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2 The Daily Tar Heel Saturday, November 8, 1975
Pan-Am games valuable
experience for LaGarde
by Ford Worthy
Tom LaGarde sat in the darkness of
the Granville Towers cafeteria and
savored a meal of steak, french fries, and
his own mixed drink a concoction of
fruit punch and Mountain Dew. A
science fiction movie, Robinson Crusoe
on. Mars, illuminated the room from a
screen behind LaGarde.
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"Where else can you watch a good
horror movie and eat such a tasty meal
at the same time," a bystander asked
him. "The Village Dinner Theatre
maybe, but not in Mexico City."
"Only at UNC, for sure," LaGarde
answered. "It's good to be back. It really
The lanky UNC forward returned
Oct. 22 from Mexico City where he had
concluded several months of
international basketball competition by
participating in the Pan-American
Games. Prior to the Games, LaGarde
had spent most of the early part of the
summer playing in the Intercontinental
Cup series in Europe and in the United
The world travel and the intense
competition added up to an experience
he will treasure, said LaGarde.
"I had a great time. That is, as an
individual," said LaGarde, referring to
his experience in Mexico City where the
United States team captured the gold
medal in basketball. "It was when we
were together as a team as the
American team that we were treated
badly. The crowds jeered and whistled
at us all the time. It was nationalistic
hate, I think."
Although the Games were the scene of
several anti-American incidents
involving what LaGarde termed
"political" motivation, the American
team members enjoyed nothing but
harmony in their relations with one
another. In the past, some American
national teams have suffered from
internal conflicts which have often
served to divide the players.
"There was complete harmony
among the guys on the team," LaGarde
said. "I think we even banded together
more tightly after the crowds gave us
such a hard time. Not only was our team
made up of excellent athletes, it was
composed of just good people."
Those "good people," like "Tree"
Rollins of Clemson and Houston's Otis
Birdsong, would, according to
LaGarde, "probably win the Atlantic
Tommy LaGarde puts up two points in the 74 Blue-White game.
Coast Conference title easily as a team.
"We had twelve great . players," he
said. "The best ACC teams, like
Maryland, have maybe five or six great
players, but the Pan-Am team, with the
great depth that it had, would be able to
wear them out sooner or later.
"In fact, that is how we beat a lot of
teams. After they got tired, we still had
fresh people playing."
LaGarde and most of his Pan-Am
teammates will run into each other
again more than likely in tryouts for
the U.S. Olympic squad, which
Carolina's Dean Smith will coach.
"The guys on our team asked me a lot
of questions about Coach Smith,"
LaGarde said. "They were extremely
interested in what I could tell them
about him since most of them will
probably go out for the Olympic team. I
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also got the feeling that they had a lot of
admiration for him."
While Smith may have the Olympic
task at the back of his mind, right now
Carolina basketball is surely of utmost
importance to him. And Tom LaGarde
must occupy a prominent spot in any of
LaGarde, a highly-touted prep star
from Detroit when he signed two and a
half years ago, has been plagued by
inconsistency. Some have said that this
will be his year.
"I don't know whose year it is going to
be," he joked. "I think the international
experience has helped improve my
game. In the international play I gained
a better understanding of my personal
game. My shooting, my rebounding, my
passing, my ballhandling, my defense
1 should be stronger in all these areas.
Which means I think I'll be stronger in
my total game."
Before the cautiously optimistic
LaGarde set out on his roundball
travels, Smith gave him two sentences of
"He just told me to go out and play
ball. And get experience. And I did."
How much will all the experience
prove to be worth?
Tar Heel fans should get some
indication soon. The Russian national
team, which LaGarde competed against
in Intercontinental Cup play, invades
Carmichael Auditorium on Nov. 15.
Meanwhile, LaGarde is content to sit
back and enjoy the Carolina comforts of
home steak, french fries, Robinson
Crusoe flicks, and of course, Carolina
mixed drinks. That's three parts fruit
punch, one part Mountain Dew, and at
least a few parts of experience.
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