Saturday, May 04, 2002

49ers' Owens scores seven points in USBL debut

Associated Press Writer

        GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Declaring his pro basketball debut was “very average,” Terrell Owens will have at least one more chance to redeem himself.

        The San Francisco 49ers receiver scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in 7:39 of action for the Adirondack Wildcats on Friday night in the United States Basketball League, his first competitive basketball since he played for Tennessee-Chattanooga in college.

        Before the game Owens said it was “day to day” as to how long he would stay with the Wildcats. After the game, however, Owens confirmed that he would be with the team for at least its next game, Sunday against Brevard.

        The biggest problem with his play, Owens said, had nothing to do with his basketball skills.

        “I'll do better once I get in shape, once I know what's going on and get in the flow of things,” he said.

        As a heavily muscled 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Owens risks injury and a football salary of more than $4 million a year while playing with the Wildcats. He has said he plans to donate most of his salary from the Wildcats to charity.

        “If I got hurt, I think that might be God's way of showing me that maybe football wasn't for me,” Owens said before the game.

        On the court, he didn't exactly prove he should give up his job in San Francisco.

        Owens sat on the end of the Wildcats' bench for most of the second half, at one point even taking a seat on the floor next to the bench. When it became apparent he wouldn't get into the game until the final moments, Owens leaned back casually against his fold-out chair with his legs stretched leisurely.

        When he finally did get in with 2:05 left, he made his presence felt.

        Shortly after checking in he missed a short jumper, but went after the rebound and came out on the other side of the basket, sinking a short baseline jumper.

        He then hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 5 seconds left, bringing roars from the crowd of 2,951 that urged him to shoot every time he touched the ball.

        That shot capped off the high-scoring game and made Owens realize that he has some adjusting to do in regards to his stamina.

        “I kind of expected the tempo,” he said. “I've just got to get myself in shape to keep up with it.”

        Sporting a white headband and his college No. 4, Owens finished with two steals, one assist and a turnover. He came away admiring the caliber of play and the intensity of the players.

        “There's some guys that are really out there really trying to make it to the next level,” Owens said. “They take it seriously.”

        It was Owens' defense that impressed his coach.

        “He played tough defense and, you know, that's what you have to do,” Mike Sanders said. “I thought that was pretty successful on his part.”

        Owens, who made his second straight Pro Bowl after catching 93 passes for 1,412 yards and 16 TDs last season, played basketball for three seasons at Tennessee-Chattanooga after walking on his sophomore season. Tennessee-Chattanooga made the NCAA Tournament in Owens' junior and senior seasons.

        The football player first entered with 5:35 left in the second quarter. He was greeted with loud cheers from the fans, several of whom — including two young boys sitting courtside — were sporting Owens' replica game jersey. One was even wearing the jersey of Owens' Pro Bowl quarterback, Jeff Garcia.

        Seconds later, of the Brooklyn King Fred House nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner right over Owens. Owens' defense picked up, however. With 4:49 left, he stole a pass and fed teammate Kareem Syed to start a fast break that ended with a layup by Syed.

        On the Wildcats' next possession, Owens drove the left baseline but threw a pass into traffic that was stolen.

        His only basket of the half came when Syed found him directly underneath the basket for a layup plus a foul on Brooklyn's Sharif Fordham. Owens missed the free throw.

        “He didn't hurt the team,” Sanders said. “He held his own.”

        Despite his success on the field, Owens is perhaps best known for his flamboyant touchdown celebrations and feuds with San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci.

        Asked if he would phone his coach to tell him about the Wildcats' 123-106 victory, Owens just smiled.

        “I'm pretty sure he'll probably see the highlights,” Owens said.

        Owens isn't the first high-profile athlete to play in the USBL. Last summer, Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss had a stint with the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, and boxer Roy Jones Jr. played for the Lakeland Blueducks.


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