Kirill Misyuchenko -- the guys call him “Shorty” -- doesn’t talk about that game much.
“Nothing to brag about, when you gave up 21 points and 12 rebounds,” the good-natured Mount Pleasant police officer says now.
But when NBA great Tim Duncan retired this week, after 19 seasons and five championships, Misyuchenko couldn’t help but flash back to the time when he shared a court with the 15-time NBA All-Star.
The date was Nov. 25, 1996, when Duncan’s Wake Forest team -- ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time -- came to McAlister Field House to play The Citadel Bulldogs. A crowd of 5,127 fans turned out to see Duncan, who gave up swimming for basketball only after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the pool near his home on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and had ignored the riches of the NBA to return to Wake Forest for his senior season.
Awaiting the 6-11 Duncan in the paint was Misyuchenko, the 7-0 Citadel center whose parents had immigrated from Russia to the U.S. in 1991.
Misyuchenko had an inch on Duncan, but that’s about all.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” said Misyuchenko, who was known as “BRK” (Big Russian Kid) to his teammates. “I never got nervous for games like that. I wish we had prepared a little better than we did, and playing him one-on-one was probably our biggest mistake. He was just too fast for us, especially for me.”
The game -- an 86-52 win for the Deacons, in which Duncan had 21 points and 12 rebounds -- is a blur for Misyuchenko now.
Except for one play.
“He made this one move where he spun on the baseline and dunked it,” Misyuchenko said. “I’ll never forget that, and he had no mercy after that.”
But Misyuchenko had his moments, as well. He blocked one of Duncan’s shots -- “BRK” still holds Citadel records for blocked shots in a season and a career -- and scored nine points with six rebounds.
Afterwards, Duncan was gracious.
“He’s a solid player, he’s tough, he didn’t back down one bit,” Duncan said of Misyuchenko, who was then a sophomore. “He’s probably not an ACC caliber player, but in his league he should be dominant. He’s young, I was where he was once and he’ll get better.”
Duncan, of course, went on to an amazing career in the NBA, twice winning the MVP Award and three times being named NBA Finals MVP before retiring this week at age 40.
Misyuchenko -- who also is 40 -- played professional ball overseas for five years before settling into a career as a police officer in Mount Pleasant, where his 7-foot frame is a familiar sight.
“I played overseas for five years before I got hurt,” Misyuchenko said. “I lived in Connecticut, where my parents lived, for three years. My wife and I came back to Charleston on vacation, and she decided she wanted to move down here, and that was that.”
As for police work, he says, “I’d always been interested in that, since I was a kid. It’s one of those things where I thought I’d try it and see how it goes, and I stuck with it.”
Misyuchenko and his wife have a son and a daughter, and he will be a school resource officer and volunteer assistant basketball coach at Wando High School this year.
Misyuchenko claims he was a Spurs fan even before Duncan joined the team, and watched Duncan’s career in San Antonio with interest.
“When he and David Robinson played together, that was the best duo ever,” Misyuchenko said. “I thought he’d play one or two more seasons, so I was kind of surprised when he retired.”
Misyuchenko says he stays in touch with former Citadel teammates such as Jamie Jenkins, Matt Newman and Billy McQueeney. But when someone peers up at him now and asked if he ever played basketball, the 7-footer is apt to say, “No, I played chess” just for laughs.
Still, maybe he’ll show the kids at Wando how Duncan made that spin move. Or how he once blocked the Big Fundamental’s shot.
“I enjoy working with the raw material and trying to build on that,” he said. “You take a kid who’s maybe been playing for a couple of years and try to make a player out of him.
“You hope that he goes to college or at least goes into life with a winning attitude. That’s my biggest thing, to make them believe in themselves and their teammates.”