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Archive for Sunday, November 7, 1999

CALIFORNIA PLAYER IN HOT WATER

November 7, 1999

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It was a flagrant elbow to the nose of Kansas center Eric Chenowith's face that got California East All-Star's Tony Vilcinskas ejected from the game.

And it was the smirk that followed the elbow that got Vilcinskas booted from the team.

Phil Bryant, the All-Stars' coach, said he would inform Vilcinskas after the team returned to its hotel Saturday night that his services were no longer needed.

"I will not tolerate anything like that on this team," Bryant said. "He's going home and will not play for this team again."

The incident occurred midway through the second half as Chenowith went up for a jumper while being guarded by Vilcinskas. Chenowith missed the shot and after turning around, his face was met with a sharp elbow from Vilcinskas.

"I turned around and the next thing I know I'm lying on the court," Chenowith said. "At that point I think I knew what Brett Farve or Steve Young feel like after a big hit."

As Chenowith was lying on the court with blood dripping out of his nose, Vilcinskas walked toward the All-Stars bench with a huge grin from ear to ear.

Vilcinskas was slapped with a technical foul and kicked straight out of the game. The grin never left his face as he sarcastically waved to the booing Allen Fieldhouse crowd on his way to the visitor's locker room.

"That reaction was unacceptable and if the referees wouldn't have kicked him out of the game, I would have personally sent him off." Bryant said.

"He's a very physical player, but that's not how this team plays and we don't want to be represented that way."

Chenowith said Vilcinskas had been playing aggressive during the game and even mentioned that to him.

"There was a point where both of us were standing near half court and I said, 'Hey, lay off the elbows,'" Chenowith said. "Him playing that way was kind of surprising because he was such a nice guy before the game."

Chenowith returned moments later after his nosed was examined by trainer Mark Cairns and the bleeding had stopped. He finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Vilcinskas, a 7-foot-1 center and a member of Valparaiso's 1998 team with current Houston Rocket Bryce Drew, had scored two points in 15 minutes against the Jayhawks.

In the All-Stars' three previous exhibition contests, Vilcinskas had averaged seven points in 27 total minutes.

Bryant said Vilcinskas personally apologized to the entire Kansas squad. Vilcinskas declined to talk to media.

Kansas coach Roy Williams said he had hollered at the referees to watch Vilcinskas' elbows during the Jayhawks possession prior to the elbow.

"There's no place for that," Williams said. "If you're gonna play basketball, play basketball. If you want to act like Mike Tyson, go find him."

Chenowith said his nose would be examined to see if it was broken or not, but got his first opinion from teammate Nick Bradford.

"Nick has broken his nose three times and he looked at mine and said he definitely thought it was broken," Chenowith said.

Chenowith said he had known Bryant since his high school playing days at Villa Park High School. He said Bryant came over to the Kansas bench and apologized right after the incident.

"He's always supported me and he's definitely not to blame for what happened," Chenowith said.

Bryant, who works during the year as a high school coach and athletic director in California, said he wanted to coach the East All-Star team just for the chance to play at Kansas.

"This is such a wonderful place to play and I was really looking forward to coming here," Bryant said. "The players, the fans and the stuff made this a very enjoyable atmosphere."

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