Six teams fromthe South, five from the Midwest and a scattering from other sections will beamong the leading contenders for No. 1 national ranking. The list, compiled byJoe Jares, Curry Kirkpatrick, Peter Carry and Billy Reed, is followed byscouting reports on other outstanding teams in the country and a look at thesmall colleges, Kenyon of Ohio in particular, and at the parlous state of ballhandling.
"I think thatvery conceivably we could have the finest front line that college basketballhas ever had," says UCLA Coach John Wooden. Of course, any front line thathad Lew Alcindor at center would be scary, even if the two forwards were TomThumb and Tiny Tim. Alcindor's attributes, aside from playing musicalinstruments, are reasonably good basketball skills coupled withheight—officially 7'1½", although Centers Rusty Clark of North Carolina andDennis Awtrey of Santa Clara, rafter scrapers themselves, claim he is at least7'3".
Whatever hisexact measurements, Alcindor has dominated the college game for two seasons andmost likely will rule this one. And the Bruins have considerably more than TomThumb and Tiny Tim to help him.
December 2, 1968
There is 6'5"Lynn Shackelford, whose strange, long-distance jump shot makes him the perfectcomplement to Alcindor; 6'6" Curtis Rowe, who averaged 32.6 points and 18.5rebounds on last season's undefeated freshman team; 6'8" Sidney Wicks, atough rebounder who averaged 26 points a game in junior college; and JimNielsen, an unpolished but effective boardman. If Alcindor gets injured ortired, in will go 6'8½" Steve Patterson, a red-shirt last season who inpractice gave Alcindor some of his toughest games of the year.
But somebody hasto shepherd the ball upcourt. Tricky Mike Warren used up his eligibility, andLucius Allen is also gone, having managed to avoid classrooms but not marijuanaand the law. So Wooden must do some fancy transplants. "We just don't haveany as good around," he says, "but neither does anyone else."
One transplantpatient is 6'3½" Kenny Heitz, who started at forward on the nationalchampionship team two years ago but rode the bench most of last season. He isdeft and imaginative at getting the ball to Alcindor but still feels more athome in the corner. Bill Sweek, another ex-forward, seems to be the Bruins'best at leading the breakneck fast break. But the search for a backcourt manmight end up with Wooden getting out the old Purdue sneakers and having a go atit himself, particularly if Don Saffer, the one man who has played the positionbefore, doesn't recover from a back injury.
Woodenexperienced his least successful seasons when UCLA was inexperienced at guard,but in none of those years did he have Lew Alcindor.
Spero as a namemay have meant nothing before last summer, but for 20 years it has stood forbeer, burgers and basketball in Chapel Hill. Spero Dorton, who runs the GoodyShop, one of the land's best campus drinking emporiums, says of theVice-President elect: "He spells his name with an I, I with an E. We'resupposed to use Y. But it's been a good year for us Greeks. Now if Carolina canplay some basketball, everything will be perfect."
In the last twoseasons North Carolina has played a lot of basketball, winning 54 games andreaching the NCAA finals each year. The performances are reminiscent of theseasons leading up to 1957, when the Tar Heels won 32 straight games and thenational championship. But Spero is nervous. "You can't expect to win, win,win all the time," he says. "People shouldn't be disappointed if wedon't play up to last season."
Spero may beworking on a reverse whammy. The Tar Heels lost only one man from the team thatfinished second in Los Angeles. He was Larry Miller, Carolina's best shooter,ball handler and leader, but Coach Dean Smith has plenty left, not the least ofwhom is 6'10" Center Rusty Clark, who came fast toward the end of lastseason. He and Bill Bunting, a quick forward whose 6'8" height is mostlyneck, will get more rest with the arrival of Lee Dedmon, a 6'10" sophomore.Joe Brown, 6'5", is a strong offensive rebounder. The backcourt, with DickGrubar, Gerald Tuttle, Eddie Fogler and Jim Delaney, is swift-handed anddefensive-minded, but its shooting is suspect, which means that North Carolinawill have to go to another man for the points, leadership and the mealmoney—6'5" Charlie Scott, fresh from the Olympic Games with a gold medalaround his neck and a new wife on his arm. Scott averaged 17.6 points last yearwhile playing second banana, and he is a gloriously exciting player who can—andwill—play all over the court and do just about everything but paint the ballblue for the Tar Heels. That includes scoring.
Reinforced withScott's multiple talents, Smith can talk more easily about a schedule thatincludes early-season games with Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Villanova. "We'rethe same team as last year." he says. "Except we start every game withLarry Miller having fouled out. Maybe Charles can replace Miller, but then whoreplaces Charles?" Maybe Spero can tell.
Except on certaindays decreed according to Adolph Rupp's whim, Kentucky basketball practices areright out of a Mayor Daley convention, the security of Pentagon West—as thecourt is known underground—being tightly protected by militant managers postedhard by the gates. Professional Rupp-watchers, and these are legion arounddowntown Lexington, like to nudge each other and say, "Well, the old boy'sbrewing up another great one."
Rupp may or maynot be, but this much is certain: at 67 and only three seasons away frommandatory retirement, Rupp is nearly as ambitious as he ever was—and he hasbeen around Kentucky 38 years. "He's done the best coaching job this fallI've ever seen him do," says Assistant Joe Hall. Already the mostsuccessful coach in history, Rupp should win his 800th game sometime early nextyear. "Why should I write the story of my life now." he asked recently,"when the best may be yet to come?"
But he fellimmediately into coachly caution about the 1968-69 squad. "We're rankedmuch too high," he said. "We're having trouble finding a second forwardand we lost six good seniors." The Kentucky schedule, he could have added,is demanding; but let the moaning cease right there. The team that rankedfourth in the nation last season has four returning starters and Rupp isbrewing something special in the fastness of his practice court.
At leastthree-fifths of that something are last year's "Super Sophs"—MikeCasey, Dan Issel and Mike Pratt—all wiser and tougher as juniors. Casey,homegrown and off the farm, showed up for practice with a sore arm, the resultof a barnyard accident. He is Rupp's kind of player, lean and quick andaggressive, and Rupp says if LSU offered Pete Maravich in a straight swap, hewould keep Casey. Issel ranks with Florida's Neal Walk and Georgia's BobLienhard as the best big men in the Southeastern Conference. Pratt is theteam's catalyst: dependable, unshakable and grossly underrated. The team hasonly one senior, 6'1" Phil Argento, which shows to what depths Kentucky'srecruiting had once sunk. But there are two deadeye shooters, Terry Mills andsophomore Greg Starrick, and only Rupp knows what other surprises lurk behindthose gates. The best may come this year.
All five startersare back from the 24-5 team that won the Southern Conference championship; thetoughest league opponent, West Virginia, is now an independent; of 27 games,only eight are on the road—and one of those on a neutral court; they havemuscle, shooting, defense, experience and rebounding. As they might say inrural North Carolina, "Ain't no way Davidson's gonna lose many."
Davidson College,a liberal-arts school 20 miles north of Charlotte, has 1,000 men students, andit seems as if at least half of them are blue-chip basketball players justdrooling to get off the bench and help operate Coach Lefty Driesell'sdouble-post offense. The Wildcats are older and wiser than when they lost toNorth Carolina by just four points in last season's NCAA Eastern Regional. Theycould reverse that score this time.
Reverser No. 1 isNew Yorker Mike Maloy, who is not quite 6'7" but leaps like 6'9" andmoves like 5'10". If he does not make some pro team a dandy forward afterhe graduates, then Lefty Driesell is right-handed. Maloy, who worked in anantipoverty program in Charlotte last summer, plays one of Davidson's twinposts and was the team's high scorer in 12 games last season as a sophomore. Itwould seem that a taller opponent could stuff the ball back into his big grin,but the other Wildcat center. 6'6" tough-guy Doug Cook from New Jersey, isalways around to set picks. Cook was hampered by injuries as a sophomore, yetscored only a little less than Maloy. And he normally defends against the otherteam's best forward.
Driesell mighthave a slight problem at the important point position at the top of the key.Senior Dave Moser from Fort Wayne, Ind., who drinks three to five orange sodapops after practice each night (thus explaining the orange-red hue of hishair), is a nifty ball handler and defender, but Driesell would like to have anexperienced guard or two behind him. The wings are well stocked with 6'4"junior Jerry Kroll, a Texas sharpshooter; 6'3" senior Wayne Huckel, agenuine Rhodes Scholarship candidate; and 6'5" senior Mike O'Neill fromIndiana.
It's a scholarlyteam of would-be doctors, attorneys and architects, and—don't laugh—would-beEastern champs.
In the lobby ofNotre Dame's new 11,500-seat indoor arena (named, laboriously, the Athletic andConvocation Center), the display cases hold only two basketball trophies—onefor defeating Butler last year, the other for winning a Christmas tournament in1955. There is also a tactful sampling of football hardware—one Heisman Trophy,one National Championship plaque, one Grantland Rice Award. The contrast hasnot been lost on Coach Johnny Dee, who has labored mightily the past four yearsto build a new image for Irish basketball. The 1965-66 team had a 5-21 record;last year it was 21-9. All the regulars from that team are back, but three ofthem will play only when Dee decides the nation's best collection of sophomoresneeds a rest. Football, move over.
The two who willnot be knocked off the first string are senior Forwards Bob Whitmore andCaptain Bob Arnzen. Both averaged more than 20 points a game last year, andArnzen was a high scorer in the classroom, too. He may well be left with theBradleyesque choice between the pros and a Rhodes Scholarship. Whitmore, anexceptional rebounder at 6'7", is one of four products of Dee's verysuccessful recruiting drive in the Washington, D.C., Catholic high schools. Theother three are all sophomores, and two will start; one of these, Austin Carr,could well be the star of the team. A 6'3" guard with the build of afullback, Carr averaged 34.7 points with the freshmen. He will play in thebackcourt while Sid Catlett and Collis Jones fight for the open spot up front.Catlett, at 6'8" and 220 pounds, has the edge, but he sat out last yeargetting caught up with his studies while Jones was scoring 23.4 points a gamefor the freshmen. Jackie Meehan, another sophomore and excellent ball handler,will pair with Carr at guard.
This leaves theIrish with one tremendous bench: Dwight Murphy, Jim Derrig and Mike O'Connell,the three displaced starters, and sophomores John Plieck, Tom Sinnott and JimHinga, who are considered only a step behind Carr, Catlett and Jones. There isan immediate problem, though, UCLA in the second game. With so many sophomores,Notre Dame cannot possibly win, or can it? Four years ago when Whitmore andCatlett played at Washington's DeMatha High, they handed New York's PowerMemorial its only loss. The Power star was Lew Alcindor.
About the onlyblue note in the Kansas outlook, other than the fact that gifted Guard Jo JoWhite runs out of eligibility after the first 18 games, is the new road-uniformcolor—blue instead of the traditional red. Apparently, there was already toomuch red in the Big Eight with Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The Jayhawks arein a race with Oregon State and Kentucky to be the first team ever to win 1,000games. Oregon State has 988, Kansas 984 and Kentucky 983. The schedule favorsKansas, and Coach Ted Owens has his heart set on being first to the wire"while Jo Jo is still with us." White is not weary of basketballdespite the Olympics. The morning after he returned from Mexico City he was inOwens' office showing off his gold medal, and at 1:30 p.m. he was working outwith the freshmen.
White led thescoring last season (15.3 points per game), usually brought the ball up alone(even against pressure defenses), cleverly stole passes and usually guarded theother team's highest-scoring guard or forward. What happens when White departs?By that time, Owens hopes, Tim Natsues, a California junior-college transferwho is "quick, active and a good shooter," will be ready. If he is not,then junior Rich Bradshaw probably will be groomed as the replacement.
With a largesupply of tall, strong players, Owens plans to use a double-post offense,probably with 6'9" sophomore Dave Robisch and 6'10" sophomore RogerBrown at the interchangeable high-low spots and 6'10" Dave Nash and6'8" Greg Douglas in reserve. Robisch, who is an excellent left-handedpitcher, has a soft, almost unblockable jumper from as far as 25 feet and evenbrought the ball up against a full-court press in one freshman game. However,he is not especially quick and needs to improve his defense.
At the wings,Bradshaw, Bruce Sloan and Phil Harmon are all strong candidates, and Whitecould move in there, too, if Natsues comes along. Sophomore Pierre Russell,Lucius Allen's hotshot successor at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City,Kans., will also play a lot and just might be a third starting rookie.
"We willconcentrate on moving the ball and moving the bodies," says Owens. He hasthe bodies, even though he will lose one of the best.
Practices at NewMexico are distinguished by the imposing sight of Ron Sanford, Greg Howard andWillie Long trying their best to tear each other apart. The three are tall,strong, tough, fast, mobile and frankly horrifying when they congregate underthe basket in University Arena. Lately, the rabid Albuquerque fans who gatherthere every day to watch them have been talking about a fourth giant—the onewho got away. "He wouldn't even have started for us," is one of thethings they say, only half jokingly. Or, "He'd have to be a 6'9"guard." The "he" is Spencer Haywood, who became a national heroovernight with his performance at the Olympic Games. Haywood was all set to goto New Mexico, then sometime during the summer he changed course in mid-boundand surfaced at Detroit, a circumstance that is regarded with mixed emotions.Coach Bob King has enough of a problem finding room for 6'8" Sanford and6'9" Howard, who together last season averaged 30 points and 19 rebounds,and 6'7" rookie Long. Long averaged 34 points and 16 rebounds as a freshmanand held Haywood to a draw in two games while the Olympian was attendingTrinidad State (Colo.) Junior College.
King vows he willnot play all three at the same time so Long hangs around the sidelines andglowers a lot until he is sent in to do his stuff. It is interesting, though,that New Mexico's success really lies in the development of a comparativedwarf, 5'7" Petie Gibson. All flash and fancy is the skinny Gibson's style,and he will run the Lobos' new running game with a pair of the swiftest handsand the most bowed legs the West has ever seen. The freshmen went gun-shy aftercatching some of Gibson's passes in the teeth, but the varsity should adaptmore quickly. The wings are rugged and experienced. Ron Becker, 6'4", andSteve Shropshire, an inch taller, will start now that veteran Howard Grimes hasbeen red-shirted. Becker, a blond biology major and avid fisherman who hopesfor a career in wildlife development, is knowledgeable on the differencesbetween deer and antelope, but his chief game is to shoot from outside againstthe many zone defenses the Lobos are sure to see.
After winning theconference in February and then losing the final three games in March, NewMexico ended last season on a disappointing note, but a Mexican proverb saysthat a team with three giants, a bowlegged dwarf and a three-game losing streakalways comes back.
Since OscarRobertson was a sophomore in 1957-58, every seat in Cincinnati's campus arenahas been sold before the season began. In some years the rush to be a part ofthe scene could be attributed more to loyalty than good sense. Not this season.Cincinnati has the speed, height, muscle and experience to win the MissouriValley Conference crown. But more important, perhaps, is what rival Louisvilledoes not have: All-America Westley Unseld, who has finally graduated.
Coach Tay Bakerhas made two important changes with the 1968-69 Bearcats. Although he prefers atake-your-sweet-time offense, he intends to let his charges run more than usualbecause a) they like to and b) it is not wise to hobble greyhounds. The otherchange is a bit of musical chairs with his two big men, 6'9" senior RickRoberson and 6'8" junior Jim Ard. Last year Ard was a forward and Robersonthe center; Baker has switched them in the hope that Roberson can make theadjustment to the corner better than Ard did.
Not that Ard wasany kind of flop. He was named Cincinnati's best defensive player and the MVC'sbest sophomore while averaging 13.9 points and nine rebounds a game. He shouldbe much more dangerous in the pivot. Roberson, superb in one game and mediocrein the next, is more than willing to move to the corner because he knows hewill probably have to play there in the pros.
The best reasonof all for Tay to let the Bearcats run is 6' junior Don Ogletree, who lookslike a starving 13-year-old boy. Nobody knows where he gets the energy, but hestreaks up and down the floor like a state 440 champ (which he was in highschool in Batavia, Ohio) and feeds his teammates so well that any Cincinnatiworkout seems to be an agitated rondo capped by the refrain, "Nice pass,'Tree.' "
The other guard,6'2" defensive ace Gordon Smith, tore an Achilles' tendon last season whenthe Bearcats were leading the league. They ended up third. This spring hesuffered the same injury to the other foot. "But he looks pretty goodnow," says Baker.
Cincinnati hasother good athletes, especially sophomore Forwards Don Hess and SteveWenderfer. All those ticket holders should congratulate themselves on theirperseverance and keep in mind a natural boon to loyal Cincinnatians: it is justa short float down the Ohio River to the NCAA tournament in Louisville.
"E-E-E-E-E-E!" The sound began far up in the sky boxes of the Astrodomeand thundered across the floor and finally onto the court. When all the Es hadrun their course, Elvin Hayes had done his thing, UCLA had fallen and Houstonwas at the top of the polls. The Cougars advanced to numerous postseasonlaurels—team of the year, Coach of the Year (for Guy V. Lewis) and Player ofthe Year (for Hayes)—and wound up in Los Angeles summoned by the NCAA and yetwholly unprepared to be so magnificent all over again. Two months and two daysafter their ascension, they were down once more, battered and bowed by one ofthe finest team displays of all time. But it may not be a long way back.
Besides Hayes,Houston will miss Don Chaney, the gifted defensive guard. The team, however, isdeeper than ever. For opening taps, the Cougars go from E to O. Ollie Taylor, a6'2" transfer from nearby San Jacinto Junior College, will jump center,move to a wing position and play the rest of the game high above the lightssomewhere, Taylor was the leading junior-college scorer in the country the pasttwo years, and his average of 18 rebounds a game is ample evidence of hisjumping prowess. Houston's ball handling is again the responsibility of GeorgeReynolds, who, along with Taylor, will do more shooting from backcourt whileTom Gribben plays against small, fast teams and aids the press.
Inside is whereHouston has always won. Ken Spain, fresh from the Olympic team, and Theodis Leeare two tall men who return somewhat metamorphosed: Spain lost about 20 poundsover the summer and "Slim" Lee gained 20. Off the court, they are bothengaging dancers, while on it Spain minces no steps in going to the boards fromthe low post. Also up front are 6'10½" redshirt Mars Evans, 6'9"sophomore Bob Hall, a fine shooter, and the Bell brothers, Carlos, a runningback in the fall, and Melvin, the fearsome "Savage" of two years agowho was the surprise of preseason practice. All of this strength will help witha schedule that includes three tournaments before the New Year as well as awaygames with Southern Cal and UCLA and another dome spectacular, this one againstNotre Dame. The E is gone from Houston, but Vs (for victory) are stillaround.
The Santa Clarabasketball team has a coach with lightning bolts across his chest, a forecourtthat surfs a lot, a gym that seats zero people and, faced with the fame of theSanta Clara Swim Club, a second-class standing in its own home town. "Wehaven't made many waves around here," says Coach Dick Garibaldi, but it isevident he intends to. At practices Garibaldi wears a bright blue sweat suitwith a jagged yellow streak on the front and "Thunder" on the seat ofthe pants. "I guess I do thunder at them once in a while," he says."I guess that's the understatement of the year," says Buck Polk, afriend. To his players Garibaldi is Captain Marvel, and last season the Broncoswent "Shazam" 23 times in 27 games, the best record in school history.The young team won 15 straight games and humiliated New Mexico in the NCAAregionals before falling to UCLA in a game that found Lew Alcindor at the foulline 16 times.
That statisticindicates how the players go about their work. Overall, they are not tall, butthey are strong and will knock you around a bit. Up front are 6'9",235-pound Center Dennis Awtrey, a quiet, curly-haired history major who was theonly sophomore on last year's NCAA all-academic first team, and the Ogdenbrothers, Ralph and Bud. It is around this triumvirate that the Santa Claraoffense revolves. Except for a tendency to relax on defense, Bud, 6'5½", isthe complete player, muscling underneath, whipping outside for his jumper andpassing off with skill. His baby brother, half an inch shorter, is more of afinesse operator, while Awtrey rebounds and blocks out extremely well and haspolished his shooting game. The three shot a combined 51% from the floor lastyear. The starting guards probably will be 6' Joe Diffley and 6'1" TerryO'Brien, but Kevin Eagleson, a ball hawk built like a mortar shell, will comeoff the bench time and again to get the attack moving.
Because theBroncos' success is based on precise execution, the year all Garibaldi'splayers have had together should make them significantly stronger. The Broncosare not as deep as they were last year and their league (WCAC) is consideredpassé on the West Coast, but don't go by appearances. Marvel and histhunderbolts still have plenty of "Shazams" up their sweat-sleeves.
Villanova'sbasketball team, the third set of Wildcats in the top. 11 (not to mentionBearcats and Cougars), will feature two fine players from Florida, Johnny Jonesof Pompano Beach and Howard Porter of Sarasota, and this is an anomaly.Everybody knows Villanova is just a few stops up the Main Line fromPhiladelphia, one of the richest breeding grounds of basketball talent in thecountry. Usually, Coach Jack Kraft is more than content to make do with thelocal product, but he couldn't resist going south a few years ago when he readof Jones's phenomenal scoring feats. He landed Jones and two years later, as abonus, Porter, who was impressed with Jones's success. The two of them on thevarsity this season could lead to great things.
"Whetherwe're outstanding or not will depend on what we do with Princeton, BostonCollege and North Carolina in December," says Kraft.
Jones, a 6'4"senior who used to drive his mother nuts with his succession of pet alligatorsdown home, has led the Wildcats in rebounding two straight seasons despite hisunderwhelming height. And he uses a weird jump shot (elbow straight out fromthe body, forearm parallel to the floor) to lead in scoring, too. Porter, a6'8" sophomore, averaged 30 points on the freshman team and twice hit morethan 50 points in a game.
"He is notgoing to be taken out unless there is an injury or he gets into foultrouble," said Kraft. "He can leap very, very well, and he is atremendous shooter from 20 feet on in. He can score."
Porter, in fact,shoots and moves so well that Kraft would like to play him at forward, but thiswill depend on the preseason performances of three center candidates, 6'9"Leon Wojnowski, not much of a scorer to date; 6'5" Sam Sims, an Alabamaimport; and 6'7" Jim McIntosh, third-leading rebounder last season.
The Wildcats havegood backcourt possibilities with tricky ball handler Frank Gillen, 5'10"director of offense and defense; Fran O'Hanlon, a good shooter from thePhiladelphia playgrounds; and Bob Melchionni, a star operator in Kraft'sfrustrating zone defense that makes one wonder whether there isn't a sixth manin there. This will be a typical Florida-Philly team.
New Mexico State
Were it not forsomething called the Potato Classic in Houlton, Maine, the first basketballtournament of the new season would be in Las Cruces, N. Mex., where "TheAmazin' Aggies" of New Mexico State dedicate their new Pan American Centeron Nov. 30. Just how amazin' the Aggies will be remains to be seen, but theluxurious facility that they will occupy out on the vast reaches of the borderwasteland is certainly something special. It cost $3.5 million, accommodates13,040 seats and boasts a sound system of 256 speakers. For once Coach LouHen-son's 13 recruits will have something to look at besides a cactus, which nodoubt is fine with eight of them who come from decidedly noncactus places likeSyracuse and Yonkers, N.Y., Camden, N.J. and Indianola, Miss.
In two seasonsand with plenty of drawling corn pone, Henson has elevated State's program tonational prominence. His first team was a collection of midgets and no-accountswho won 15 games. Last year the Aggies won 23 and made the West Regional, wherethey upset hated rival New Mexico for third place after having lost to thesister school twice during the regular season.
Henson speakssoftly but carries some big words. "When we're playing well, we can beatanyone in the country," he says. The Aggies are especially proud of Mr.Inside and Mr. Outside, 6'9" Sam Lacey and 6'2" Jimmy Collins. Slammin'Sam, a baby-faced junior who led the team in scoring and rebounding lastseason, is partial to defense—especially the move where he goes up, slams ashot down a man's throat and then grabs the ball. Nobody gets the ball from Samafter a slam. Collins, who played infrequently as a sophomore until he learneddefense, is an exceptional shooter and forms an imaginative and crowd-pleasingbackcourt with quick little (5'8") Charley Criss. Experienced John Burgessis a hustling forward, but most of Lacey's help on the boards will come from6'8" sophomore Jeff Smith, who is smooth and very active for his size andwho can score from the high post.
Stillunrecognized and unwanted by many major teams, the Aggies are faced withanother cotton-candy schedule and may be 15-0 through late January.Then—caramba—back-to-back games with New Mexico, By then, not just New Mexicobut the whole country may be watching.
There are so manygood-looking basketball players on Vanderbilt's campus these days that everytime Coach Roy Skinner turns around, the kneecaps of a potential All-Americaare looking him in the eye. Some were easy to find, like Steve Turner, the7'2" freshman from Memphis who will not play until next year. But otherswere uncovered in the hills of Appalachia, or salvaged after being rejected byless perceptive talent scouts. All are tributes to Skinner's remarkablecapacity for recruiting, and together they insure that Vandy will be right upthere with the good ones for a long time.
It is a measureof Skinner's success that Vandy's rambling Memorial Gymnasium soon will beenlarged to 15,000 seats, more than twice the capacity when Skinner became headcoach nine years ago. His record of 148 wins and 54 losses, including 87 of 96before the home fans, would call for a lifetime contract at some schools, butSkinner has no contract at all with Vanderbilt. "If something better comesalong," he says, "I want to be able to take it without breaking acontract."
This will be atypical Skinner team, which means that it will run, hustle, press and scrap. Asteam leader Tom Hagan puts it, "We couldn't do without that runnin' andshootin'." Vandy's record could be magnificent or mediocre, depending onhow quickly Skinner's nine sophomores grow up. Two of them, 6'7" ThorpeWeber and 6' Rudy Thacker, will be starters, and a third, 6'8" Van Oliver,will spell 6'9" senior Bob Bundy at center. The young men will get theirbaptism early: North Carolina and Davidson in their second and third games.
Weber is theschool's most eagerly awaited prospect since Clyde Lee, and his presencecompletes a fearsome front line: 6'5" junior Perry Wallace is the SEC'sbest jumper, and Bundy made 63% of his shots last season. The player who makesVandy go, however, is Hagan, a dedicated scrambler who gets by more on nervethan natural ability or his great mop of blond hair. If Vandy doesn't win itall now, there is always the comforting thought of next season and the next andthe next. "They're going to have some great teams here," said Hagan,"but, of course, I haven't given up on this year yet."
Wherever CoachJohnny Oldham goes in Bowling Green, Ky., there are well-meaning basketballfans—a banker here, a salesman there—waiting to ambush him: Can Western beatUCLA? Win the NCAA? Jump over the moon? "We could have a great team,"says Oldham, with a sigh, "but I'm not nearly as optimistic as ourfans."
Of course, theAlcindor syndrome would have been inevitable at any school that signed JimMcDaniels, all 7 feet of him, but Western Kentucky followers, used to old EdDiddle, who waved red towels for decades and ran hundreds of opponents into theBarren River while making basketball a way of life, were particularlysusceptible. Nearly 8,000 season tickets were sold before the opener, and everyhome game in the magnificent E. A. Diddle Arena probably will draw SRO crowdsof 12,500.
To suggest thatWestern could fall flat on its face this season is unpatriotic in BowlingGreen, although it is a matter of record that last season's ballyhooed freshmanteam, led by McDaniels, lost three of its first five games. At least three ofthose freshmen will start this season, and the schedule waiting for them is ascosmopolitan as it is ambitious: games in Madison Square Garden, Chicago'sStadium, Philadelphia's Palestra and the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.
So intent areWestern fans on immortalizing McDaniels that even the facts are sometimesincidental. "McDaniels is really 6'11", "Oldham explains, "butthis 7' thing got started and now we're going along with it." What makesMcDaniels remarkable is not his height as much as his quickness and outsideshooting ability, which Oldham rates better than Alcindor's. Lately McDanielshas taken to wearing glasses. "Man, when I start seeing two guys outthere," he says, "I've got to wear something."
Almost equallypleasing to Oldham are the other Western players, who are talented enough tofeed McDaniels when he's hot and score themselves when he is cold. Chief feederis 6'1" senior Rich Hendrick, who makes up a promising backcourt withrookie Jim Rose. Jerome Perry, 6'4", and Clarence Glover, 6'8", are twoother sophomores recruited by McDaniels. The tip-off here, though, is Oldham,who says he may retire—after McDaniels graduates.
For the want of anail the shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe the horse was lost, and lastyear at Berkeley for the want of a haircut the kingdom was lost. As quickly asCoach Rene Herrerias could tell Bob Presley to cut his hair and Presley couldsay no, strained relations between white and black athletes and their coacheswere blown out into the open. Now the athletic department has finally stoppedshaking, several officials have departed, and new Coach Jim Padgett, who wasHerrerias' assistant last year, says, "We've got more important things toworry about than hair. All we're concerned with on this team is unity."
A tough andarticulate man who coached at San Jose City College for six seasons beforecoming to Cal three years ago, Padgett has plenty of material to unify with.Among those returning in a season that should see the Bears climb back torespectability for the first time since 1959 (when they were, ironically, thelast all-white team to win the NCAA championship) and 1960 is Presley, the6'11" center who, after only three years of organized basketball, is stilllearning the game. Big Bob has his hair, a new Doberman pinscher puppy who canbarely see over his master's ankles and a dangerous hook shot from 10 feet in.Paul Loveday, a 6'10" transfer from Brigham Young, Guards Trent Gaines andWaddell Blackwell and Forwards Tom Henderson and Clarence (Tree) Johnson, theworld-class high jumper who once held the NCAA freshman record at 7'3¼",are all experienced, but it is the sophomores who demand attention. Either 6'Charlie Johnson, a spectacular passer, or little (5'9") Bob White, Cal'sbest backcourt shooter and defender, will start opposite Gaines. While they andthe others like the ball, somebody will have to give it up to 6'4½" JackieRidgle, who is as super a rookie as will be found anywhere. A year afterPadgett discovered Ridgle in—hold it—Altheimer, Ark., Ridgle averaged 30.5points and 14 rebounds for the freshmen while shooting—hold it again—63% fromthe floor. "We can't hide in the weeds anymore with this guy," saysPadgett. "We're just going to see who can guard him." UCLA, which is inthe same conference, probably can, but few other teams are going to beat theBears.
Marquette CoachAl McGuire's office is an old Victorian townhouse on Milwaukee's WisconsinAvenue, but he is New York City basketball all the way. McGuire learned thegame on the playgrounds of Far Rockaway, played it at St. John's and with theKnicks in the old Garden and now looks to New York for his players. Currently,Marquette has five New Yorkers on its roster, and two of them. Captain GeorgeThompson and sophomore Dean Meminger, are the best players in the school'shistory. "I don't care how big a guy is anymore," says McGuire. "Ilook to see how quick he is."
Thompson andMeminger are very quick—and by today's standards very small. A chunky, 6'2"forward whose extraordinarily heavy legs tend to disguise his agility, Thompsonwas the team's high scorer (22.8 points per game) and top rebounder last yearand should break all the school scoring records this season. Meminger, smalleryet at an even 6 feet, averaged 28 points a game as a freshman guard. Both menwill have to be superb to compensate for the loss of four 1967-68 starters,including Pat Smith, the first-string center who has been suspended by hiscoach. Center Joe Thomas and Forward Ron Rahn are expected to play lots, whileeither junior Jeff Sewell or Gene Bromstead, a transfer from Duke, will takeover the vacant backcourt spot. If he adapts to McGuire's style, Ric Cobb, whojumps so well that he is known as the "Elevator Man" back home inBrooklyn, could cause Thomas to shift to the corner. Cobb averaged 25 points agame in junior college a year ago.
Marquette's lackof height hardly worries McGuire, who has had a 44-15 record over the past twoseasons without a starter over 6'6". His key to winning has been a complex,shifting defense stressing the sandlot ingredient of heavy contact. "Idon't believe you can play defense well without contact. That's what we work onthe most, teaching the kids aggressiveness," says McGuire, who also uses asmany as five different defensive setups during a game. In contrast, theMarquette offense is simple. "We just have a couple of patterns that takeabout seven seconds to go through," says the coach. "If we can't getanything off them, then I tell my kids to play playground." In Milwaukeethese days that comes naturally.
In October, PeteCarril, the stocky, cigar-smoking Princeton coach, stood in the Tigers' hugedouble-domed athletic complex where his team was supposed to open its homeseason against Duke this week and saw something that more resembled a desertedhangar in Newfoundland than a 7,500-seat cage (Ivy talk for field house).Completion is now 1½ years behind schedule, which is sad, because when theTigers finally do get in their cage it could still be deserted. This Princetonteam may be the last in a line of good ones dating back to the Bradleyera—1962-65.
Carril'sunderclassmen are not exceptional, but his juniors and seniors certainly are.Captain Chris Thomforde, the blond, 6'9" center who looks all pink andfreshly scrubbed as an aspiring Lutheran minister should, is back for his finalturn. As a sophomore Thomforde was a star. But last season, with his mindwrapped up in campus politics and one heel wrapped in a bandage, he was off.The foot is better now, the politics have run their course and, most important,defending Ivy champion Columbia has been significantly weakened by the loss ofits 7' center, Dave Newmark. Juniors 6'7" John Hummer, a strong rebounderand inside shooter, and 6'3" Jeff Petrie, who shifts back to his naturalposition at forward, combine with Thomforde to give the Tigers one of thestrongest front-courts anywhere. All three averaged in double figures lastseason and Petrie, who will be getting his startlingly accurate jump shots offfrom the corner, threatens to become a 20-point-a-game man.
The backcourt isthe problem. Junior John Arbogast, who will start regularly for the first time,probably will not score much, although he should help with his ball handlingand defense. The other backcourt job will go to one of two sophomores, EricNeumann or Bill Sickler. Tom Chestnut is the bench man at forward sincePrinceton's strongest reserve, 6'8" Mike Mardy, has decided to dropbasketball.
Princeton'sschedule, with games against Villanova and Duke to open the year and Davidsonand Columbia stacked around New York's Holiday Festival, is tough. Carril maybe pleased after all to be playing in cozy, 2,600-seat Dillon Gym, which hasterrorized opponents and helped Princeton win championships for years.
In a narrowlittle room adjacent to his office in Purdue's new basketball arena, CoachGeorge King watches movies of his team's games last season. His projector isequipped with all the latest gadgets—self-loader, fast reverse, slow motion andstop action—and when King punches the button to rewind a segment of the filmand then runs it ahead at half speed, it is usually to dwell on something heconsiders beautiful. Most times the beauty is provided by tough, 6'3"Forward Herm Gilliam, coming off with the defensive rebound, controlling thefast break up the floor and then hitting Rick Mount, the blond, supershooterguard, with a perfect pass. Mount, whose extraordinary range and quick releasehave earned him the nickname, The Rocket, scores on this play with startlingfrequency.
The Boilermakersmade 65% of their points on the run last year, and the unselfish Gilliam fedMount on 75% of his successes on those plays. But in looking at the rest of histeam's performance, there must be times when King wishes his projector had afast-forward speed.
If it did, hecould more easily shut his eyes to the many times the Boilermakers failed tograb the rebound, or to those occasions when Mount, who set a Big Ten scoringrecord for sophomores with 29.7 points a game, was being embarrassed ondefense, or when his two big men, juniors Chuck Bavis (7') and Jerry Johnson(6'10"), were being sadly punished by the opponent's center. A team withskillful defenders like Gilliam, 6'5" Tyrone Bedford and senior Guard BillKeller, who tied Gilliam in the voting for Purdue's most valuable player andwill serve with him as co-captain, should not have been easily scored on. ButMount spent one-third of the season playing with a steel plate in one sneakerand was never able to regain lateral or backward agility, which are importanton defense.
With his foothealed and the knowledge that both King and the pros will be looking carefullyat his defensive play, Mount should improve. That and the addition of LarryWeatherford, a 6'2½" swingman who averaged 26.8 for the freshmen, ought tobe enough to guarantee Purdue the Big Ten title. And if either of the big men,particularly Bavis, who showed exceptional potential in high school, developsquickly, King might start watching everything in slow motion.
The La SalleCollege basketball program was coming apart at the seams, so out went an S O Sto the Pennsylvania State Legislature, where Tom Gola was learning to be apolitician. Yes, said Gola, after getting clearance from the state RepublicanParty, he would become the Explorers' coach, which caused one long-sufferingfan to splutter: "Thank Gola. we've got God."
This is the sameTom Gola who was responsible almost alone for what the Explorers accomplishedduring his All-America playing career: victory 102 times in 121 games, an NITtitle (1952), an NCAA championship (1954) and a runner-up (1955). Basketballhistory at La Salle is dated either B.G. or A.G., and the After Gola storyhasn't been happy. "Everything went downhill," Gola said. "I wantto bring La Salle back up to where it belongs."
Unfortunately,the second coming of Gola did not occur soon enough to save La Salle from atwo-year NCAA probation for rules infractions, making the team ineligible forpostseason tournaments. This was a blow to a team thinking championship, butthe magic presence of Gola has eased the pain. "You try harder," sayssenior Stan Wlodarzyk, "knowing he is there watching you."
All last season'sstarters are back, which presents this intriguing question: If La Salle couldhave a 20-8 record for an unpopular coach, Jim Harding, what will the Explorersdo for Gola? Better, says senior Guard Bernie Williams. "Everybody's soready that we run to practice." And the runners will be stronger. One oflast year's starters almost surely will be no higher than No. 6 this season,making room for 6'7" sophomore Ken Durrett. The La Salle look will befamiliar: a weaving, five-man offense—like the one taught by Ken Loeffler inGola's playing days—revolving around the multitalents of 6'5" All-Americacandidate Larry Cannon.
Even moreexciting than La Salle's games may be watching Gola handle the demands on histime. Re-elected to the State Legislature last month over a Democrat whosecampaign propaganda included basketball-shaped leaflets that read "Don'tdribble away your vote," Gola will be commuting between the state capitalat Harrisburg and La Salle's home base in Philadelphia. Of course, if La Sallewins them all, Gola may forget Harrisburg.
Returning fromthe shadows, hopefully with the same national success enjoyed by a graduate ofits law school—he became President-elect—Duke seems capable of reclaiming theAtlantic Coast Conference prestige lost over the past two seasons to NorthCarolina. Coach Vic Bubas, as a matter of fact, considers his campaign to haveevery bit as much appeal. He has youth, a platform partly constructed with twooutstanding sophomores and a burning desire to be The One.
Because of6'10" Randy Denton, who succeeds graduated Mike Lewis at center, and5'10" Dick DeVenzio, the Pennsylvania high school star who chose Duke overPrinceton and North Carolina, the Blue Devils will again be strong underneathand quick outside. Denton is agile for his size and has good hook and jumpshots, but he is not about to replace Lewis as a rebounder. The whisperingamong basketball coaches is all about little DeVenzio.
"He'spotentially the best backcourt leader I've had," said Bubas. "He'squick and has tremendous court awareness. If you're open, he'll get you theball." He has a good medium jump shot, is a terrific driver and is not badon defense either, although he might get caught inside sometimes against ataller guard. With his playmaking, 6' senior Guard Dave (Slinky) Golden shouldbe extra dangerous from long range. He averaged 13.1 points a game last season,second to Lewis.
There is oneother regular left from the 22-6 Duke team of 1967-68, Forward SteveVandenberg, 6'7", who scores fairly well but must increase his appetite forrebounds. The fifth starting spot awaits 6'8" Warren Chapman, who sat outthe last campaign with an injured knee and, after two operations, still is notin his best form. His place might be taken by 6'7" Fred Lind, 6'7" TimTeer or another sophomore, 6'7" Rick Katherman. Of Chapman, Bubas has said,"I have my doubts."
Last season'steam was Bubas' slowest in nine years at Duke. DeVenzio's presence changes thatcompletely around. The Blue Devils have been in the top 10 in seven of the lasteight years and could be there again after Inauguration Day, when theirsophomores have matured and it is time again for that murderous ACCtournament.