UNTESTED BUT 7'4", GINGOLD HAS PRO SCOUTS DROOLING CHILDS' PLAY MOURNING TO PAYTON: COME ON DOWN!

February 26, 1996

AN EXTREMELY TALL TALE

Eric Gingold felt giddy as he drove east on I-70 near Baltimore
with his new West Virginia teammate Zain Shaw sitting beside him
and the Labor Day 1994 weekend about to begin. For the first
time in his life, Gingold, who was then 20, believed he had a
future as a basketball player. He had been playing pickup games
for three weeks with members of the Mountaineers' team,
implementing the drop steps and jump hooks he had previously
attempted mostly in an empty gym against imaginary competition.
Against the real thing, the 7'4" Gingold absorbed the pounding
with little trouble. He weighed 285 pounds, and his body fat was
down to 11%. Maybe the NBA was an attainable dream, as his
personal coach, Larry Gillman, kept insisting.

Gingold was daydreaming about the possibilities when a moving
van zoomed past him in the right lane and then swerved into the
left lane in front of his Pathfinder. The van's driver jammed on
his brakes and then swerved again. The van spun out of control,
and the two vehicles collided. Gingold remembers everything up
to the point of impact. After that, darkness. "I passed out,"
says Gingold. "I came to when I heard this tremendous bang. I
couldn't see. Something was in my eyes...."

It was blood. His blood. When Gingold wiped it off, he realized
his Pathfinder was spattered with it. Where was Shaw? His new
teammate wasn't in the vehicle. Oh, god, he's dead, Gingold
thought.

Shaw, in fact, had already gotten out of the vehicle, having
sustained only minor injuries. Gingold had been unconscious for
several minutes and found himself trapped by the crushed door.
The tremendous bang he had heard was the Jaws of Life trying to
free him. The paramedics pried off the driver's-side door, the
passenger's-side door and the roof. Finally they removed
Gingold, whose left femur had shattered. "I kept asking the
paramedic the same two things over and over," he says. "Am I
going to live, and am I going to play basketball again?"

The second question was fraught with irony. At the time of his
accident Gingold, who hails from North Caldwell, N.J., had
played precious little organized basketball. His hoops resume
included one year on the varsity at Gill St. Bernard's, a
private high school in Gladstone, N.J., and three unproductive
seasons at Division III Williams. His career college statistics:
30 games, 31 points, 36 rebounds. "When we recruited him, he was
7'3" and could not dunk," says Harry Sheehy, Williams's coach.
Adds Sheehy, "He improved dramatically with us in three years,
but he never beat anybody out."

The NBA? Get real. That was fantasyland--until Gillman, the coach
at East Carolina in 1977-78 and '78-79 and a longtime if
low-profile NBA agent (his sole client now is the Nets' Yinka
Dare), called him in the fall of '93 and offered to help him
develop his game. Gillman had read about Gingold in an SI story
on Williams (Nov. 29, 1993). "I called him up and asked, 'How
much do you play?'" says Gillman. "He told me, 'I don't.'"

The next summer Gingold began two-a-day workouts with Gillman.
The immediate dividends included refined footwork and the
ability to shoot with either hand. Together, coach and student
persuaded West Virginia coach Gale Catlett (who had heard of
Gingold but had not seen him in action) to take Gingold as a
walk-on transfer. But that was before a metal plate was inserted
into Gingold's cracked hip and a rod into his shattered leg.
Play basketball? His doctors were hoping Gingold would walk again.

Eighteen months have passed. Gingold has endured nine
operations, eight blood transfusions and postoperative
complications that left him in critical condition for three
weeks. He never did play a game for West Virginia or another
minute for Williams (where he has reenrolled and is finishing
his degree this semester in economics). But under the watchful
eye of Gillman, Gingold has recovered from his injuries and
developed at such a startling rate that NBA scouts have been
flocking to Newtown, Conn., to observe his workouts. The dearth
of college big men has made Gingold a candidate to be a
first-round draft choice.

When the scouts arrive in Newtown, they see a strapping, agile
player who shows no effects from his accident. "The doctors told
me, 'We hope you'll be walking in a year.' I said, 'O.K., that
means six months,'" says Gingold. "Then I went out and walked in
four."

Within a year he was playing pickup games again. He then
developed bone spurs on his hip, requiring yet another
operation. He passed that convalescence, as he had his earlier
ones, by dribbling a ball in each hand while sitting on a chair.

"It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen," says Dick
Percudani, director of scouting for the Suns. "I saw this
7-foot-something kid hook left, hook right, shoot jumpers at the
top of the key and not miss. I saw him shoot free throws and not
miss. I saw him dunk. I had them measure the baskets to make
sure they hadn't lowered them on me. It was like watching a
movie. Unreal."

In addition to Percudani, scouts from the Bucks, the Knicks, the
Nets, the Pacers, the Raptors, the Rockets and the Timberwolves
have already come to see Gingold; representatives from the
Bulls, the Hawks and the Lakers are on deck. "His size is what
brings you there," says Toronto director of scouting Bob
Zuffelato, "but then you marvel at his skills. I've only known
the kid two hours and I love him."

There is one glitch. None of the scouts has ever seen Gingold
play full-court basketball. His workouts--catching and shooting,
lofting hooks and free throws, practicing drop steps and jumping
rope--take place in a half-court gym in a private house, which
leaves many questions: Can he run the floor? Does he have game
instincts? Does he have the necessary toughness? Can he overcome
his lack of experience? "Is the league diluted that badly?" asks
Percudani. "Either this kid is a treasure of gold or the biggest
flimflam ever."

Gillman says Gingold probably will not appear at predraft
showcases like the Nike Desert Classic or the Chicago predraft
camp. That means no game action. And so the scouts whisper: What
is Gillman hiding? "If a team hasn't seen enough of Eric, then
don't pick him," Gillman says. "Somebody else will."

Gingold is confident but has sent out seven law school
applications--just in case. "I know there are questions," he
says, "but I don't worry. After what I've been through, I don't
worry about much."

Basketball, he says, has changed his life. When he was younger,
he hated going out in public because gawkers followed him,
trying to figure out who he was. "I'm nobody!" he would finally
shout.

That could change in June, when there is a good chance Eric
Gingold will be somebody very, very big.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Nets guard Chris Childs, Feb. 17, versus the Knicks: 43 MIN,
6-12 FG, 3-9 3PT FG, 5-5 FT, 20 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 5
steals. When New Jersey traded Kenny Anderson to Charlotte on
Jan. 19, Childs was given the chance to back up his assertion
that he could run the show. In the Nets' 82-77 win over New
York--and in New Jersey's two upsets of the Pacers last week--he
more than did the job. Against the Knicks he hit a trey with
0:52 left to tie the game and then made a steal that led to the
winning points. Earlier this season Childs and the Nets were
discussing a contract extension, but talks broke off, and Childs
has filed a civil lawsuit charging the club with fraud. He can
walk away a free agent this summer.

AROUND THE RIM

Heat center Alonzo Mourning spent a good part of All-Star
weekend trying to recruit Sonics point guard Gary Payton, who
will be a free agent this summer. Signing Payton is Miami's top
priority.... Friends of Allan Bristow say that despite strong
backing from Hornets vice president of basketball operations Bob
Bass, the Charlotte coach is so sure he'll be fired at the end
of the season that he has scrapped the bang-it-inside game and
gone back to the up-tempo style he loves, so that at least he
can say he went out his way.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO During his unguarded moments at a half-court gym, Gingold displays fancy footwork and flowing form. [Eric Gingold] COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK The Grizzlies' Anthony is the latest player to expand his scoring. [Greg Anthony]

OPPORTUNITY SHOTS

Greg Anthony for the Hall of Fame? Sure, the Expansion Hall of
Fame. Last June's expansion draft provided a new lease on life
for point guard Anthony, who went from the Knicks, for whom he
averaged a mere 6.1 points and 15.5 minutes in 1994-95, to the
Grizzlies, for whom, through Sunday, his numbers had, er,
expanded to 16.4 and 31.9. This put Anthony on a pace to join a
select group: players on first-year expansion teams whose
scoring averages jumped 10.0 points or more from their numbers
in the previous season.

Player Don May
Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring Braves (1970-71)/20.2
Previous Team/Scoring Knicks/2.6
Improvement 17.6

[Player] John Block
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Rockets (1967-68)/20.2
[Previous Team/Scoring] Lakers/2.9
[Improvement] 17.3

[Player] Tony Campbell
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Timberwolves (1989-90)/23.2
[Previous Team/Scoring] Lakers/6.2
[Improvement] 17.0

[Player] Bob Kauffman
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Braves (1970-71)/20.4
[Previous Team/Scoring] Bulls/4.3
[Improvement] 16.1

[Player] Kelly Tripucka
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Hornets (1988-89)/22.6
[Previous Team/Scoring] Jazz/7.5
[Improvement] 15.1

[Player] Walt Hazzard
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Sonics (1967-68)/24.0
[Previous Team/Scoring] Lakers/9.3
[Improvement] 14.7

[Player] Jerry Sloan
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Bulls (1966-67)/17.4
[Previous Team/Scoring] Bullets/5.7
[Improvement] 11.7

[Player] Greg Anthony
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Grizzlies (1995-96)/16.4
[Previous Team/Scoring] Knicks/6.1
[Improvement] 10.3

[Player] Hank Finkel
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Rockets (1967-68)/11.6
[Previous Team/Scoring] Lakers/1.5
[Improvement] 10.1

[Player] Gail Goodrich
[Expansion Team (Season)/Scoring] Suns (1968-69)/23.8
[Previous Team/Scoring] Lakers/13.8
[Improvement] 10.0

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)