By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
College basketball icon Christian Laettner was at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium on Wednesday to watch the Association of Christian College Athletics National Championships.
A full story about what the former Duke and NBA star was doing in Joplin is available at joplinglobe.com.
The following are leftover comments from Laettner that came during my interview with him on Wednesday. He talked about the current state of college basketball, Duke coach Mike Kryzewski, being on the 1992 Dream Team and the ACCA.
Laettner on how current college basketball teams compare to those of his era that often included highly-touted seniors:
“I think if kids were staying in school longer now, the teams would be as good as they were when I played. But it’s been watered down a little bit, because the kids are leaving early. It’s a little watered down, but it’s watered down across the board so it’s still very entertaining basketball.
“It does seem like the teams that have seniors like Minnesota can pull off some wins. A team like Miami has a six-year senior. It seems like the teams that have a lot of veterans tend to do well. That experience and age means a lot. It’s still high quality basketball.
“Coach K still gets kids to stay -- most of them for a few years. But everybody wants to go to the NBA and make money and get all of that attention.”
Laettner on having the opportunity of being the only college player on 1992 Olympic Dream Team, which is considered the best basketball team ever assembled:
“It was just being lucky and blessed and being in the right place in the right time. I’m sure if I hadn’t won two championships, I might not have been selected. It was just the right timing. A dream of mine was to represent my country and win a gold. It was a wonderful feeling.”
Laettner on his favorite memories of being on the Dream Team with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird:
“My story is just how much fun I had playing one-on-one with them after practice, because I didn’t play in the games very much. They didn’t even need me in practice except to be the towel boy or to get them some water. So as soon as practice was over, I would grab a few guys. I would grab Chris Mullin, Larry Bird, David Robinson or Patrick Ewing and play a little one-on-one. I really needed it, and I wanted to see good those guys were. Those are the memories I will never forget.”
Laettner on continuing to follow the Duke program and coach Mike Kryzewski:
“I keep up with them a lot. Coach K is still an unbelievable coach. He gets a lot out of his players every year.”
Laettner on being in Joplin to promote his basketball camps and clinics:
“It’s a good opportunity for me to meet more coaches, more schools, more programs, more players and let them know I’m available if they want to bring me in their town to do camps and clinics.”
Laettner on the importance of ACCA basketball:
“I’m mostly here for the kids. I fell in love for these type of kids. All these kids here, it’s a great story what they’re doing. People always talk about how kids have to have activities and sports in high school so they don’t get into the wrong stuff. Well, kids need the same stuff in college. If they’re not playing sports, they can start skipping school and doing things they’re not supposed to.”