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Bullett's winter in Italy paves way to Barcelona


If the idea is to never let them see you sweat, Vicky Bullett failed her first test as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team.

Bullett, the former Maryland center, was anxious to learn yesterday if she had earned one of the 12 spots on the Olympic squad.

"Not knowing whether you're going to be on the team is the hardest part," said Bullett. "But after being told I was on the team, I calmed down."

There wasn't much reason for Bullett, a reserve on the 1988 Olympic gold-medal team, to sweat out her chances of making the squad.

From the beginning, coach Theresa Grentz, who guided the U.S. team to gold in the 1990 World Championships and the Goodwill Games, said that international experience would help determine who would make the Olympic team. Bullett, 24, played professional ball in Italy this past winter.

The average age of players on the team is 25.8, making it the oldest U.S. team ever. All but one player, former Penn State point guard Suzie McConnell, have played professionally in Europe or Japan. And McConnell, the mother of a 20-month-old boy, was a reserve on the 1988 team.

"This is really a veteran team," Grentz said. "International experience is important, and you could really see in the trials the difference between players who had played overseas and those who had played collegiately in the United States."

Attempting to win the United States' third straight Olympic championship, Grentz has chosen a rugged, fiery squad, led by former All-American Teresa Edwards, the first American to play in three Olympiads, and her former Georgia teammate, Katrina McClain, who led the 1988 team in scoring and rebounding.

Grentz said the U.S. team will play the international style, stressing the running game and defense.

"In our country, when you get ahead, the feeling is to sit on the lead. Internationally, when you get up by 10 points, the idea is to score, to get ahead by 13 or 15," said Grentz.

"We want to move up and down the floor. I do not wish to put these women in a half-court situation and put in 18 or 19 passes. We want to be able to play basketball. That's what they do for a living."

Bullett, Maryland's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, made the 1988 Olympic team after her junior year. She is one of six members of the 1988 team to make this year's squad and, at 6 feet 3, is as tall as any other player on the roster.

Her defense and strength will be important additions to the Olympic team, said Grentz.

"She's a force on the boards and an excellent post player," said Grentz. "Her personality is one that lends to the group. She does whatever needs to be done.

"In my conversation with her, she said, 'There's a lot of offensive players on this team, and I intend to get them the ball and play defense.' She's someone who understands what's going on."

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