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At 35, Blaze can still light it up. Only once so far has she failed to score at least 30 points. Blazejowski also serves as New Jersey's coach and schedule maker. "Carol's amazing, and her team is amazing," says BC coach Margo Plotzke, whose Eagles lost 102-80 to the Alliance. "Coaches measure their clubs by how close they can stay to Carol's team."
Blazejowski's teammates include former Queens College star Gail Marquis, 37, a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, and, on occasion, Tara Heiss, 35, a onetime Maryland standout who was Blazejowski's teammate on the '80 Olympic team, which didn't get to compete in the Moscow Games because of the U.S. boycott. The average age of the Alliance players is 31. "All of us were much better than average college players," says Blazejowski. "We may not have the athleticism of some of the teams we play, but we make up for that in our knowledge of the game and with our passion. We're playing for no other reason than that we love to."
In all, the Alliance will play 14 games, finishing with the University of Connecticut on Dec. 14. The players fit the games in around their regular jobs—Blazejowski is a director of licensing for the NBA—and they pay their own expenses. "The only thing we gave them were towels and some sodas," says Plotzke.
The Alliance tries to provide advice as well as opposition. "If there's a tip we can give a player after a game, we do it," says Blazejowski. "This is our way of giving something back to women's basketball."
But they also play to win, which comes as a surprise to some of their younger opponents. "Every now and then a player looks at us as if she's thinking, A bunch of old ladies—we're gonna clean their clocks," says Blazejowski. "We like to politely interrupt that thought."
A Family Affair
It wasn't a great week to be an Olajuwon. On Nov. 20, Hakeem, the Houston Rockets' All-Star center, went to a Houston emergency room with an irregular heart beat and three days later was put on the injured reserve list. Then on Saturday night, Taju and Afis, two of Hakeem's younger brothers, played their first game as teammates for Texas-San Antonio but couldn't keep the Roadrunners from being overrun by Kansas State 103-65.
The game marked the Division I debut of Afis, a 6'4" sophomore guard who transferred to Texas-San Antonio from Alvin ( Texas) Community College. Taju, a 6'7" starting senior forward known as T.J., is in his third season with the Roadrunners and led the team in rebounding last year. Both struggled against Kansas State. After spraining his right wrist on a nasty first-half fall, Taju finished with four points and five rebounds. Afis came off the bench to contribute six points and three rebounds in 16 minutes, but he also had three turnovers.
It wasn't as memorable a beginning as the brothers had hoped for, but it's understandable if their minds were at least partly on Hakeem, who was released from the hospital on Monday. "Hakeem said he caught an elbow from Patrick [ Ewing] in the chest," Taju said, referring to his brother's game against the New York Knicks on Nov. 19. "He called and told us not to be scared when we heard the news. He said everything is under control and he's fine."
Hakeem, who brought Taju and Afis to the U.S. from Nigeria in 1985, keeps a close eye on his brothers, but Afis and Taju aren't nearly as physically gifted as their older brother. "T.J. can sometimes take over a game," says Texas-San Antonio coach Stu Starner. "But he's just 6'7" posting up low, and that limits him a great deal. Afis has a chance to be an accomplished player. He has the same approach to the game that Hakeem does."