Spalding Comes Up Short In Exchange With Soviet Team

March 17, 1991|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff writer

Spalding sophomore Brian Mohr recalled his first glimpse of the Soviet players on the visiting All-Star basketball team.

"I was shocked at how big they were physically. I'm a kind of tall guy at our school, but at 6-foot-3, I was feeling like a midget," said the 16-year-old forward whose family is playing host to two Soviet players during the team's 12-day tour of the Baltimore-Washington area.

Mohr's 6-7 teammate Bryan Wade also had a player stay at his home, and he had a rough time in his first attempt at communication.

"I showed him an Adidas T-shirt and asked him if he ever had one like it," said Wade, 16, the Cavaliers' center. "He took it out of my hands and said 'Present?' I had one on myself so I said, 'Sure, you can have it.' Anyway, I wasn't going to try and take it back."

There was nothing lost in the translation of the final score of the Soviets' 133-93 victory over the Cavaliers Friday night at Spalding.

The Soviets, whose 12-man roster included 10 players who stood between 6-3 and 6-8, had an absolute advantage in height, size and knowledge of the international rules. The visitors graciously accepted everything the Cavaliers' shortcomings gave them.

Anything that wasn't given, they took anyway.

In a first half, which closed with the Soviets ahead, 74-37, all 12 of the visiting team's players tallied.

They shot 70 percent from the field compared to 28 percent for Spalding andused their superior size and power to out-rebound the Cavaliers, 39-14, and to block nine of Spalding's 14 shots in the half.

They reached the 100 mark with 10 minutes, 55 seconds left when Leonid Sribny(13 points) completed a three-point play.

"We were well-prepared today," said 6-8 Andre Laletin (18 points, five blocks, three dunks),who along with the rest of his team is visiting the United States for the first time.

Speaking through an interpreter, the team's tallest player added, "It was easy tonight and our size was probably the main difference."

That, and the fact that his teammates, 6-5 DenisDarin (20 points), 6-3 Stanislav Vasiliyev (17), 6-7 Alexander Isaev(14), 6-3 Zakhar Pashutin (14) and Sergei Cherskihk (12), all scoredin double figures and dominated the boards.

Wade, his team's tallest player, tried to take them on alone but unless he instantly became David Robinson -- or even Broadneck's 7-2 Boris Beck -- he didn't stand much of a chance.

"They were very physical and there were a lot of elbows. It was definitely different from what I'm used to," said Wade, who scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds. "But I had a good time."

Pat Mohr (14 points), Jeff Paxson (10) and Edgar Wright (seven) were among the Cavaliers' leaders as the team scored a season-high in points.

The tour was arranged by Pangea Inc., a Bethesda-based non-profit organization founded to bring young people together. TheSoviet boys, ranging in age from 15 to 17, are from seven different metropolitan areas, including Moscow, the Ural Mountain region (bordering Europe and Asia) and Siberia.

Days before the game, Spalding coach Lee Dove had spoken as if a thunderstorm was coming to the Spalding High gymnasium.

He knew that was true after watching the Soviets during warm-ups. They rocked the basket with dunk after dunk, thestrains of which made the gymnasium ceiling attachments teeter and creak.

"We know what's coming -- they're offense is like boom, boom, boom, and then they shoot. They just push the ball up the floor unbelievably fast," said Dove, whose squad had finished 6-20 during the regular season. "They're like the UNLV of Soviet high school teams --only not that flashy."

When the storm ended, the Soviet Union's fourth-best high school-age team had laid waste to the Cavaliers.

Alopsided victory was expected since the Soviets had dropped a respectable 119-105 decision a week earlier to Baltimore's top-ranked Dunbar High, the nation's third-ranked team. Rumors circulated that their scrimmage Tuesday against DeMatha (27-0), the D.C. area's top-ranked team, also had been a close one.

"Dunbar is good. Dunbar has good jump, is physically muscular and moves quickly," said Soviet assistant coach Alexander Viner. "DeMatha? Good also."

Although he is the best speaker of English among the Soviet visitors, the 6-3 Viner, a burly, 34-year-old who wears wire-rimmed glasses, frequently referred to his pocket dictionary -- or Spalding assistant coach Ed Bittner --for translation. That, despite eight years of English classes.

Head coach Vladmir Alov, a bearded 45-year-old, gave a thumbs down to Viner's skills as an interpreter. "It was a very bad school he went to," he jabbed.

Bittner, 22, played host to the two coaches and by Friday morning, the three of them had developed their own form of signlanguage.

"Mostly hand gestures. I do this when it's time to takea shower," said Bittner, circling his slightly cupped left hand above his head and "washing" his chest with his right palm.

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