'Sir Charles' dishes on school, Olympics

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO " Charles Barkley was famous for pulling no punches when talking to the media during his NBA playing days, and he's continued that trait since becoming a studio analyst for NBA broadcasts on TNT.

Barkley, who was the guest speaker at Friday's Governor's Dinner in Carson City on Friday night, spent much of his pre-dinner press conference at the Peppermill Hotel talking about the NBA in general and his own playing career.

One of four players to score 20,000 points, pull down 10,000 rebounds and dish out 4,000 assists, Barkley talked about how he would like to see players stay in college longer.

"College is important, significant," Barkley said. "College is the last time basketball is fun. If you're talented enough to go to the next level, it's strictly about business. I tell players to stay in college and get an education. You are the big man on campus. Everybody else goes to class and goes home. I think it would suck to go to class and then go home.

"I wish they would stay longer, stay for two years. It would help the NBA and it would help the college game. I don't think that will ever be self-imposed. Too many are not ready for the NBA. I like it (the NBA) a lot better than I did several years ago when they were letting too many young guys (high schoolers) in. The high school kids can run and jump, but they didn't know how to play the game."

Barkley was asked if he knew anything about ex-Nevada center JaVale McGee, who was drafted in the first round by the Washington Wizards. McGee made himself available to the NBA after just two years at Nevada, including one as a starter.

"I don't pay any attention (to college guys)," Barkley said. "I need to see a guy play in person against my (NBA) guys. What they did in college doesn't mean anything to me."

Barkley went on to point out that Kansas State's Michael Beasley scored 25 points in his first summer game, but tallied only six points in his second game. The former NBA star said he pays little attention to summer league games.

Barkley admitted he's followed Nevada's program, and is impressed by what the mid-major school has accomplished in the past six years.

"Obviously they aren't a big program," Barkley said of the Wolf Pack. "You have had success year after year, and that's a credit to the coaching staffs of the past and present. It's not easy to win at a smaller school. It shows the coaches know what they're doing."

Barkley was an 11-time all-star, the league MVP in 1993 and he was voted one of the top 50 players back in 1996. He went from being "The Round Mound of Rebound" to "Sir Charles" over the course of his brilliant 16-year career.

The only thing missing was an NBA championship ring. In 1993 he led Phoenix into the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, where the Suns lost in six games. Barkley was brilliant, averaging 27 points and 14 boards during the series.

Getting to an NBA Finals is big, but Barkley said it ranks a distant third in memorable moments behind the 1992 and 1996 Olympic gold medals he earned with Dream Team I and Dream Team II.

"There is nothing like the Olympics," Barkley said. "I think the Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world. The first Dream Team was unbelievable and the second was a bonus. They play the national anthem (after the gold-medal game) and it sends chills down your spine."

Barkley led Team USA in scoring, averaging 18 points a game in Barcelona, Spain.

The Americans, who dominated Olympic basketball from 1936 to 2000, have seen the rest of the world catch up to them. In fact, Argentina won the 2004 gold medal and Team USA didn't even reach the finals.

"We had 12 NBA players (in '92) and they had three," Barkley said. "In 96, they had six or seven NBA players. We had an advantage in depth. When we went to the bench, we'd bring an NBA player in.

"The first round (in '92) we won by 60 or 70 points. The next time around it was 35 or 40 points. You could see they were getting better. They aren't intimidated anymore. They all play over here."

Barkley has become somewhat of a local celebrity in the region. He has played in the last two American Century Championship tournaments at Edgewood-Tahoe Golf Course, but he made bigger news when he donated $100,000 when he played in the tournament last year after the Angora fires destroyed a lot of the region and cost many people their homes.

"I did it again this year," Barkley said. "I didn't think it was appropriate to play golf and have fun with fires burning last year. It wouldn't have been appropriate. I couldn't believe how nice people are. Complete strangers across the country coming up to me and thanking me for doing something in the area."

That's Barkley, just a teddy bear at heart.

- Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281

THE BARKLEY FILE

Born: February 20, 1963

Birthplace: Leeds, Alabama

College: Auburn

Honors: Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006; voted one of the top 50 players in NBA history in 1996

NBA teams: Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston

Current job: Basketball analyst for TNT

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