Wichita's Ralph Miller thinks of basketball as a simple game. Feed your players plenty of vitamins (his get two pills a day), teach them a couple of basic shots, then let them follow their noses. This is what he says, at any rate. The fact is, Miller's teams do act with a delightful spontaneity that looks instinctive, but they come by it through long and exacting hours of practice. A few big, fast, good-shooting players make the system work even better, and Miller has them.
About the only problems Wichita has this year are 1) inexperience and 2) Cincinnati. Miller and time will correct the inexperience problem. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done concerning Cincinnati. "They are not hard to play against," Miller says of his conference rivals. "They are just hard to beat." Miller managed to do it once last year, one of the two teams in the country that did, but he still finished runner-up to the Bearcats in the Missouri Valley.
Wichita can put a huge team on the floor: a 6-foot-10 center, 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7 forwards and 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-5 guards. Chances are they won't play much with this particular five, but the fact that they could is awesome.
The real menace is Dave Stallworth. He can play forward, guard or the post, and play them all well. Stallworth joined the club for the last half of last season and scored at a 27-point-a-game clip. "He is as fast a 6-foot-7 man as is playing today," Miller says. He is also a good dribbler and passer and can score from outside. If he has a weakness it is defense.
Moving into the post position is 6-foot-10 Nate Bowman, another sophomore. He has the obvious rookie flaws but he has come along so quickly that Miller fully expects him to be the master of the middle by midseason.
Guard Ernest Moore owns a dozen suits, 20 pairs of shoes and a 15.3 scoring average. He'll make one backcourt position. Leonard Kelley dresses more simply but scores as many points, and he'll play the other guard. It will be up to Kelley to take over as team leader.
Sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful Jerry Kittiko, a 6-foot-5 senior, or big but comparatively slow 6-foot-7 Wayne Durham alternate at the other forward.
Cincinnati, at Cincinnati, Jan. 5
St. Louis, at St. Louis, Feb. 9
Cincinnati, at Wichita, Feb. 16