LAMONT STROTHERS RETIRES - END OF AN ERA
Manila, May 13 2002 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Itís over. After shooting hoops for 11 years as a globetrotting import in seven countries, Lamont Strothers is hanging up his sneakers for good.
"Iím done playing," he said. "I have a lot of basketball left in me but thatís it for me."
Strothers, who turned 34 last Friday, wouldíve liked to go out in a blaze of glory. It wasnít meant to be. He was hampered by a pinched nerve in the neck and it numbed his right shoulder up to his arm during the San Miguel Beer series against Alaska in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Samsung Governors Cup semifinals last week.
Strothers traced the injury to when Junthy Valenzuela hammered his nape during San Miguelís 89-67 win over Red Bull in Lipa last March 22. Before the contest, he averaged 22.7 points. After the game, his scoring clip plummeted to 12.1.
The numbness left Strothers with no feeling in his shooting hand and it began to seriously affect his performance in Game 2 of the semis. But Strothers, a big-hearted warrior, desperately wanted to bring the Beermen to the Finals. He played through the semi-paralysis as interim coach Siot Tanquingcen gambled on his mere presence being an inspiration to the team.
In Game 5, Strothers said he was more relaxed and couldíve been more assertive but didnít want to disrupt Tanquingcenís gameplan. "We couldíve won it," insisted Strothers. "I felt a little better. I was sure if we made it to the Finals, Iíd be able to play like before."
But Alaska spoiled Strothersí dream of playing for one more championship.
Although he finished his PBA career on a low note, Strothers said he will always cherish the memories of playing here. His most unforgettable experience as a San Miguel import was when the Beermen was seeded sixth after the eliminations, beat Tanduay twice in the quarters, repulsed Red Bull in the semis, and defeated Purefoods for the 2000 Governors Cup championship. It was his second title for San Miguel.
"Iíve played in Turkey, Spain, France, Puerto Rico, Greece, Israel and the Philippines," he said. "Of all those countries, I love the Philippines and Israel most. Israel, because of its big parks and long stretches of land where my wife and I would just hang out with our dog. The Philippines, because of the people. Iím a laid-back kind of guy and I just like the simple things in life. The Filipino fans are like American fansĖthey go all out to support their teams. In Europe, the fans are crazyĖthey throw coins and bottles. Also, the San Miguel organization is first-class from when Norman Black coached to Ron Jacobs to Jong Uichico. And you couldnít ask more from Mr. Danding (Cojuangco)."
Strothers said heíll be traveling back and forth to Manila for business. His Filipino partner Jun Sunga of Sidestreet Sports produces womenís clothing, lingerie, and athletic apparel, like basketball uniforms, for sale in the U.S. Strothers also has a partner in Turkey where he sources leather coats.
"Iíve made enough money from basketball to take care of my family," said Strothers who is married to Adria, his campus sweetheart, and has seven children, including a set of twin daughters. His youngest is a three-month-old son. His wife is completing studies for a Masterís degree in English and will probably teach in a university.
Strothersí parents Calvin and Brenda split up when he was three. His only brother Calvin, Jr. played football and basketball at New Hampshire but gave up sports when he joined the military. His mother remarried when he was five and his stepfather, a military man, was a disciplinarian. To earn some money, Strothers cut grass, helped out in farms, and shoveled snow for $2 to $5 an hour as a boy. At an early age, he was introduced to hard work and learned the value of money.
At Forest Glen high school in Suffolk, Virginia, Strothers was a phenomenal shooter for the varsity. As a senior prepster in 1986, he was involved in a bitter fistfight. He was struck in the left eye by brass knuckles and his vision was never the same again. The kid who hit Strothers spent 10 days in jail and is now a preacher. When he signed up for the military a year later, Strothers wasnít accepted because of his impaired vision. To this day, Strothers canít see frontally from his left eye and only has peripheral sight. Because of his limited vision, Strothers had to develop a post game. He said as a result, he became an inside-outside scorer.
For a year after high school, Strothers worked at a meatpacking plant and played in recreational leagues. He got a partial scholarship offer from Georgia but turned it down because his family couldnít afford paying half the tuition. While playing in a recreational league, Strothers was approached by Christopher Newport College assistant basketball coach Roland Ross who offered a scholarship to play for the school.
In four years at Christopher Newport, Strothers scored 2,709 points for an average of 23.3 and became the third all-time leading scorer in Division III history. In 1991, he was picked on the second round by the Golden State Warriors and made history books as the highest-ever Division III player taken in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. Strothers wound up playing for the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks in two NBA seasons.
When the Los Angeles Lakers chose Division III player Devean George on the first round in the 1999 NBA draft, reporters tracked Strothers down in Puerto Rico to ask what he thought of the pick. "I told them thereís a lot more good D-3 players out there," he said.
Strothers said he has a six-month internship left to do before gaining a degree in Leisure Studies and Physical Education but will probably not pursue it to concentrate full-time on his myriad business interests.
From when he began playing in the PBA in 1996, Strothers said the level of competition has improved significantly as the players are more athletic, more knowledgeable, and more skillful. He said the national team is at par with lower Division I schools like Hampton University which almost beat Georgetown and upset North Carolina this season. "The Philippine team has a great nucleus and I think its only drawback is the lack of height among the guards," he said. "I havenít seen China and Korea play but I think the national team will be very competitive at the Asian Games."
Strothers was voted Best Import in the 1999 Governors Cup and finished his PBA career with over 3,900 points. His retirement ends an era of brilliance in six years and seven conferences as a San Miguel import.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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