa and Hawaii Pacific. The next option was to play a real team, UNLV, but that fell through because the networks weren't interested in a Dec. 29 date.
So Vaccaro, bless his energetic heart, learned that Northern Iowa was to be at Nevada-Reno on Wednesday, Dec. 27 and then go on to Long Beach State. But Long Beach wanted out of the contract, so Northern Iowa coach Eldon Miller was able to drop that game and replace it with Georgetown. Neat, huh?
At least the ticket-buying public in Las Vegas, accustomed to big-league entertainment, was too sophisticated to be suckered. The Hoyas won 83-49, and only 4,348 fans showed up.
Thompson's justification for the whole mess? "Las Vegas is a distracting place, and it's good for our concentration," he said. "And the climate is good here. At home, the temperatures are way below zero. The campus is abandoned, and we try to give the kids as many experiences as they can get."
Whenever you stop laughing, join us in celebrating, blessedly, the real beginning of the basketball season.
Air Jordan may be all the rage in the NBA, but Air Jones rules at Purdue. Not only does Tony Jones, the Boilermakers' senior point guard, pilot a team that soared to a surprising 7-1 start, but he can also fly. You want hang time? Jones has already logged more than 300 hours in the air—in a plane. He is enrolled in the university's aviation technology program and will be qualified to pilot a 727 aircraft when he graduates in the spring.
As a child, Jones became enthralled with flying by watching planes pass overhead at his home near Baer Field in Fort Wayne, Ind. He picked Purdue largely because of its aviation program and made his first solo flight as a freshman, doing, he says, "a few touch-and-go's" around West Lafayette in a Cherokee Warrior. Now, about half of his flight hours are solo. "It's peaceful up there when you're flying," says Jones.
Jones didn't tell coach Gene Keady about his first solo flight until a few weeks later. "We knew Tony wanted to fly when he came to Purdue," says Keady. "We were pretty skeptical at first. Then after about six weeks in his freshman year, I said, 'Tony, when are you going to go solo?' He said, 'Coach, I soloed two weeks ago.' "
Jones's fascination with flight hasn't hindered his basketball career. On the contrary, he claims learning to fly has hastened his improvement by making him more mature. A pilot must "do things professionally, be in control and think ahead," says Jones, who as of Sunday led the Boilermakers in scoring (15.6 points a game) and assists (5.5).
"This is only a guess," says Keady, who last summer picked Jones for the U.S. team that won the gold at the World University Games. "I think flying makes Tony a little more organized. You have to make a flight plan. You can't miscalculate speed or altitude."
Still, Keady hasn't flown with his floor pilot, but not for lack of confidence. "Sure, I would go up with him," says Keady.
Jones has flown solo to Grand Rapids, Mich.; Ottumwa, Iowa; Champaign, Ill.; and the Indiana cities of Muncie, Terre Haute, Fort Wayne and Bloomington, On the return trip from Bloomington, the weather was so cloudy that he had to radio Grissom Air Force Base to regain his bearings. "I wasn't lost," says Jones, "but I wasn't seeing Lafayette, either. I should have used my flight plan. I had one, but I got overconfident, I guess."
And that's as much a no-no for pilots as it is for point guards.
Guillermo Myers, a 6'8" center at Texas, is the only Division I player from strife-torn Panama. In the wee hours of the morning on Dec. 21, Myers learned of the invasion by U.S. troops. It was 3:15 p.m. before he learned that all of his relatives were fine but barricaded in their homes. That night, Myers, still understandably upset, played 16 minutes but did not score in the Longhorns' 98-74 home court victory over VMI. After the game, he was taken from the arena by assistant coach Vic Trilli and shielded from the media.... Baptist College took a 6-3 lead over Alabama in Tuscaloosa but failed to score the rest of the half. The Buccaneers trailed 32-6 at intermission en route to a 63-32 defeat. Asked about the drought, Baptist coach Gary Edwards said, "We did not shoot very well." Thanks, Sherlock.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Ohio swingman Dave Jamerson averaged 46.3 points in a 110-81 victory over Charleston, a 72-69 loss to Washington State and a 79-73 win over Fordham. He had an NCAA-record 14 treys in a 60-point explosion against Charleston.
Kelly Lyons, a 6'2" senior forward, amassed 88 points and 33 rebounds to help Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech 84-72, George Washington 84-63 and UCLA 68-64. She had at least 20 points in each of Old Dominion's first 11 games.
Stuart Thomas, a center at Division II Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, had 62 points and a tournament-record 40 rebounds over three games as the Mustangs won the consolation bracket at the WIBW Holiday Classic in Topeka, Kans.