UConn's Sellers apologizes to Duke, Laettner

March 27, 1991|By Ken Davis | Ken Davis,The Hartford Courant

STORRS, Conn. -- University of Connecticut center Rod Sellers sent a letter to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski yesterday, apologizing for an incident that took place Friday in the second half of their NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal in Pontiac, Mich.

Sellers and UConn coach Jim Calhoun agreed the letter was necessary after viewing videotape.

With just under six minutes remaining in Duke's 81-67 victory, Sellers and Duke center Christian Laettner were involved in a scramble for a loose ball under UConn's basket. As a jump ball was called by the officials, Sellers landed on top of Laettner, pinned him on his back, elbowed Laettner in the face, and then twice used his forearm to slam Laettner's head to the floor.

CBS-TV picked up the incident with an isolation camera and replayed it several times. Then, with 4:55 remaining, Sellers picked up his fifth personal foul and a technical foul for taunting Laettner.

"I wrote that I was sorry for what happened," Sellers said yesterday. "My emotions got the best of me. It was a very physical game and things got out of control. I wish it hadn't happened."

Sellers said his emotional outburst was precipitated by an elbow Laettner landed to Sellers' face on the previous trip downcourt. A review of the videotape shows that Laettner's left elbow struck Sellers in the right cheek with 6:24 remaining. The blow staggered Sellers briefly.

"I was cutting to the top of the key and he got me with an elbow in my mouth," Sellers said. "I was dizzy for about five seconds . . . I don't mind an elbow to the body. That's part of the game. But an elbow to my face is something else. That was like a punch to the jaw.

"That, and the fact we were losing by 14 points, made me lose it. When I pushed him, I knew nobody was looking. I was just going to give him a little shove, but I got him on his back and I just lost all control."

Calhoun said he was unaware of Sellers' actions until someone pointed them out Monday.

"It's not something that we condone," Calhoun said.

Sellers was still emotional after the game. And his face was swollen where Laettner's elbow landed.

"Looking at Rod after the game, it certainly wasn't a one-way street," Calhoun said. "Those weren't self-inflicted wounds. But . . . Rod allowed his emotions to control him."

Calhoun has been criticized for the way he berated his players during the Duke loss. He was particularly hard on Sellers.

"I was getting on Rod because it just wasn't the thing to do," Calhoun said. "He was frustrated. He obviously was having a tough time with Christian and I was chastising him because that isn't what I want Rod Sellers to be perceived as."

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