Mickeal meets juco rival
UNLV star was top recruit

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

mickeal
Pete Mickeal
LAS VEGAS — One was the No. 1 player in all of junior college basketball last season, and the other was junior college player of the year. Those two distinctions are not inseparable, not in the world of recruiting, not in the world of Pete Mickeal and Shawn Marion.

Mickeal, a 6-foot-6 junior small forward, almost quietly advanced from the top-ranked team in junior college to the fourth-ranked team in major college. In a month with the Cincinnati Bearcats, he extended his personal winning streak to 80 games — even though he was largely dismissed by some of the top talent evaluators.

Marion, a 6-7 junior small forward, translated his spectacular individual talent into individual success at UNLV, but stepped onto a team with chemistry problems that has struggled to a .500 start.

Each wants what the other has, although neither wants to give up what he has to get it. Mickeal can make gains in terms of personal recognition, and Marion has the opportunity for a season-changing team success when UC (8-0) faces UNLV (4-4) tonight at midnight at the Thomas & Mack Center (ESPN).

“I'm happy for him that he's won so many games in a row. That's unbelievable,” said Marion, who briefly considered entering the NBA draft after his two seasons at Vincennes College in Indiana.

“I've never started like this before. We're taking every loss as a learning step, but there's only so many losses you can take, you know what I'm saying?”

They will defend one another tonight — at least when UNLV is not in its 2-3 matchup zone — which Marion views as an important matchup but not any sort of personal rivalry.

Mickeal, though, believes there is something to prove.

“It's always Shawn. That's always stuck in my mind,” said Mickeal, whose Indian Hills (Iowa) team won consecutive national championships.

He was not rated among the top small forwards in the JC class of 1998 by recruiting analyst Rick Ball. In fact, Mickeal was rated as a power forward, and not among the top three.

“They tell me I'm the best team player, and he's the best player. Me and Shawn both know that's not true. I'm not saying I'm better than him, but I'll say he's not better than me.”

It seems as though Mickeal has faced every wicked small forward in college basketball in the season's first month, starting with Rhode Island's Lamar Odom, then Minnesota's Quincy Lewis, now Marion.

The keys for Mickeal will be demonstrating the confidence to shoot the 12-and 15-foot jumpers he ignored in UC's win at Minnesota and ensuring he is not regularly beaten on the break. Transition defense has been one of UC's weaknesses, and Marion's ability to run the court makes him an NBA prospect.

Coach Bob Huggins recently had a private talk with Mickeal about gaining the confidence to be a leader, even though he is new to the Bearcats.

“He put a lot of it on my shoulders: "Pete, I need you to be a leader. I need you to step up. You've got a chance to be something special here,'” Mickeal said. “These are things that motivate me.”

Although he is averaging 16.9 points and 8.0 rebounds and leads the Rebels in both categories, along with shooting .583 from the field, Marion has struggled to understand how to put up such numbers in victory rather than defeat.

“I'm just trying to get familiarized with what coach wants me to do. It's been confusing,” Marion said. “One day it's one thing, one day it's another.”

The Rebels have not defended well, permitting the four major-conference teams they've played to shoot .496 from the field. UNLV lost all four games: to Southern California, Kansas, Arizona State and UCLA.

“We've got to find something to get our momentum,” Marion said. “We can play with anybody.”

Perhaps that is why Marion sees no personal stake in being challenged by Mickeal. He has all the individual glory he could want, but not enough wins.

“I go out and play ball against whoever I'm supposed to play against,” Marion said. “I don't look forward to anything. I just look forward to playing.”

All 1998 basketball stories



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