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Rant...

Chalk up another victim to NCAA logic (the truest of all oxymorons)

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003


Raphael Toren is from Israel and Marvin Stone is from Alabama, which would seem to preclude them from having much in common.

Sadly, though, they share an all-too-common plight: unwitting victims of the NCAA.

Toren, 20, came to America late last year to play college basketball at South Florida. But he was deemed a professional and denied eligibility without playing a game, even though USF's compliance department, basketball administration and lawyers -- who have vast experience in such matters -- vehemently insist his case is a no-brainer. Nonetheless, on March 6 an appeals committee upheld the initial ruling, leaving Toren, after months of waiting, far from home with his dream in tatters. The NCAA, meanwhile, does not comment on specific rulings.

Stone, a senior, was having a good season for nationally ranked Louisville until mid-February, when the NCAA began investigating benefits he received from an AAU coach nearly five years ago based on information in a book that came out nearly three years ago. Stone has been cleared of two issues, and Friday the school let him back on the court though the investigation continues.

He's the lucky one. Toren was in street clothes at the Conference USA tournament, watching the college career he never had whisk past due to a baffling, unexplained rendering.

AND RAVE

Stockton to Malone: Still assisting each other to greatness in their 40s

John Stockton turns 41 this month; Karl Malone celebrates his 40th this summer. Yet the best-playing, longest-running two-man performance in NBA history, in defiance of all conventional wisdom and natural laws, still is going strong.

Just ask perhaps the planet's best player, Tracy McGrady. Wednesday in Orlando, the rocking chair duo took a 111-108 win over McGrady's Magic.

Malone scored 40, notched career point No.36,000, second all-time, and secured the win with a late steal. Stockton, the all-time assists king, played 31 minutes despite a sprained ankle.

These geezers should be coming to Florida to retire, not to swipe victories from a player of McGrady's stature. Yet Malone is averaging more than 20 points for the 17th straight season, Stockton leads the NBA in assists per minute and the Jazz likely are headed to the playoffs.

In an era of free agency, Malone and Stockton have forged concurrent Hall of Fame careers playing solely for the team that drafted them, Utah, nearly two decades ago. In a generation of flash and style, they subsist on the quintessential offensive fundamental, the pick-and-roll.

They are the ultimate testament to dedication, teamwork and loyalty -- and good genetics.

Singularly, they have been truly great players. Together, they are the greatest teammates in history.

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