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Miller Survives First Cut, Leslie Doesn’t : Women’s basketball: Lieberman-Cline, 33, is also out. Official announcement regarding survivors to be made today at Olympic trials.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As Cheryl Miller walked through the parking lot, a close friend shouted back at a group of reporters, who were in pursuit.

“Let’s just say it’s good news,” she said, smiling. “She’ll talk to you tomorrow at the press conference.”

The friend was talking about today’s news conference for the survivors of Saturday’s first cut here at the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball trials.

For Miller, who led the United States to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, it was one great leap forward in her comeback attempt.

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Although she has hampered by a bruised left knee, which prevented her from playing in Friday’s second session and both sessions on Saturday, the selection committee evidently liked what it saw from Miller when she was able to compete.

Not making the first cut for the Olympic team, among others, was the oldest player at the trials, 33-year-old Nancy Lieberman-Cline and one of the youngest, 19-year-old Lisa Leslie of USC, according to sources. But Leslie was picked for the U.S. Select Team that will play at Taipei, Taiwan next month in the Jones Cup. Another cut named to the Select Team was Virginia All-American Dawn Staley.

Earlier, Lieberman-Cline had said just making the trials was like a victory for her even if she didn’t make the team. After getting the news, Lieberman-Cline came outside the gym and shook hands with well-wishers.

“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “For me, it was a great experience.”

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When Miller came out the door and went to the parking lot with several of her friends, Lieberman-Cline followed her and gave her a pep talk and a hug.

Then Lieberman-Cline shook hands with Stanford graduate Jennifer Azzi, who did make the initial cut at the point guard position.

Even if Miller was so inclined, she couldn’t have made any comment on the successful first stage of her comeback.

Players and committee members were instructed by USA Basketball officials not to say anything to reporters waiting outside the gym late Saturday night.

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Which led to some interesting conversations. Players who were cut would let reporters know their fate by saying: “All I know is I’m on the first plane home Sunday morning.”

The remaining players will stay here for a mini-camp until June 12. Then the coaching staff and selection committee will make the final cut, picking a 12-member team. Possibly another cut may come June 4.

USA Basketball officials had told reporters that the players would not be told until this morning. But several players said that the list would come out at 9:30 Saturday night, about an hour and a half after the second scrimmage.

The gym was cleared and reporters were told to leave the building. About 100 people waited outside in the darkness for players to emerge.

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“It really wasn’t a difficult decision,” said a committee member, who asked not to be identified. “The tough part will be getting down to 12.”

Still there were some surprises. Two members of last summer’s Pan American Games failed to survive the first cut--6-0 forward Bridgette Gordon and 6-4 center Venus Lacy, who suffered through a miserable shooting night in the second session Saturday.

As for Miller, she would have been difficult to leave out of this first cut. The four-time All-American from USC impressed the coaches here with her play Friday as she made several nice moves to the basket and showed flashes of her old form.

Miller, 28, had been out of organized competition since the 1988 Olympic trials. That year, she was one of the final cuts when the coaches felt that her injured right knee, which she had arthroscopic surgery on in 1987, wasn’t back to full strength.

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The decision dismayed Miller and her family. And maybe that even played a role in her decision to try it one more time.

But, at least on this night, the news was much different than it was for Miller here four years ago.


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