Reaching Back for the Future : Women's basketball: Nancy Lieberman-Cline, Cheryl Miller among those trying to make Olympic team.


The casting call for the U.S. Olympic basketball team seems to have summoned the past, present and future of the women's game for a short, intense conference starting here today.

The past?

It's here in the form of 33-year-old Nancy Lieberman-Cline, an Olympian in 1976. Lieberman-Cline, basketball legend turned media celebrity, is inexplicably back for one more charge.

Then there is Cheryl Miller, the other media celebrity among this field of 56 players. Unlike Lieberman-Cline, Miller, 28, has been silent about her comeback bid, sending word through USA Basketball that she didn't want to speak about this new, unfamiliar role.

In 1984, Miller led the United States to a gold medal in Los Angeles. That, in combination with her show-stopping collegiate performance at USC--two national titles--had earned Miller the votes of many as the best female player ever.

Four years later, though, Miller experienced the first significant disappointment of her career. She suffered an injury to her right knee in a pickup game in April, 1987, and had surgery. About a month before the 1988 Olympic Games, Miller was cut when U.S. basketball officials thought her knee wasn't ready.

Lately, Miller has been sharpening her game during informal workouts organized by Magic Johnson at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion with the likes of former Laker coach Mike Dunleavy.

"I really haven't seen her play since 1988," said Olympic Coach Theresa Grentz of Rutgers, who will cut the field to 15 by Sunday.

So, understandably, Miller's comeback--at this point--has raised more questions than it has answered. Joining Miller at the trials is her former USC teammate, Pam McGee, who also was on the 1984 Olympic team.

The current elite on hand? Two-time Olympians Teresa Edwards and Lynette Woodard and six members of the 1988 squad, including Cynthia Cooper, Bridgette Gordon and Katrina McClain.

Grentz and the 17-member selection committee will make the first cut Sunday. After that, there is a mini-camp starting June 1, and the 12-member Olympic team is expected to be announced June 12.

"It's almost like there's two lists within one," said Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer, a committee member. "You've got the older kids who will be on the team and then there's the younger players who they want to develop. Players for the '90s like Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley.

"But you never know, one of those kids could even bust out, have a great camp and end up making the team."

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