Whenever Chief Petty Officer Lew Lalak, assigned to the Congo on liaison duty between the U.S. Navy and the United Nations, gets a few free hours he heads for one of the villages around Leopoldville. His purpose: teaching the local kids how to play basketball. "It's a great way to make friends," says Lew, who at 5 feet 8 was too short to play high school basketball, so turned to officiating instead. Despite the fact that he knows only two or three words of their language, Lalak has had little trouble explaining the game to his enthusiastic recruits. "Once you've convinced them to pass the ball instead of kicking it," he says, "they get the hang real quickly."
So far, Lalak's only handicap has been lack of equipment. His Congo midgets have to use a battered tire rim borrowed from the Air Force as a basket, and a soccer ball as a substitute for the real thing. "With a dozen real balls, hoops and backboards," says Lew, "we could really go places. In this place a good basketball is worth 20 guns any day."