RESURRECT ALASKA FROM THE GRAVE: CAN CHRIS CARRAWELL DO IT?
Manila, August 28, 2002 (STAR) By Joaquin M. Henson - If there’s anybody who can resurrect Alaska from the grave, it’s Chris Carrawell.
The Aces are in a bind. They’re a loss away from taking an unwelcome early vacation in the Samsung Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup. Tonight, Alaska takes on Talk ‘N Text in Game 3 of their best-of-5 semifinal duel at the PhilSports Arena.
Let’s face it. Not too many fans expected coach Bill Bayno to be breathing at this stage of the tournament. Bayno had just gotten fined P200,000 for blabbing ill of the league. And the vociferous malcontent was humiliated by San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals of the previous conference despite his team’s No. 1 ranking and a twice-to-beat advantage. Bayno didn’t seem to have what it takes to win in the PBA.
So it came to pass that in the raging Commissioner’s Cup, Talk ‘N Text was seeded No. 7 in the eight-team quarters and had to beat No. 2 Sta. Lucia Realty twice to advance. The Realtors had to win only once. Lo and behold, the Phone Pals defied the odds to bury Sta. Lucia under an avalanche of short and long-distance connections. Bayno was suddenly a hero. From Bay-no to Bay-yes. Team manager Frankie Lim was finally vindicated.
As if to prove the Sta. Lucia sweep was no fluke, Bayno went on to shock Alaska twice in a row, 82-78 and 87-79, in the semis to erect a commanding 2-0 series lead. Now, the Phone Pals are a foot inside the Finals. One more win over Alaska and they’re through the door.
But wait. There’s someone in Alaska’s lineup with a Lazarus reputation–someone who makes it a habit to rise from near death. The record shows Carrawell can do it. After all, he survived three shoulder operations to make basketball a career. And when Carrawell played four years at Duke University, varsity coach Mike Krzyzewski called him the Blue Devils’ soul and warrior. Mike K even said it was an honor to coach Carrawell, the winningest player in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) history with four regular season titles and 66 league wins, 10 more than North Carolina’s Sam Perkins.
As a Duke freshman in 1996-97, Carrawell did the unthinkable–he defended Wake Forest’s 7-1 center Tim Duncan in a matchup that took the Deacons by surprise. Carrawell didn’t only neutralize Duncan off the boards but he also blocked a key Wake Forest shot down the stretch and led Duke to a rousing triumph. If Carrawell could go up against Duncan, maybe coach Tim Cone will take the chance and put the 6-4, 210-pound guard on Jerald Honeycutt tonight.
Carrawell was a ferocious defender at Duke. He held down some of the game’s best scorers–Steve Francis, Laron Profitt, and even Duncan. Former teammate Shane Battier, now a National Basketball Association (NBA) player, said Carrawell has the heart of a lion–"he’ll be the first one to cut your heart out and show it to you."
In crucial games, Carrawell was at the Duke forefront. He hit the go-ahead layup to lift Duke over Clemson. He grabbed 10 rebounds in 21 minutes against Georgia Tech. He boosted Duke from a 0-2 start to an 18-game win streak that included four overtime decisions as a senior in 1999-2000.
In 1997-98, Carrawell averaged 10.1 points as Duke posted a 32-4 mark, finishing in the Final 8. The next season, the Blue Devils registered a 37-2 record and lost to Connecticut in the NCAA championship game. And in his senior campaign, Carrawell hit at a 16.9 clip and shot 37.7 percent from triple range as Duke wound up at 29.5.
It’s no wonder why Carrawell is such a fighter on the court. He grew up in an environment of poverty, drugs, and violence.
Carrawell was born in an inner-city neighborhood in north St. Louis and never met his father. To live, he had to survive in the ghetto jungle.
***Sports Illustrated talked about Carrawell:
"He rarely played in a gym until high school, instead playing what he calls ‘ghetto ball’ on the cracked asphalt at Fairground Park with chain nets, metal backboards, and double rims so rigid that successful shots had to be nothing but chain. Carrawell was honed on physical games against older and larger guys with names like Big Mike and Ron Ron and Slim. By his own estimate, seven of the 10 guys on the court at any one time back then are now in jail or dead. At the end of a full day of pick-up hoops, Carrawell would sometimes be challenged to a one-on-one ‘money game’ for $100, an offer he could not refuse, and dozens of spectators dropped cash on the cement in support of the guy from their block. Carrawell knew that if he lost, which was rare, he would be wise to take a circuitous route home–if he went home at all."
Carrawell said he brings a piece of the playground to the court, "getting guys thinking that when a guy busts you, you’ve got to bust him back."
The Aces import continued, "On the playground, everything’s tough. You’ve got guys trash-talking you. You’ve got guys elbowing you. There was so much negativity out there–gangs, drugs. It was scary. Bullets don’t have names on them."
Carrawell, 24, survived that wars in the playground and the pressure in NCAA Division I. Carrawell, the San Antonio Spurs second round draft pick two years ago, is still dreaming of someday playing in the NBA. But first things first. He’s got a mission at Alaska. He’s got a team to resurrect.
Beating Talk ‘N Text thrice in a row is a daunting proposition and that’s what Alaska’s got to do to advance to the Finals. Cone, of course, is taking it one game at a time.
Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo said Carrawell is Sean Chambers reincarnated with an outside shot. They even talk and walk alike. "We’ll bring back Chris every year if he’s available," gushed Trillo.
Tonight is Alaska’s first test of survival. It’s do or die. Can Carrawell lead the troops to live another day?
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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