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Thursday, November 11, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 58

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Men's basketball team hoops it up Friday in exhibition against Flight

By Josh Gajewski
Daily Cougar Staff 

The UH men's basketball team will kick things off on Friday night -- unofficially -- when it battles the Houston Flight at Hofheinz Pavilion in the first of two exhibition games played by host UH.

"It's just a tune-up," UH head basketball coach Clyde Drexler said. "We want to get fine tuned and do the things we would like to do."


Freshman standout Marcus Oliver will play his first game in a Houston uniform when the Cougars host the Houston Flight at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

On the injury front, senior guard Gee Gervin is back at full strength after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He started in Monday's scrimmage and will be ready to go for the regular season opener Nov. 18.

Sophomore center Jake Ballis continues to recover from a torn bicep tendon in his left shoulder. Ballis averaged 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds as a walk-on freshman last year in 24 contests, and was expected to take on a bigger role this season after the departure of William Stringfellow, who could not meet academic requirements. Hopes are that Ballis will be able to return by December before the Conference USA schedule is set to begin.

Center Early Smith has undergone two knee surgeries in the past year and will be unavailable for the opener. Since transferring to UH from Mississippi State, Smith has only played in one game in a Cougar uniform -- last season's opener against Texas, in which he scored three points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots in only 11 minutes before tearing meniscus cartilage in his right knee.

Four newcomers will wear a Cougar uniform for the first time against the Flight. Sophomore transfer Bernard Smith (Texas) and senior transfer Calvin Murphy Jr. (Angelina College) should see some action, as will freshman sensations George Williams and Marcus Oliver.

Clyde Drexler

"Oliver has really been something to watch (in practice)," Drexler said. "He's been much better than anyone projected him to be. Torrence Botts has been incredible day after day and continues to impress. George Williams is everything we expected him to be -- that's no surprise.

"Everybody knows about George Williams, Kenny Younger, Bernard Smith and Gee Gervin," Drexler said. "But Chad Hendrick, Marcus Oliver and Torrence Botts have been awesome."

The Cougars will finish off their short exhibition schedule on Monday against Denmark before traveling north (<I>way<P> north) to Alaska for the Top of the World Classic Nov. 18 to open up the regular season against Alaska-Fairbanks.

"I'd rather be going to Hawaii," Drexler joked. "But we look extremely good. (The team) is physically stronger, they work hard, they've improved in so many areas of the game. Hopefully, that translates into success on the court."
 

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