U.S. basketball team will overcome, claim gold medal

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sure, most of the NBA's very best players decided not to come.

Sure, much of the rest of the world now plays a pretty mean brand of hoops.

And sure, the United States' players don't appear capable of throwing the ball in the ocean if they were standing on the pier.

Still, to most casual observers, it has got to be a bit stunning that the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team is struggling so much during the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

Not only have the Americans acted like they've never practiced a 3-point shot -- and remember, the international 3-point line is much closer than the NBA version and barely longer than the college variety -- it also seems like they don't have the faintest interest in guarding anybody. And believe me, the foreigners can definitely fill it up from the outside.

All that being said, however, the U.S. is still very much in the running for the gold. Whether the Americans accomplish that or not remains to be seen, but most of the so-called experts don't seem to think it's very likely. And a lot of them don't even believe the U.S. will medal at all.

From a fan's perspective, at least the games are a lot more exciting than when some of the recent U.S. basketball teams that featured NBA players simply bludgeoned the Olympic opposition. That is, for the fans who are able to keep up with the action during all the weird local times that the contests are played.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, despite all their apparent shortcomings, the Americans will still bring back gold medals.

But it's a shaky prediction at best.

Southeast Missouri State University's men's basketball team begins practice Monday in preparation for its three exhibition games in Canada over the Labor Day weekend.

For a squad that is trying to blend in six newcomers with six returning players -- along with three first-year assistant coaches -- the extra two weeks of practice and the three games sure can't hurt the Indians' attempts to turn around their recent sagging fortunes.

Southeast recently announced the 11 individual inductees and one team for its third athletic Hall of Fame class this year.

It looks like another great group of very deserving inductees. I know some of them while others I have never met, but I'm already looking forward to the induction ceremony on Oct. 16.

Area females who want to learn a little bit more about football -- while having a good time in the process -- would be well advised to attend Wednesday's annual Women's Football Clinic conducted by Southeast's coaching staff.

A social hour at 6 p.m. will be followed by the clinic at 7 p.m. Beginners and advanced levels are welcome, and there is no admission charge. Football basics and fundamentals will be taught, and there will also be a question-and-answer session with the coaches. The social hour will include appetizers and drinks.

For more information, call Southeast assistant coach Tony Joe White at 986-6165.

Perryville Leagues and Fitness director Brian Roth once again hosted Southeast men's and women's basketball summer camps, along with a soccer camp, in his community and he reports that the turnout was better than ever. The camps, which featured Southeast coaches and athletes instructing, involved nearly 150 youngsters.

Roth, one of the most loyal Southeast sports fan around even though he was born and raised in Southern Illinois, said he's simply trying to promote interest in the university's athletic program in Perryville.

From all indications he's doing a good job.

Former Southeast assistant football coach Jay Thomas is getting his first shot as a head coach on the Division I-AA level, as he recently took over the program at Nicholls State in Louisiana.

Thomas, the Nicholls State defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the past five seasons, was elevated to the top spot when Daryl Daye was fired after an investigation produced evidence of academic fraud that involved an assistant coach.

Thomas was Southeast's defensive line coach from 1993 to 1998. He takes over a Colonels squad that was 5-6 last year.

The regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, located in Sikeston, Mo., and headed up by former Southeast basketball player Travis Smith, has quite an event planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sikeston High School Field House.

Smith and his organization are putting on a program that will feature the renowned Soar Dunk Team from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The group of high-flying college students has performed halftime entertainment at various NBA games in the past.

The event is free and open to the public. There will be food and drinks, along with inspirational messages. Travis told me that he expects a crowd of better than 1,000. For additional information, call the FCA office at 481-9800.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

  • Poplar Bluff basketball phenom Tyler Hansbrough already has received plenty of national acclaim as one of American's premier high school players.

    But the 6-foot-9 Hansbrough garnered a bit of special attention recently, as Sports Illustrated listed him among six seniors whose stock has risen considerably through their standout player on the summer circuit.

    By the way, Sports Illustrated also said that 6-6 Brandon Rush -- the brother of former Missouri star and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Kareem Rush -- has elevated to the top of the senior class by way of a terrific summer that will probably send him straight to the NBA.

  • I wrote two weeks ago that the Cardinals are no lock for the World Series. But by trading for Larry Walker -- and not giving up any member of their 40-man roster -- they certainly took another step toward being solid favorites.

    Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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