NFL's Moss makes hoops debut with ValleyDawgs

Friday, May 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) _ Randy Moss used some of the same high-flying moves from the football field to stand out on the hardwood.

He ran. He caught. And he weaved through the lane to get open.

The All-Pro receiver, wearing his familiar No. 84 but in yellow instead of Vikings' purple, scored seven points on 3-for-8 shooting Thursday night in his debut for the U.S. Basketball League's Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs.

Moss also had four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 21 minutes as the ValleyDawgs beat the Long Island Surf 113-112.

He signed a handful of autographs for children, but did not talk to reporters before leaving on a private plane 30 minutes after the game. The crowd of 5,000 was nearly double the ValleyDawgs' usual attendance at the Lehigh University arena.

``He told me not to throw his uniform away, that he'd be back,'' said Darryl Dawkins, the former NBA player who coaches the Dawgs.

The 6-foot-4 Moss was at his best under the basket. His first points came off a dazzling layup in the second quarter as he leaped across the lane and switched the ball to his left hand. He was fouled, but missed the free throw.

``You can see the guy has some talent,'' Dawkins said. ``He's got a nice shot. You know he can run and jump.''

In the third quarter, Moss caught a full-court pass with one hand and hit a fallaway jumper from the baseline.

Moss _ who chewed gum the entire game _ had four turnovers in the first half as he struggled to fit into the offense after joining the team only hours before the game. He stepped out of bounds twice, and had another turnover on a botched dribble under the basket.

Dawkins said the turnovers might have been because of all the hype, ``and because this is not his favorite sport.''

Dawkins was cautious with the football star.

``I didn't want to put him in a position where he had to go catch lobs and possibly fall over someone and end his career,'' Dawkins said. ``The guy's a professional. He knows he doesn't want to end his career here.''

It's unclear how long Moss plans to dabble in basketball. The ValleyDawgs said he committed to Thursday's game, then planned to decide future appearances on a game-by-game basis. The team has only six games before the Vikings' mini-camp June 4-7 _ and none are home games, which could be a deciding factor, according to ValleyDawgs officials. The USBL season ends June 23.

Moss began talking with the ValleyDawgs about a year ago, general manager Mike Sweet said. Talks heated up after Moss' longtime workout partner, guard Amaju Gaines who has the same agent as Moss, signed with the Dawgs at the start of the season.

Moss, who will make $3.5 million for the Vikings this season, was a two-time high school player of the year in basketball in West Virginia, where he was a teammate of flashy Sacramento Kings guard Jason Williams.

Moss played three games last year in the NBA-sponsored Summer Pro League, but declined to play the rest of the three-week season. However, in 1999 the Minnesota Timberwolves said they had been contacted by Moss' representatives about moonlighting in the NBA.

Moss is one of the best wideouts in the NFL because of his speed and ability to shake double- and triple-teams. He has 226 catches for 4,263 yards and 43 touchdowns in three seasons, making the Pro Bowl each year.

He is in the final year of a four-year contract he signed as a rookie in 1998. His agent said Moss is seeking a multiyear contract worth more than $100 million to make him the highest paid athlete in the NFL _ topping even the league's star quarterbacks.

A number of pro athletes have excelled in two sports, notably Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson in recent years. Danny Ainge played for the Toronto Blue Jays and in the NBA. Michael Jordan tried his hand at minor league baseball. Charlie Ward won the 1993 Heisman Trophy at Florida State and plays for the New York Knicks.

Other non-basketball athletes to have played in the USBL include Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice and boxer Roy Jones Jr., who currently plays with Florida's Lakeland Blue Ducks.