Reggie Lewis Olympian?

August 11, 1991

Reggie Lewis wants to go for the gold, and has decided to go public about his desires to be considered for the US Olympic basketball team, which will compete in Barcelona next summer.

Lewis said he has not been contacted by any member of USA Basketball, nor has he spoken with anyone on the Celtics (read: Dave Gavitt) about his Olympic hopes.

"I don't know if they have any interest in me or not," said Lewis, "but I'd love to play and I think I could be a help to the team."

The Olympic team - 10 professionals and two collegians - will be officially selected Sept. 21. Selection committee members have been told to remain mum, but two sources told the Globe that while Lewis would not be considered a favorite, he is on a list that includes the top five or six players at each position.

Lewis would be battling other shooting guards such as Joe Dumars, Clyde Drexler, Byron Scott, Hersey Hawkins, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond, Rolando Blackman and Ricky Pierce, to name a few. He will not have to be concerned with the best shooting guard of all - Michael Jordan - who has already publicly said he will not play in Barcelona.

"Once I saw that Michael wasn't playing, I figured that helped my chances quite a bit," said Lewis. "There are a lot of great players out there, but I feel I should be right up there with them. And with Michael not playing, that should move me up a notch.

"The Olympics is something I've always dreamed about. I didn't have the opportunity in college to even be invited to try out, but I never stopped wishing I had the chance. The opportunity to represent your country is something any player should be excited about."

Lewis has no qualms about the selection process, which is done by committee and does not include any trials or tryouts.

"That's the best way," he said. "There are some great players in this league, and they shouldn't have to kill themselves trying out for this team. It's a long season as it is, and you don't need guys duking it out for spots."

The 1990-91 season was yet another step forward in the rising career of Lewis, who drew repeated praise from Olympic (and Detroit Pistons) coach Chuck Daly during the regular season, as well as Philadelphia forward Charles Barkley, who said Lewis should have been chosen for the All-Star Game. The prevailing feeling was that Lewis' time would come, and he would have to wait his turn.

Could the same thing be true of the Olympic team? Lewis is 25, and if he continues to flourish at his present rate, he would be in his prime for the 1996 Games. That kind of talk rankles the slender swingman.

"I don't really like to hear that," he said. "Wait for my turn. But will it ever be my turn? If I've worked hard enough to do the right things, and I've produced right now, then I don't think someone else should be selected over me just because they've played longer. If I'm good enough and I have the votes, then why shouldn't I be allowed to be picked?"

If the decision was made on offensive talents alone, Lewis would warrant major consideration. The one stumbling block in his pursuit of a selection could be his defensive skills. While the former Northeastern star has improved dramatically since his rookie season, he still does not have the same defensive capabilities as Dumars. Defense has long been stressed in international competition, although it was a defensive-minded team picked by John Thompson that had to settle for a bronze medal at Seoul in 1988.

As for the theory that the US team will be loaded with the biggest names in the league, at least one member of the committee said people will be "shocked" when they see the final selections. In other words, expect some surprises.

Lewis said he will be a "little disappointed" if he doesn't hear something from the Olympic committee before Sept. 21, but he won't allow it to be a devastating blow.

"It's like the All-Star Game," he said. "I was hoping for it in the back of my mind, even though I didn't talk about it much. I thought I had a better chance of being picked when Larry Bird couldn't go. But I wasn't picked, and some great players were. Life goes on. It just makes you work harder."

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