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Dec. 30, Nicholls State
Gerard King believes in—his word—"destiny." He's matched against O'Neal for the second straight season. Who knows when destiny might strike?
To King, the solution is simple: "If Shaq doesn't get the ball, Shaq won't score." Unfortunately, against the Colonels last season, Shaq got the ball and Shaq scored: 11 times in 15 attempts. Toss in six blocks and 20 rebounds, and it's not hard to figure the reason behind LSU's 118-76 rout.
King's problem was that there was too much of O'Neal to cover. "He was just so heavy, and his drop step took so much space that he didn't leave me any room," says King, a 6'7", 185-pounder. "It was like I was guarding the Washington Monument."
King had prepped for the encounter by studying Shaq's moves on TV. He went slack-jawed when O'Neal made a backdoor cut and dunked uncontested off an alley-oop pass. "I paid very close attention to that," King says. "I vowed that Shaquille would never embarrass us with an alley-oop. Maybe he did embarrass us, but not with an alley-oop. That's one play you never forget."
Alas, memory fails. If you look at the play-by-play, you'll see that O'Neal did alley-oop the Colonels. Perhaps it all came too suddenly for King to recall. After all, it happened only two minutes into the game.
Jan. 20, McNeese State
"Nobody," says Cowboys coach Steve Welch. "And I mean nobody."
He has been asked to name a college player capable of staying with O'Neal. He can't. "Maybe Pat Ewing could, or David Robinson," he says, "but nobody at this level can win the battle one-on-one."
That's why Welch will have a couple of junior college transfers, 6'1" point guard Terrence (T-Bone) Gabriel and 6'6" swingman Melvin Johnson, battle O'Neal two-on-one. Gabriel will pester Shaq, while Johnson plays toll-booth defense on him. "I'll be a housefly," says Gabriel. "He'll be swatting at me, trying to kill me, but I'll never stop bugging him."