His descriptions of his youth are sad, but Muresan doesn't sound sad when relating them. Is emotion one of the last components to be added to fluency? Perhaps so. He grew up in the small town of Tritenii, not too far from the university city of Cluj in Transylvania. The jackbooted dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu was in control. Poverty and secrecy were normal.
"There was no chaud...," he says. "No heat," he says, correcting himself. "There was no hot water. No electricity. Everyone was given half a bread a day to live. A kilogram of meat a week. There were vegetables in the summer, but not the winter. Never bananas. Never oranges. Fish? On Friday."
He lived with his parents and his three brothers and two sisters. His father, Ispas, worked in a factory that manufactured electrical wire. Everyone else in the family is under 6 feet. Ghita, the youngest, was different from the beginning. He says he really started to grow when he was six, and by age 10 he was taller than everyone else in his family. His clothes always were short. Shoes were hard, if not impossible, to find. By the time he was 14, he was 6'9".
"I never play basketball until I am 14 years old," he says. "I never know about basketball. My mother took me to Cluj to see the dentist. He was the dentist for the national basketball team. He looked at me and asked how tall I was. Then he asked how old I was. He did not believe I was 14. He called the coach of the basketball team, and they asked me to stay in Cluj and play basketball. I stayed that night. I never went home."
He remembers, early, seeing a film of an NBA All-Star Game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a big game. He remembers thinking that he should have a hook shot like Jabbar's. He worked on that for two years, then started to add a jump shot to his repertoire. In 1991, with the Communists out of business, Muresan was ready to meet the world. He was 20 years old and as tall as he is now. He played in the Junior World Championships in Edmonton.
"He was the leading rebounder in the tournament, the second-leading scorer," says Grant, who attended the games. "No one could stop him at that level. A lot of American colleges became very interested, but Gheorghe wanted to make some money. How could you blame him?"
Pau became the place where Muresan was introduced to good food. Pau became the place where he was introduced to physical conditioning. Pau became the place where he could breathe freely for the first time, expand his arms and ambitions to the fullest, and live. The town is a European basketball hotbed with a modern 8,500-seat arena. This became the laboratory. Muresan became the experiment.
"I did things with him that I never did with anyone else," Gómez says. "I worked with him on the trampoline. Can you imagine that? The trampoline almost went down to the floor when he bounced. I worked with him on doing tumbling moves. I wanted him to have control of his body. We never set up any offense where he just stood still, which would have been the easiest thing to do. I wanted him to move. He was very, very slow."
The year went past in a hurry, and as he progressed, Muresan heard the call of the NBA. "When I am 14, I like to learn basketball," he explains. "I do that. When I am 16, I like to play for the national team. I do that. When I am 19, I like to play in Europe. I do that when I am 20. I come here and I say that I can't play in NBA, it is too strong, but after a while I think I can play. I like to play in NBA."
The Portland Trail Blazers seemed more interested than any other team. A day before the draft they flew Muresan to the U.S. from Bucharest in owner Paul Allen's private jet, primarily for the purpose of giving him a full physical with an all-important MRI test. When he arrived, they discovered that the MRI machine at the hospital had a weight limit of 300 pounds. Muresan weighed 330. The test could not be performed.