Talk about a smorgasbord of drawing cards for local basketball fans. Just look at the Utah High School Select Team taking on the Soviet Union National Junior Team in an exhibition game Wednesday:
- It's a dream team that combines some of the most talented prep basketball players the state has ever produced, including recent MVPs Kenneth Roberts and Quincy Lewis;- It offers a first look for Salt Lake fans at Richfield's 6-foot-4 guard Ryan Cuff and Castle Dale's heralded 7-foot-4 center Shawn Bradley;
- And it promises a parting glimpse at Jimmy Soto, Mark Durrant and Russell Larson - a threesome headed to major-college programs next year - as well as another review of the state's top underclassmen.
And, oh, yeah, there's the 8 p.m. game at the Huntsman Center and there's the competition - a team that will represent the Soviet Union in the 1989 World Games.
Going into Wednesday's game, the Utah prepsters will have only 10 practices under their belts - a far cry from the Soviets' 60-day practice period prior to its U.S. tour of 11 games in 15 days. However, Judge Memorial Coach Jim Yerkovich, who is heading up the Select Team coaching staff, has seen dividends despite the limited time. "The best part of our experience is how close the (Utah) kids have gotten together. And they play that way, too."
The prevailing "team" theme is quite an accomplishment considering that eight of the 12 Utahns played against each other in state championship games only a couple months ago, he added.
In comparing the Soviet squad to the Utah prep team, Yerkovich labels the opponents as stronger and more physical. The biggest weakness, however, may be that the Soviets are not as strong defensively as he expected.
But then again, Yerkovich is defense-minded, having handed the offense over to his assistant, Mountain View athletic director Joel Gardner. "I'm not overly concerned with the offense - we'll score some points," said Yerkovich. "I just want to know if we can defend them . . . I think the game will come down to if we can stop them defensively."
Prior to its Salt Lake engagement, the Soviet team takes its 1-4 record into a Tuesday night game in Memphis, Tenn. After opening the tour with losses in New York, Iowa and Indiana, the Soviets soundly beat a San Diego team on Saturday night before suffering a 30-point loss Sunday against a Los Angeles-based squad.
While the Soviet squad is younger than first anticipated, "they're better than I thought they'd be," said Yerkovich, whose preparations included firsthand scouting of the Soviets' games last weekend in California.
Two players return from last year's touring Soviet team, and it should be no surprise that Kahka Shengelia and Sergey Grezin are the two players Yerkovich fears most. The 6-8 Shengelia is a protype of the stereotypical Soviet athlete - "he's 17-going-on-35," says Yerkovich - who can be trouble when he avoids picking up personal fouls, while the 6-7 Grezin is a physical frontliner who battled an illness as well as a talented Indiana team en route to a 28-point performance.
Yerkovich is not as concerned about 7-footer Alexander Okunski as he is with a frontline of Gerzin, Shengelia and 6-foot-6 Arturas Karnishovas. Pacing the perimeter attack is Yuri Leonov, a streaky-shooting 6-foot-4 guard.
National Jr. Team
Igor Grachev 6-6
Sergey Grezin 6-7
Vasili Karasev 6-4
Arturas Karnishovas 6-6
Vladislav Kondratov 6-7
Goderzin Kordzadze 6-8
Gert Kullamyae 6-5
Yuri Leonov 6-4
Mikhail Mikhailov 6-8
Alexander Okunski 7-0
Andrey Olbrekht 6-7
Denis Petenv 6-10
Martinas Purlis 6-3
Darus Rubshtavichus 6-4
Kahka Shengelia 6-8
Andrey Yurtaev 6-8
Utah High School Select Team
Player/School Ht. Yr. Pos.
Shawn Bradley/Emery 7-4 Jr. C
Ryan Cuff/Richfield 6-4 Jr. G
Mark Durrant/Provo 6-7 Sr. F
James Johnson/Provo 6-5 Sr. F
Chris Jones/Judge 6-0 Jr. G
Russell Larson/Clearfield 6-10 Sr. C
Quincy Lewis/Timpview 6-2 Sr. G
Jon Miller/Am. Fork 6-7 Sr. F
Kenneth Roberts/Bingham 6-7 Jr. F
Byron Ruffner/Timpview 6-6 Jr. F
Jimmy Soto/Judge 5-9 Sr. G
Justin Weidauer/Cottonwood 6-7 Soph. F