Bending creakily to one knee beside four glittering NCAA championship trophies, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp raised his right hand, spread five fingers and smiled like a fat, happy wildcat as photographers flashed away. If the purpose was pure pizzazz the message was clear—Kentucky is all set. Old Adolph, in fact, expects to have a better team than last year's, which lost only three.
Kentucky does have some problems. Gone are a pair of home-state boys, the brilliant-shooting Larry Pursiful and Carroll Burchett, the floor leader. And, once again, Kentucky has no big center. But whenever Rupp looks happy it is wise to pay attention. His assets are considerable. "If I had my choice of one man in the country to build my team around," he says, "it would be Cotton Nash." Rupp has him, of course. The handsome 6-foot-5 Nash (see cover) is an out-and-out super star. Whether he is at center, forward or guard, the Kentucky team is the better for it. Last season Nash played the pivot and played it well despite his lack of inches. This year Rupp may try something different. A 6-foot-6 sophomore, Don Rolfes, will share the center spot with Nash. The one who gets down the floor first will set up in the pivot. The other will move into a forward spot—a position where Nash can use his outside-shooting and quick spurts for the basket. Two other sophomores are starting prospects, 6-foot-6½ John Adams, a forward, and Sam Harper, the man who will have to fill the departed Pursiful's role as outside shooter.
Senior Scotty Baesler, known affectionately as the Garbage Man (he delights in collecting a loose ball), was expected to start at the other guard spot, but sophomore Terry Mobley has looked so good in practice he may take the first-string job. Roy Roberts, a good defensive forward, and 6-foot-3 Ted Deeken are the best of a strong reserve corps. Two trouble areas: defensive weaknesses, including Nash, and the prospect that several clubs may try a ball-control game against Rupp because Mississippi State beat Kentucky with it last year. Rupp is actually grooming this team for the 1964 NCAA championship. He won't fuss, however, if it is in contention early.
St. Louis, at St. Louis, Dec. 31
Mississippi State, at State, Feb. 11
Auburn, at Kentucky, Feb. 23