The Mongolian Shark Seven-footer Sharavjamts Tserenjanhor has become the first Asian Globetrotter

November 05, 2001

Dale Brown has journeyed to the ends of the earth to seek out
potential basketball stars, and though Brown retired four years
ago after 25 seasons as LSU's coach, he still has a knack for
finding talent in the most unlikely places. Brown discovered a
13-year-old Shaquille O'Neal at a West German military base, and
last May, at the urging of the Asian Basketball Confederation, he
traveled to Mongolia to attend that country's first basketball
clinic, held in the capital, Ulan Bator. "Two teams came out to
warm up, and the players weren't big at all," Brown, 66, says.
"All of a sudden, the last person to emerge was a giant."

Brown couldn't take his eyes off 7-foot Sharavjamts (Shark)
Tserenjanhor, who wowed him in drills with his dazzling ball
handling. Then the scrimmage started. "Shark scored the fastest
50 points I've ever seen," Brown says. During the game, Brown
turned to the man next to him and whispered, "This is
impossible."

Especially in Mongolia, where Tserenjanhor (SAR-in-jong-car) is
thought to be the country's tallest man. Even in the U.S.,
Tserenjanhor, who this summer became the first Asian member of
the Harlem Globetrotters, is a rare breed: a 7-foot center who
plays the position elegantly. "He has such flair," says Brown. "I
thought immediately that he was a Division I player."

After finding out that Tserenjanhor was 27 and ineligible to play
in the NCAA, Brown called Mannie Jackson, owner of the
Globetrotters. A month later Jackson flew Tserenjanhor to
Phoenix, where the Trotters are based. "I was skeptical," says
Charles (Tex) Harrison, who has been with the Globetrotters since
1954, first as a player and now as the head coach. "If you're a
7-footer who can bounce a basketball and chew gum at the same
time, everyone wants to look at you. Shark, though, is special. I
never imagined we'd have a Mongolian, but with the way he shoots
and handles the ball, he fits in. I'm glad we got him before
anyone else did."

"As a physical specimen, he's intriguing," says Phoenix Suns
assistant director of player personnel David Griffin, who
observed Tserenjanhor during a recent Suns practice that included
several Globetrotters. "He's as agile as any 7-footer I've ever
seen. If he were 18 or 19, people would be talking about him as a
high NBA draft pick."

Any speculation about an NBA career is premature, because
Tserenjanhor will first have to prove himself during the
Globetrotters' rigorous 300-game schedule. (Their season opens on
Nov. 3 against Western Kentucky and 7'1", 285-pound center Chris
Marcus, the leading college rebounder last year.) In July and
August, however, Tserenjanhor was impressive against Othella
Harrington, Shawn Kemp, Oliver Miller and other current and
former NBA players in Houston summer league games.

Still, Tserenjanhor's shortcomings are apparent: At 210 pounds
he's painfully underweight. "He also needs to improve
defensively," says Globetrotter assistant coach Bernie
Bickerstaff, who was an NBA coach for seven seasons. "These
things will improve with time. We'll bring him along carefully,
but he's going to get very good, very fast. It's clear he
understands the game."

Tserenjanhor's feel for the sport is remarkable given that he was
17 the first time he played organized ball. In a high school game
Tserenjanhor grabbed a rebound and slammed the ball through the
rim. Fans in the gym rose to their feet in disbelief. "They had
never seen a dunk," says Tserenjanhor.

For the next 10 years Tserenjanhor lunched on hapless Mongolian
opponents while playing in the Ulan Bator city league.
Tserenjanhor's stiffest competition came when he played on the
Mongolian team in the quadrennial East Asian Games, held this
year in Japan, in which he averaged more than 30 points a game.

Tserenjanhor grew up in the copper-mining town of Erdenet, where
he studied linguistics at the Foreign Language Institute. In June
he was three weeks from completing law school requirements when
he moved to Phoenix with his wife, Erdenebulgan, and their
two-year-old son, Munkhiin od. Tserenjanhor's passion lies in
politics: One day he would like to run for office in Mongolia.
"Life is difficult there," he says of a country that has high
unemployment and more than a third of its citizens living below
the poverty line. "We need to make it better."

For now Tserenjanhor only wants to have fun. "I'm very happy," he
says. "Sometimes I say, 'Am I dreaming?'"

He has come a long way. It has never been his dream to play in
the NBA or, for that matter, to play for the Globetrotters. "No,"
Tserenjanhor says. "My dream was to someday watch the
Globetrotters."

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL

"Shark scored the fastest 50 points I've ever seen," says Dale
Brown.

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)