COLLEGE PARK -- In most parts, school starts next Tuesday and the beginning of the new fall term brings with it the obligatory reports of how each student spent his summer vacation.
Walt Williams stepped forward yesterday to give his oral recap of the summer just past, the most significant portion of which was spent in Cuba playing for the U.S. basketball team in the Pan American Games.
The U.S. squad had to settle for the bronze medal after losing to Puerto Rico.
"Even though we didn't win the gold, which was our intention, we had fun as a team," said Williams. "We tried hard and played our best. If we had won the gold, it would have been a lot more satisfying, but we worked hard and still came out with the bronze."
Williams, who begins his senior year at Maryland next week, said he was mostly pleased with his first experience at international hoops, but was quick to notice the differences with the college game.
"The international game is more physical. They're smarter, they pass the ball more and they shoot better," said Williams, a 6-foot-8 guard.
He started all seven games for the U.S. team and averaged 10.9 points, good for third-best on the team behind Ohio State's Jim Jackson and Duke's Christian Laettner. Williams said he noticed the other nations were "keyed up" to play the U.S. team.
The result was a bit more rough play than he might have expected.
"There was a lot of physicalness and there were some cheap shots," said Williams. "We got our share of them and I think some frustration set in."
Though the team spent a lot of time shuttling from Havana to Miami for practice and lodging, a move that was roundly criticized as extravagant and elitist here, Williams said team members did get a chance to see other sports during their three weeks in Cuba, and to notice the profound poverty there.
"It's very different from here," said Williams. "I mean we're used to luxuries like cable and things like that. They don't have that."
One thing the U.S. team did have was Purdue coach Gene Keady, who can match Maryland's Gary Williams shout for shout from the bench.
"He [Keady] is a very intense coach," said Walt Williams. "He did a lot of yelling from the bench. Of course, as you all know, I'm used to that."
"I'm glad Walt went," said Gary Williams. "With us not being able to play on TV last year [as a part of NCAA sanctions] it gave Walt a little more exposure.
"Besides, I wanted Walt to know that I wasn't the only coach that yells."
With NBA players set to compete on the U.S. Olympic team, Walt and Gary Williams agreed the nation should send its best players to the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, and also agreed that the Pan Am Games should remain the exclusive province of collegians.
In addition, Walt Williams said he wasn't sure if he'd be considered for one of the two or three spots that are expected to be reserved for college players on the team that the United States sends to Barcelona next July. But he said, "If I'm fortunate to be a part of it, I'll think about it."