Aug. 24, 2004
By Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune Columnist
Andrew Bogut blocked Dwyane Wade's layup try, backed in and delivered a right hook over Tim Duncan, knocked down a three-pointer and helped his Australian basketball mates lead the Americans by nine points in the third quarter.
Quite a day for a 19-year-old player who will start taking sophomore-level classes at the University of Utah in a couple of weeks.
Then again, there were these scenes: Tim Duncan turning and scoring easily over Bogut, Duncan blocking his shot, Wade and Allen Iverson driving past him for layups and Duncan dunking on him rather ferociously in the Americans' 89-79 victory in Olympic pool play Thursday.
So he's not there yet, but he's not that far away, either. Thursday's summary for Ute fans: Enjoy this guy while he's in college.
Bogut's first meeting with Duncan certainly made some impressions on him. OK, so Duncan is no Pero Cameron.
The 6-foot-7, 287-pound New Zealander "is a lot stronger than any of those guys," Bogut said.
Just the same, Duncan is pretty good. "That's why he's an All-Star, an MVP," Bogut said.
Duncan posted 18 points and 11 rebounds, while usually guarding Bogut, who had 11 and eight. The Aussies used a zone defense, but Bogut received little help inside against Duncan and played carefully after recording two fouls in the first 4:12 of the game.
"I mean, I got a couple of cheap ones early and I couldn't really play him as physical, because the European refs baby players a lot," Bogut said. "It's a physical game in the States."
Listed at 7 feet by the Utes and 6-9 by the Aussies, Bogut stood up to opponents who "bleed blood" - his description of the Americans in mortal terms, here in the land of Zeus.
Bogut "has never been intimidated by anyone," said Aussie coach Brian Goorjian.
Goorjian observed that Duncan was able to position himself deep into the lane against Bogut. Duncan would not say the Americans figured they could take specific advantage of the teenager, only that "we have our strength inside, when we move the ball. That's when we play our best."
Duncan made it look easy at times. Of course, Bogut will probably not have to defend centers in the NBA - and, more comforting for 2004-05, there's no Tim Duncan in the Mountain West.
"I think I can play at that level, but I've just got to keep working at it, step by step," Bogut said.
It was a day of progress for the Aussies, who led by two points after three quarters - and that was after the Americans came back. The 10-point final margin is easily the closest Australia has come to the U.S. team in five Olympic meetings, including a 101-73 loss to the Dream Team with Karl Malone and John Stockton in Atlanta in 1996.
Bogut was 11 then and remembers nothing about that game, guessing it was not even televised Down Under. "We're not really a basketball nation," he said.
Bogut figures the Americans and other opponents are regarding the Aussies that way in this tournament, which may work to their advantage. They still can qualify for the quarterfinals by beating Lithuania or Puerto Rico.
Either way, considering how the non-qualifiers play to decide the final standings, Bogut will have at least three more games in Athens before hitting the books again. He has had a long summer of basketball, and Ute coach Ray Giacoletti will make sure he takes a break from the game before practice starts in mid-October.
Giacoletti wants a fresh Bogut for his sophomore season, likely his last as a Ute. Thursday's game, which Goorjian described as "a lesson for Andrew," definitely left Bogut wanting more.
In the NBA and in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Bogut is anticipating future encounters with Duncan and the American pros. "Hopefully," he said, "with one or two more years under my belt, I can really make a difference in games like this."