Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, August 8, 1996

Pete Newell is Mr. Big
to the big men

IF Pete Newell's big on basketball's big men, you can't blame him. So are the majority of people, even those who have never heard of the NBA nor love the game.

"People are fascinated by big men and you're going to see some of the biggest people you'll ever see," Newell said yesterday in announcing the third Big Man Camp to be held here - the first ever at the University of Hawaii Special Events Arena - starting next Monday.

Local fans will get a chance to crane their necks at some of the biggest basketball players in one setting.

No, Shaquille O'Neal won't be here. But more than a dozen 7-footers are expected to show up, besides a bunch of 6-foot-11 guys, including Marcus Camby, who led Massachusetts to the Rainbow Classic championship last year. And, for the first time, the weeklong camp will include a session for collegians, including the UH Rainbows' 7-foot-1 Seth Sundberg.

If you think former Oklahoma State center Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, the first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies, is big, you ain't seen nothing yet, Newell said.

"He's 'Big Country,' " Newell enthused. "But there's a kid just out of high school that I call 'Big Continent.' "

Newell was referring to Bradley Millard, an incoming freshman at St. Mary's (Calif.) College. "Last I saw he was 7-foot-3 and 275 pounds," Newell said. "I think he's about three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier by now."

Another intriguing big man will be Priest Lauderdale, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks. He's 7-foot-3, 343 pounds.

Then there's the Cavaliers twosome from Cleveland, a couple of foreign imports by the names of Vitaly Potapenko, 6-10, 290, who's nicknamed the "Ukraine Train," and 7-1, 240-pound Zydrunas Ilgauskas of Lithuania.

TODAY in the NBA, the big man who's commanding big bucks is Shaq. But the first really big man who captivated the fans was 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain. He was a franchise player who drew crowds just as Shaquille and Michael Jordan are doing today.

Newell believes that O'Neal will be worth every dollar to the Los Angeles Lakers, who paid $122 million to entice him away from the Orlando Magic.

"In Los Angeles, mediocrity doesn't make it. He's worth the money just like Jordan," Newell said. "You might pay a lot of money for other guys and they'll win games for you."

But, says Newell, with a player like Shaq or Michael, a franchise becomes invaluable because of their widespread appeal, which not only sells seats but souvenirs.

"For a while, I thought the Lakers were in trouble when they got rid of Vlade (Divac) and Shaquille thought about staying in Orlando," Newell said. "You can't win in the NBA without a center. But I give the Lakers credit. They went for the fence - and connected."

The subject came up about Shaq's, uh, free-throw shooting, or his lack of ability thereof.

Newell thinks it's a matter of technique and fundamentals. He believes that if O'Neal can find a more comfortable release and put up a softer shot, his free throws should improve dramatically.

CHAMBERLAIN was poor from the foul line during his career.

It wasn't always that way, Newell noted. "Did you know that he caused a rule change?"

When he played on the freshman team at Kansas, Newell said, Wilt would line up near the back of the circle and take a running jump and dunk the free throw.

"They made it so you couldn't break the plane," Newell said. "Wilt went from being a 90 percent shooter to 40 percent."

The Big Man Camp, though, won't be about mastering free throws. It'll be about teaching techniques on how to move around the basket.

All this and height, too? It seems a bit unfair.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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