Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Mickeal, Martin vie for Worlds




BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON, Ohio — The word “cut” does not carry a great deal of meaning for such players as Pete Mickeal and Kenyon Martin of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

        Each was first-team All-Conference USA as a junior. They may get cuts on their arms or make cuts to the goal, but they never had to concern themselves with being cut. Until now. They were among more than 30 players competing in last month's trials for the U.S. team in the World University Games and now are among the 16 at training camp to make the final 12-man roster for the games that open July 3 in Mallorca, Spain.

        “When we were going to Colorado at first, I was like, "Dang, what if I don't make it?' Because I'd never not made anything,” said Martin, who is fighting Stanford's Mark Madsen, Iowa State's Marcus Fizer and Syracuse's Etan Thomas for power forward jobs. “But I got down there and saw the competition, and then it didn't bother me. There's a lot of good players, so I know if I don't make it, I'm not going to hang my head. Because I know I'll go out and play hard.”

        Mickeal, competing for positions at small forward along with Ohio State's Michael Redd, Duke's Chris Carrawell and Connecticut's Kevin Freeman, believes UC's emphasis on conditioning and strength training — as well as his own preparation — give him an advantage in the two-a-day practices at UD Arena.

        “If I don't make it, I won't hang my head,” Mickeal said. “Every day, I'm going to give it all I've got. I'm going to hit the jump shot, I'm going to play good defense. I'm going to do everything it takes.”

        UC and Ohio State are the only teams with two players left on the U.S. roster. Redd and point guard Scoonie Penn are near-locks to make the team because of their offensive tal ents. Mickeal and Martin appear likely to make it based on their defensive versatility.

        “The reason Kenyon Martin and Pete Mickeal are good players is because they play hard, they run the floor, they defend,” said Dayton coach Oliver Purnell, who is in charge of the U.S. team. “They need to showcase that athleticism. They've got to be willing to fit in, share the basketball, be part of a system.”

        Mickeal spent time working on his jumpshot with new UC assistant Dan Peters and guards Alvin Mitchell and Steve Logan. Mickeal said he has taken 1,000 shots a day at Shoemaker Center, trying to improve a stroke that was good for only 5-for-16 three-point shooting in 1998-99.

        Mickeal said he struggled in a mid-range shooting drill in the first practice of the training camp Monday, so he stepped back and made “about 20 straight” from behind the three-point arc. “Because that's what I'm used to shooting now.”

        Training camp has been good for Martin because it allows him to frequently bump into 7-footers Chris Mihm of Texas and Brendan Haywood of North Carolina. Discomfort against bigger players bothered Martin against Temple and Southern Mississippi last season.

        “This makes me better, making me do a lot of things I haven't done,” said Martin, who is 6-9. “And just playing against bigger guys. Because I don't play against anybody like this in Conference USA. That's a known fact.”

        Martin showed last season he was proficient on 12- and 15-foot jumpshots facing the basket, but playing forward forces him to maneuver for those shots.

        “I'm comfortable. Just like during the season, though, I won't do things I can't do,” Martin said. “Just throwing up threes on a regular basis — you won't catch me doing that.”

        Operating with unfamiliar teammates, though, means doing what comes naturally does not always work.

        When Mickeal was matched against Carrawell and teamed with Thomas trying to defend a pick-and-roll, Thomas twice underestimated Mickeal's ability to fight through the screen. Thomas stepped out each time to cut off Carrawell, and Carrawell each time bounce-passed to Fizer for layups.

        “I told him I didn't need all that,” Mickeal said. “I'm going to get through.”

       



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