A U.S. college all-star basketball team, whose 17 members include Coach Gerry Gimelstob and center Mike Brown of George Washington University, will continue playing in a tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, despite a game-ending melee in the opening round against Taiwan Tuesday night.
"It'll be interesting, what happens," Gimelstob said. "It seems things have calmed down . . . But if there are any incidents tomorrow, we'll get out of the country. Believe me. If we felt uncomfortable, we wouldn't be staying."
Gimelstob and Mike Hanks of Samford University, coach of the U.S. team, said yesterday that poor officiating in the physical game set the stage for the melee, in which chairs were thrown and 25 spectators were involved. No U.S. players were hurt and the team is scheduled to play Australia today in the seven-team, round-robin tournament.
The U.S. led, 117-76, with 16 seconds to play at the time of the incident.
"It was a very physical game," said Hanks. "We were way ahead, but you have to play the 40 minutes out. There was one altercation after another . . . A vicious blow was delivered to one of our players (Stuart Gray of UCLA) and he retaliated. And it degenerated from there. They came from their bench with the chairs they were sitting on and 20-25 spectators joined in.
"This sort of thing happens to the best of teams. Even North Carolina and Virginia had one a couple of years ago, but getting involved with chairs is inciting a riot, which is kind of what happened."
After the melee started, the Americans tried to defend themselves as a group for about five minutes and then ran up a stairway to the lobby, according to Gimelstob. The U.S. team took refuge in a secure room off the lobby until local police arrived. After about 40 minutes, the two teams returned to midcourt, shook hands and waved, apparently defusing the situation.
The team was given a police escort back to its hotel in the Malaysian capital about 100 miles from Singapore.
The Associated Press reported that at least two spectators were arrested. One Taiwan player, Tseng Tseng Chin, suffered a hand injury, the AP reported.
Gimelstob said members of the team, which did not play yesterday, relaxed at their hotel pool and went shopping without any incidents.
The U.S. team is 7-0 on the trip, having won six games in Seoul, Korea, by an average of 30 points each. It has four games remaining in the Malaysian tournament after today, against Austria, Egypt, Malaysia and Sweden.
Brown, a 6-foot-9 junior, is the team's leading rebounder, according to his coach. Other top players are Aubrey Sherrod of Wichita State, Michael Young of Houston and Matt Doherty of North Carolina.