Former Navy all-America David Robinson, the college basketball player of the year for 1986-87 and No. 1 pick in the recent NBA draft, will write a diary of his experiences for The Washington Post during the upcoming Pan American Games. Ensign Robinson is a member of the U.S. basketball team.
There are basically two reasons why I wanted to play in the Pan Am Games.
The first is that I've been in the Navy and I've been to the Naval Academy, and they instill a certain sense of pride and support for our country. I've been very fortunate to have been able to play the last two summers for U.S. teams, once in Barcelona, Spain, in the Jones Cup and once in Madrid in the World Championships. I know the feeling of pride you get when you wear a U.S.A. ball cap or a U.S.A. T-shirt. I also know the feeling of representing your country and winning.
The second reason is that I may not be able to play basketball for the next two years, and this is an excellent opportunity for me to stay in shape and hone my skills with the top collegiate, pro and international players.
I very much enjoy what I do in the Navy at King's Bay submarine base in Georgia, but coming to the Pan Am practices in Louisville has been a welcome break.
I've been down in Kings Bay for the past 2 1/2 months and I've been learning a lot about construction. But I haven't played much basketball because King's Bay is not exactly your basic metropolis. Good basketball is scarce around there.
I got to Louisville two weeks ago today, and my first couple days were very tough because I'd only lifted weights and I hadn't had a chance to play against quality competition, so I was a little out of my basketball shape.
Everyone at the practices had an advantage over me in that they had played against each other and had become somewhat familiar with their styles and tendencies. I had to come in and establish myself and try to blend in with some great players, people like Danny Manning of Kansas, Keith Smart of Indiana, Jerome Lane of Pittsburgh and Purvis Ellison of Louisville.
I hadn't run up and down the court for a while and I basically had to get my confidence back, at least to where it was 3 1/2 months ago when the season ended. I definitely wasn't used to practicing 5 1/2 hours a day, though I don't think any other players were either. So that wasn't too much of a disadvantage, and my first few days weren't too bad.
We had an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public on the Wednesday after we arrived and, this being Louisville, there was a great deal of enthusiasm. It was first-come, first-serve for tickets and there was a little melee outside and a few people were shaken up a bit. But once the game started, there was positive enthusiasm from the crowd and a great basketball atmosphere.
I didn't play quite the way I wanted, but I scored 35 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked six shots. I also provided a few humorous moments for the crowd -- one being when I lined up incorrectly on the free throw line and dunked in a defensive rebound. There were a few others that are probably too embarrassing to mention, but all in all it was a positive experience.
The next couple of days, Coach Denny Crum had two-a-day practices and it was tough to get motivated. We got up at 7 every morning and practiced from 9 to 11:30 a.m., rested all afternoon and practiced again from 7 to 9 p.m. We had an exhibition game against the NBA all-stars, including Isiah Thomas, Chuck Person, Roy Tarpley and others.
I was very much looking forward to it because it was the first time I had gotten a chance to play against a totally pro team. They had quite a front line, including players listed at 6 feet 11 and 240 pounds (Herb Williams), 7-0 and 240 (Tarpley), 6-11 and 235 (Stuart Gray) and 7-1 and 250 (Greg Dreiling). College basketball was never like this.
In the opening minutes, the pros were very physical and established a definite mood. Our players came out confident and played well and gained respect early. I ran a little better than I thought I would although I started off slowly, missing my first jump shot with an air ball. My second shot also was a brick but I worked hard on the offensive boards and got a couple of confidence-building dunks. It turned out to be a good night. We won, 111-106, and I scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Things will really get interesting this week. We have more practices and then we play another exhibition game Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind. They say Akeem Olajuwon may play. I can't wait.