Led by a first-round NBA draft pick and coached by a drug-store owner, the pickup group called the Puerto Rico basketball team may arrive at the Olympics barely knowing each others' names.
"There's no time, there's no time," Coach Armandito Torres said during a recent scrimmage at Olympic Haven in the foothills near Salinas, an old sugar town on Puerto Rico's south coast. "We're trying to emphasize harmony and good habits."That is about all Torres can do. The final 12-man roster is still undetermined with Puerto Rico's first game at Seoul, South Korea, approaching.
"It's very unfair to expect great teams when you haven't prepared yourselves for the games," Torres said. "Can you ask a brilliant surgeon to perform without hours and hours of practice?"
Many players are still competing for such teams as the Bayamon Cowboys and the San German A's in the Superior Basketball League's playoffs. The SBL'schampionships end Sept. 10, one week before the start of the Olympics.
Torres said he hoped to finish from fifth to eighth place in the 12-team Olympic field, which includes favorites Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and the United States.
"From there on, we're hoping that God is on our side," said Torres, who runs his two drug stores when not coaching San German.
Even with almost no practice, Puerto Rico still has what observers consider its best team ever. The game has become increasingly popular on the island, making the American possession a mini-power in international play.
Puerto Rico has finished second three times in the Pan American Games and came in third last year. The island grabbed fourth place in the 1964 Olympics Games in Tokyo, its best Olympic showing.
"I think for being such a small island and only three million people we have a pretty good team," said Mario Morales, a 6-5 forward and team captain.
Puerto Rico features a towering front line headed by Jose Ortiz, a 6-11 forward who became the first Puerto Rican drafted in the first round of the NBA draft when the Utah Jazz picked him in 1987.
Ortiz, the PAC-10's Most Valuable Player in 1986 at Oregon State, has not signed with Utah because of a contract dispute. He played last season in Spain and is the leader of the San German Cowboys.
Ortiz is backed by Jerome Mincy, a 6-8 forward who played for the University of Alabama-Birmingham; Ramon Rivas, a 6-10 starter for Temple last season; and Ramon Ramos, a 6-10 senior at Seton Hall.