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An Olympic What If...?
In 1992 the U.S. Olympic basketball team will for the first time feature a lineup of NBA studs. But what would the team look like if the pros were still ineligible and the squad had to be made up of the top collegians, the way it used to be? Well, SI took an informal poll of 15 coaches—12 of whom have teams in the Top 25—and several basketball writers, asking them to name the 12 college players they would choose for the Olympics. Most of the coaches requested anonymity, but here's the team we came up with, based on their recommendations. First, the starting five:
CENTER—Shaquille O'Neal, LSU. Any arguments?
POWER FORWARD—Christian Laettner, Duke. He and Shack were unanimous picks for the team.
SMALL FORWARD—Byron Houston, Oklahoma State. There was strong sentiment for Malik Sealy of St. John's and Indiana's Calbert Cheaney at small forward, but the burly Houston was named on more ballots, and we think he's a good enough shooter from the perimeter to handle the position.
POINT GUARD—Walt Williams, Maryland. Bobby Hurley of Duke was a narrow winner in the balloting over Williams and Lee Mayberry of Arkansas, but we were persuaded by one voter's arguments that Williams can play either guard position, make the three-pointer and, at 6'8", is tall enough to see over rival defenses.
RESERVES—Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown was picked for the team by every respondent, and we're making him O'Neal's backup at center. "I'd build my team around Shaquille, Mourning and Laettner," says one coach. The subs at forward would be Cheaney; Southern Mississippi's Clarence Weatherspoon, who was one of the most impressive players at the Pan Am Games last summer; Tracy Murray of UCLA, because the team would need a pure outside shooter and Murray is as pure as they come; and Michigan freshman Chris Webber, who may be young but is talented and fearless enough for the job.
At guard we would add Hurley. "I wasn't that impressed with him when he was a freshman, but he makes better decisions now," says one coach. Just to make things interesting, we'll also go along with Kansas coach Roy Williams's sleeper pick, high school senior Jason Kidd of St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, Calif., who has announced he will attend Cal. "I really believe he'd push to make the team. He'd have to be considered," Williams says.
The quality of those players can perhaps best be measured by considering the players who were left off the 12-member team. Apologies go to Sealy, Mayberry, Chris Smith of Connecticut, Grant Hill of Duke, Rodney Rogers of Wake Forest, Jamal Mashburn of Kentucky, Adam Keefe of Stanford, Bryant Stith of Virgina, Tom Gugliotta of North Carolina State and about a dozen others who were mentioned by the coaches and writers.