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The game keeps them together

By day, they wear business suits and crunch numbers from their cozy chairs.

Jim Grandholm, a former standout center at the University of South Florida and a longtime professional, is an international scout for the Orlando Magic and has recently begun representing some players.

Dave Bastian, a USF teammate of Grandholm's, owns an accounting firm and does the taxes for many former Bulls. Steve Willis, who met Bastian on the playgrounds of Indianapolis and went on to star at Nebraska, works at Tampa's Price-Waterhouse, and forward Pat Lawrence, a key member of the University of Florida's first NCAA Tournament team, is a stockbroker in Orlando.

But they remain gym rats at heart.

And on Friday and Saturday, they will be in Dallas for the 1994 Hoop-It-Up World Final. They will be representing Orlando, where they won city and regional tournaments as one of nine teams in the three-on-three tournament that has drawn more than 300,000 participants.

The winning team will play the NBA Legends, led by George Gervin and coached by Larry Bird. NBC will show highlights of the final and Legends' games on Nov. 19.

"I think we've got a good chance," said Bastian, a three-time academic All-America who was seventh nationally in free throw percentage as a freshman in 1981-82. He, Willis and Lawrence reached this stage in 1990 and again in 1992.

"We have a little better team this year because of Jim," Willis said. "He's quick for his size (7-feet), shoots real well and moves real well. That's just the opposite of what we had with Tim (Strawbridge, another USF alumnus). That's not to say Tim wasn't good. But we're a little better."

Grandholm, 34, played eight years in Italy, Switzerland and France. He also played for the Dallas Mavericks in 1990-91. This is his first Hoop-It-Up experience and probably last.

"David's been asking me to play in this for a while, but I've been playing professionally and didn't have the extra motivation to play in this during the summer," he said. "These guys have played in it before and done well and David and I, when we were in college, there wasn't anybody who could beat us 2-on-2 or 3-on-3."

Bastian, 33, and Willis, 38, the guards of the group, probably know each other the best. They met each other more than 15 years ago on the courts. Bastian was from the north side of town; Willis the inner city.

"Steve was truly a playground legend," Bastian said.

"We hit it off after we played (for the first time), I went over to his house for lunch and then I invited him over to mine," Willis said. "We went all over the city playing. I went on his side of town and him being with me, he could play on my turf."