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Telling Basketball's Ever-New Story

Veteran college-game broadcaster sees a new selfishness emerging. INTERVIEW

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BILLY PACKER is the definitive voice of men's college basketball in the United States. Last spring, the CBS sports analyst celebrated his 20th consecutive season broadcasting the Final Four - the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Men's Division I championship.

Packer says he doesn't consider himself a professional broadcaster: He never had any professional training. ``I fell into it,'' he says. He was a Wake Forest (N.C.) guard who moved to the sidelines as an assistant coach and then into the broadcast booth.

Packer doesn't have an off-season, he says: ``Broadcasting basketball games is a hobby, like a guy who likes to hunt and fish.'' He is involved in sports marketing, sales, and real estate here and abroad.

A telephone call from this reporter found Packer at his home in North Carolina relaxing in front of another court - Court TV. He pulled himself away to talk about his career in college basketball and the players in the game today. Some excerpts:

After broadcasting college games for 20 years, what brings you back for more?

The uniqueness of college basketball is that there is a new storyline every year. A new cast of characters comes along, and it ends with the fairest and greatest tournament in March.

Professional basketball goes in 3-to-5-year phases. Right now, it's Shaquille O'Neal and his team. We also had the period of Magic [Johnson] and Michael [Jordan] over 10 years. So in that sense, professional basketball is very limiting. There's a freshness about new guys coming onto the scene, which is what you have in college basketball.

What does college basketball offer that pro basketball doesn't? Have you ever considered switching?

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