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World Baskeball Championships Drawing Fewer than Expected Crowds - 2002-08-31

The World Basketball Championships are being held in the United States for the first time in the 52-year history of the tournament. But the early crowd turnout has been much lower than expected.

The host United States team was on the court Thursday, along with each of the other 15 national teams taking part in the preliminary round of the World Basketball Championships. The squad is loaded with professional players from the U.S. National Basketball Association. But many of the league's top stars are absent for a variety of reasons, and the style of play is different from what fans in the basketball-crazy state of Indiana are accustomed to watching.

U.S. head coach George Karl of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks says the quality of international competition is high.

"The whole idea of this tournament, I think, is kind of foreign to Indianapolis and maybe American basketball. I made the comparison, if you had the 16 top college basketball teams in Indianapolis, how fast would it sell out? I would say at least 12 of these teams, maybe 14 of these teams, are capable of competing on the Division One (college) basketball level," Mr. Karl said.

Karl says the international style of play is fascinating. "It is a different brand of basketball. It is kind of a clever brand of basketball, a combination of size and its cuteness. The 40-minute game makes it an interesting coaching game. If I was not coaching this team, I would (still) be here," he said.

Meager crowds witnessed each of the first seven games on opening day. More than 8,500 people were surrounded by thousands of empty seats in the massive RCA Dome for the U.S. victory over Algeria (110-60).