The David Robinson Shakedown Cruise actually began in March, after Bill Stein, the athletic director at St. Peter's College in Jersey City and an Olympic assistant coach, saw Robinson's U.S. Navy team struggle in the Armed Forces tournament. A 118-71 trouncing by the Army, during which Robinson played for only 16 minutes, prompted Stein to sound the alarm to his boss, Olympic coach John Thompson. "David couldn't get down the court three times in a row," Stein said.
Some crash basic training with his old coaches back at Annapolis helped; at the Olympic trials in Colorado Springs in May, Robinson at least didn't humiliate himself. Moreover, it was decided that a group of players from Thompson's Georgetown and Raveling's Southern Cal teams would accompany Robinson on a European tour in June to get him back in competitive fettle.
However, when the trials produced other crises—Thompson couldn't make up his mind on the point guards, and Rex Chapman, the sharpshooter from Kentucky, couldn't hit the broadside of The Broadmoor—the tour took on a different shape, and Robinson's supporting cast was revised. "The trip became an extension of the trials," says Raveling, "a mechanism to get some questions answered about a number of guys."
In its final form, the operation resembled a Georgetown University foreign study program; fully one third of the 21-member U.S. traveling party—including coaches, trainers and players—had connections to Thompson's Washington, D.C., base. Then, in the game in Bilbao, Dan Majerle, a recent graduate of Central Michigan, looked for all the world like a Georgetown product when he engaged in fisticuffs with Spain's Jose Montero; whereupon former Hoya guard Gene Smith led the charge from the bench and future Hoya star Alonzo Mourning went around raging and yapping in every Spanish face he could find.
Meanwhile, Chapman, formerly a hero in Kentucky, was no longer the smiling, carefree mega-talent of his undergrad days. Seven weeks after announcing that he was leaving Lexington for the NBA after his sophomore season, Sexy Rexy (as he was called in the Guardian of London) had taken on a hard, grim look—obviously struggling under a severe confidence drain. "I don't think the kid ever wanted to turn pro," said a member of the U.S. party. Chapman was out of control in Paris (one basket in four minutes of playing time). And despite a trio of three-point baskets in Vienna, he arrived in Bilbao to be greeted by a newspaper report in Egin, a Basque daily, conjecturing that he was on the U.S. team only "por conditi�n de blanco"—because he is white.
But Chapman came alive on Saturday with four more threes as well as the play of the game, a lefthanded, lightning wraparound entry pass to the Jerri-curled Tennessean Dyron Nix ("Your famous Creole man," said a Spanish journalist), who converted with a vicious dunk.
"I felt so much more relaxed," Chapman said afterward. "The shot's back." And so, surely, will be Chapman himself—back at Georgetown in mid-July to compete with the other Olympic candidates who stayed Stateside while the Select team was in Europe. Besides the Robinson rehab, another goal of the tour was to find a few more players who could adapt to the punishing grind of travel, the barbed-wire style of international play and the standards (or lack thereof) of foreign officiating.
Select-team members Robinson, Majerle and Georgetown's Charles Smith (22 points against France and 13 against Spain) were among the original 16 candidates who made the Olympic cut. Selects Chapman, Kerr, Mourning, Shelton Jones, who played at St. John's, and exquisite defender Stacy Augmon, who will be a sophomore at UNLV will surely join them in D.C., where the final squad of 12 will be chosen.
"Nobody is a lock yet," said Raveling before Saturday's game. "Many people think Robinson had the team made before this trip. I didn't share that view. He hasn't played with intensity like we want him to, or dominated like he can. Great centers lead teams to championships because they play hard every minute. It's not fair to the other players to give him minutes at their expense when he isn't playing up to his ability."
But after Robinson rained all over Spain, Raveling sounded a new note, saying simply, "All the questions have been answered."