1 SOUTH CAROLINA
Columbia, S.C. is not your everyday hotbed of campus antiwar sentiment, but last Oct. 15, 1,000 students demonstrated on M-Day at the Carolina Coliseum. Their target was not the moratorium but an M of a different order—that twinkling, wavy-haired, stylish charmer of a basketball coach, Frank McGuire. When McGuire's Gamecocks pranced onto the court for their first practice, the students stood en masse, clapping and cheering until McGuire himself appeared, when they cheered even louder. "I've never felt anything like it," McGuire says. "...well, yes I have. There was 1957." In 1957 while at North Carolina McGuire took his team of five New Yorkers to a 32-0 season and the national championship. On M-Day the Coliseum demonstrators were simply showing their appreciation for a man and a basketball program that are—12 years and one Carolina later—in a comparable position to turn out a national champion all over again.
The five iron men who played most of the way through last season's 21-victory schedule (including a stunning upset of LaSalle in the Quaker City final) have all returned. Well, almost all. Guard Billy Walsh succumbed to his school books and will sit out the first semester. In 6'10" Tom Owens and 6'2" John Roche, South Carolina has two skinny juniors who will be playing their seventh season together (they were teammates at LaSalle Academy in Manhattan) and who work the pick and roll better than anyone in college. A brilliant passer and shooter, Roche averaged 23.6 points a game and upset North Carolina's Charles Scott for the ACC player of the year award last season. He controls every South Carolina game with verve and polish and he just may be the finest backcourt man in the history of the conference. Though Owens led the league in rebounds, he is a natural forward and will move to the corner to make room for Tom Riker, a 6'10" sophomore who is left-handed, pink-cheeked, strong and agile. Riker moves and shoots either way underneath but must control a tendency to slash people muscling the boards if he wants to stay in the game. John Ribock, a 6'8" policeman who can shoot, is the other forward (and the only non-New Yorker of the first seven) while senior Bob Cremins and sophomore Bob Carver share the second guard spot until Walsh's return.
In addition to setting up for Roche's pet moves, South Carolina will run a lot more and vary its defenses from the standard zone McGuire had to use last season in order to protect his only five. The Gamecocks are deep, stylish and remarkably poised. It has taken a while, but Frank McGuire, himself a New York expatriate, is all the way back.
2 NEW MEXICO STATE
The case against New Mexico State concerns its competition—a group of potential disaster victims, according to critics. Of course, Joe Louis never took on anybody, either, nor did the New York Jets. Nor, in fact, did the last team to come wandering out of the Southwest wastelands with a schedule everybody laughed at. The Miners of Texas Western (now UTEP) went on to plunder the college basketball world in 1966, win the national championship and—it is a long time between drinks—stand today as the only team in the last six years to interrupt UCLA's monopoly on the title.
The local gentry of Las Cruces think they have seen enough of Coach Lou Henson and his first three Aggie teams (all of which went to the NCAA tournament) to suspect that they have another good bet from the white sands. "If we had been in another region the last two years, my kids think they could have made the final four," says Henson, who lost to UCLA in the '68 and '69 Western playoffs. "It feels good to be playing for No. 1 again—when you know you have a chance."
With their first six men back plus four sophomores who will help a lot, State may have as good a chance as anyone. The Aggies have won 47 games over the past two seasons with their two stars, Slammin' Sam Lacey and Jimmy Collins, sharing most of the honors. This summer Collins took the Mississippi-bred Lacey back home to Syracuse, where they worked in construction together and scrimmaged on the playgrounds. As a result, Lacey came to school 10 pounds lighter, twice as aggressive and seriously eyeing a pro contract.
With his newly acquired depth, Henson plans to run and run some more while pressing all over the court on defense. Lacey, 6'10", and Jeff Smith, 6'8", will get the ball; Collins and Charley Criss—one of the quickest backcourts anywhere—will handle it; and the Aggies will not so much run as smoke up to the basket. John Burgess, 6'6", is an unsung but solid defender and ball handler who could free Collins to work the baseline, where he is most dangerous. Criss was sorely missed by the Aggies in the playoffs last year (he was ineligible), because he runs the offense and is a good enough shooter to deny double teams on Collins. Now he will play the whole season.
Henson is a strict disciplinarian who softsells rather than screams his players into respect, and he is not one to allow his talent to get out of hand over playing time and who scores the points. His team's bum-of-the-month club includes Oklahoma Christian, Sul Ross and Boise State, but do not be deceived. New Mexico State is no light taco. As Henson says, "We're going to have to play awfully bad to lose."
It has been common for the UCLA basketball team to have a strong group of California-bred athletes enhanced by one or two black players from faraway places, attracted to Westwood because of Coach John Wooden, the supposedly glamorous life in L.A. and the school's reputation for fair treatment of Negroes. The Bruins have had Kenny Washington from South Carolina, Fred Slaughter from Kansas, Walt Hazzard from Philadelphia, Mike Warren from Indiana and that tall fellow from New York City. Now comes Henry Bibby of Franklinton, N.C., a 6'1" sophomore guard who has quickness and such a good shooting eye he could, according to admirers, stand 25 feet away and plunk a tennis ball into a drain pipe nine times out of 10.
Bibby is important to UCLA not only for his scoring (26.5 average as a freshman) but for his ball handling, too. Wooden intends to go back to his pre-Alcindor fast break, and Bibby's dribbling and passing have improved so much that he will be the middle man on most of the sprints down the court.
UCLA will also switch from the Alcindor low post to a high-post offense. Here the key man is 6'9" junior Steve Patterson, who was red-shirted during one of Alcindor's years. Patterson shoots well from the high post and in practice Wooden and assistant Denny Crum are drilling him on driving to the basket if he is too closely covered. Back are two strong junior forwards, 6'6½" Curtis Rowe (outstanding in the NCAA tournament) and 6'8" Sidney Wicks. Neither can shoot from the corner with the proficiency of the graduated Lynn Shackelford, but both are better than Shack in every other phase of the game, except perhaps attitude. Wicks does not always play up to his spectacular ability.
That Rowe and Wicks are not such deadly outside shooters, however, hardly matters. Beside Bibby there is 6'2" Guard John Vallely, one of the best beach volleyball players in California and another deadeye on the basketball court. Vallely scored 29 points, mostly from outside, in the NCAA semifinals and made the all-tourney team.
It is a very strong starting lineup, but UCLA does not seem to have the depth of the past, although there are a couple of quick players to put in for the full-court press, and a good substitute guard, Terry Schofield, who has been known to develop a very hot hand when the occasion called for it.
For the first time in years the Bruins are not the favorites to win the national championship and that could be a big asset. Says Wooden, barely suppressing a sense of relief: "I look forward to again coaching to try to win, rather than trying to keep from being defeated."
Purdue's senior Guard Rick Mount has been eating squirrel some nights this fall. He married his Lebanon, Ind. high school sweetheart last summer and, frankly, the Mounts cannot afford many T-bones. So the Big Ten's greatest scorer has taken to hunting and anybody who has seen his long-range jump shot knows the Mounts will not be hurting for meat—any more than Coach George King's Boilermakers will be hurting for points this winter. Behind Mount's fancy gunning they should win their second straight league championship and again contend seriously for the national title.
Mount is even more important to Purdue this year than in 1968-69 when he scored 33.3 points a game as the team finished second in the country. Missing from that high-scoring squad (93 points a game) are steady Guard Bill Keller and spectacular Forward Herman Gilliam, who led the Boilermakers in rebounding for three years although he stood only 6'3". Both were aggressive on defense and fast afoot, keying King's breakneck running game and setting up Mount while combining for 28.9 points a game themselves.
Last year's sixth man, 6'3" junior Larry Weatherford, will take over Keller's position and by season's end could be even better than Keller. Fast, sharp-shooting and defensively adept, Weatherford combines with Mount to give Purdue what King considers "the best pair of guards in the country."
The coach's optimism ends there because of a mountainous traffic jam of unproved players in the forecourt. Scrappy George Faerber is assured one starting spot and King hopes to match him with 6'7", 230-pound sophomores Bob Ford and William Franklin. Both are strong but they are also slow by recent Purdue standards, a fact that could force King to gear down his offense and turn to a triple-post pattern, thus putting all three of his bulky frontcourt men near the basket. To keep his sophomores out of foul trouble, King will relax his pressuring defense, perhaps even switching to a zone. Fouls are a most serious problem with Franklin, who had a lot of them as a freshman but who is regarded by some who have watched him as an uncut gem who could polish into another Westley Unseld. For added speed, King can turn to springy, sprinting Tyrone Bedford and, for more height, to 6'10" Jerry Johnson.
No matter who plays up front, Mount will do most of the shooting, a situation that is likely to make him rich enough to buy his little family all the steak they want after the season ends and to insure that he and the Boilermakers will never be reduced to eating crow.
Up on The Bluff overlooking beautiful downtown Pittsburgh (and the rolltop Civic Arena) sits Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost, founded in 1878. The name comes from the Marquis de Duquesne, who had the first mass said in Pittsburgh, but the basketball team had a better sense of alliteration than of history. It is nicknamed the Dukes, not the Marquises or even the Ghosts. The Dukes are famous for guards—Dave Ricketts, Sihugo Green, Willie Somerset were some of the best who played their college basketball there—and this season they have another fine one, Billy (Zip) Zopf, a little lefty who steals passes, feeds his teammates, scores points, earns almost straight A's and hopes to be a Rhodes Scholar after he graduates. He not only can see the Monongahela River from up on The Bluff, he can pronounce it.
"Red Auerbach likes the way he handles himself," says Coach Red Manning. "Billy is just one of the best backcourt men ever at this school, and that covers a lot of good ones. For defense and inspiration, he has no peer."
Yet this team, which finished with a 21-5 record last season and lost by one point to North Carolina in the semifinals of the NCAA East Regional, may have a guard even better than Zopf. He is Jarrett Durham, a slender, 6'5" shooter who led the Dukes in scoring (17.4) as a sophomore and did a fine job holding down elusive Charlie Scott in the second half of the Carolina game. Durham can play in the frontcourt, too, but it is doubtful that Manning needs any help there.
For body contact under the hoop, for instance, there are the 6'10" Nelson twins, 240-pound Garry and 235-pound Barry, who will never be mistaken for ballet dancers. Garry has the huskier build and the better shooting eye, Barry is the more agile, and the two in tandem are an awesome sight indeed. It is another measure of the Dukes' depth, however, that one of the two probably will not start. The forward most likely to break up the twins is Mickey Davis, a distant cousin of Zopf's, who averaged 27.8 points a game for the freshmen last season. Davis is unselfish and so good a passer and ball-handler at 6'6" that he could play backcourt were there any room there. If Davis is not up front, then JC transfer Perry Johnson, 6'4" younger brother of the Baltimore Bullets' Gus Johnson, will be. He is an excellent jump-shooter.
With a traditional respect for defense and four or five good subs waiting on the bench, the Dukes look like the best team in the East—maybe in the nation. Perhaps they did not go far enough when they upgraded themselves from marquises.
The winds of change have blown through Davidson, N.C., although life in that tiny intellectual haven seems normal enough. The Anchor Grill, which boasts a pinball machine as well as the world's greasiest cheeseburgers, is still there. So is Hattie's, the largest Budweiser distributor in the area. And the basketball team will approach but probably not improve upon its splendid 27-3 record of last season. Still, Lefty Driesell has gone to Maryland and 27-year-old Terry Holland, the first athlete recruited by Driesell in 1961, is now the head coach—and that is a very big change.
Team practices, once rigorous exercises in personal basketball Driesell style, are fun now. They are also open to the public for the first time in a decade, and players like Jerry Kroll, the versatile 6'4" wingman and a fine outside shot, are talking again—notably to Holland, who always did have rapport with the players when he was Driesell's assistant.
"Lefty was not the kind of guy you could talk to," says Kroll. "Terry would always understand. He has a lot of patience and I've learned more this year than any other. Practice is far more interesting and less of a drudgery than it was."
The fellow most affected by the coaching switch is All-America Mike Maloy, probably the quickest 6'1" athlete in the country. To stay eligible this winter Maloy, who rarely could get himself up for the lesser games and only occasionally was seen inside a classroom under Driesell, needed an A and a B in two summer courses. He responded with A in political science and B-plus in philosophy, and now he has even agreed to stick to training rules. Holland will use Maloy, whom he calls "the Mongoose," and strong Doug Cook in a double post. The combination should be hard to stop. Maloy's inside moves are as cagey as ever and his outside range has increased to 20 feet.
As under Driesell, Davidson will free-lance on offense, run plenty and play defense man-for-man. Holland's only problems are picking a second wingman and finding a playmaker to replace talented Dave Moser. If Bryan Adrian, a cocky 6'3" sophomore, does not provide the leadership Holland seeks, the burden may fall on veterans Ronnie Stelzer or Fox DeMoisey. Up front, though, things are so delightful that 6'8" sophomore Eric Minkin—an 18-point, 14-rebound man for a 17-2 freshman squad—will be strictly relief. Everybody knows the Wildcats will breeze through a weak Southern Conference but, as PR Director Emil Parker says, "If Minkin can force either Maloy or Cook to a wing position, we'll win the national championship—easy." They could, if Holland and his boys keep talking.
On the night of July 31 a car ran off Interstate 64 near Simpsonville, Ky., and rammed into a telephone pole. The driver was Mike Casey, the University of Kentucky's brilliant senior guard, and his left leg was shattered in three places. The mangled limb would have to stay in a cast until early December, the doctors said, then it would be many weeks, maybe even months, before Casey could run and jump the way he always had. The mathematics were clear: Casey would miss his senior season, and the Wildcats' national championship hopes, once rosy, were thrown into serious doubt. "Our prospects looked much better than in '51 or '58," says Kentucky's Adolph Rupp. "But now we will have a big fight to even get out of the conference."
Casey was the ideal Kentucky guard: aggressive, quick, rangy, deadly. The Wildcats' leading scorer as a sophomore, his shooting fell off slightly last season as Kentucky began working more around his roommate and fraternity brother, 6'8" Center Dan Issel. Yet Casey still managed to average more than 19 points while setting a school assist record (129), mostly on feeds to Issel. "Hell, when you lose a Ty Cobb, you don't replace him," says Rupp.
Kentucky graduated only one senior from last year's 23-5 team, but he was also a guard, Phil Argento, leaving Rupp both backcourt spots to fill before the first game against West Virginia this week. Two junior lettermen return, 6'2" Terry Mills and 6'2" Bob McCowan, but Rupp is more enthusiastic about 6'3" Kent Hollenbeck, a sophomore from Knoxville, Tenn., who averaged 20 points for the freshman team and was said to have as much potential as any Kentucky guard since Frank Ramsey.
Elsewhere, Kentucky is set. One forward belongs to 6'4" senior Mike Pratt, and the other will be manned alternately by 6'5" junior Larry Steele ("He's much quicker," says Rupp), 6'6" sophomore Tom Parker and 6'8" sophomore Randy Noll ("In practice, he got a sword and hatchet and went to work," says Rupp). And at center there is Issel, who not only scores (his 26.7 average was a school record) but rebounds well enough to give Kentucky its usual fierce fast break.
Having already won more games than any coach in history (810), Rupp's main ambition now is to win his fifth NCAA title, which would tie him with UCLA's John Wooden. Now 68, he is supposed to retire after next season, but with 7' Thomas Payne, his first black, in the freshman class, Rupp is talking as though he may go on forever. "I haven't heard any of that retirement talk around here," he snaps. "I'm certainly not looking to get out."
Because California has been slowly disappearing into the sea over the past few years, all kinds of species hippie have packed up, moved out and settled in on Boulder, Colo. Probably they figured that any place called "The Rock" was too solid to go under.
The hippies should have been warned that Boulder is never easy on visitors. Basketball teams long have complained about their journeys there. The ferocity of home crowds is exceeded only by their wrath when powder snow is missing on the mountains. The limitations of the field house are important only if you are not used to playing in a box. And the altitude makes the air tight, particularly for foreigners. If all this wasn't hard enough on visiting teams, last summer the university installed a Tartan floor in the old gym—producing a haunting, almost silent "thud, thud" sound for footsteps and dribbles—so that now in Boulder you not only can't breathe, you can't hear.
Last season Colorado did not lose a game at home on the way to a 21-7 record (best in school history) and its first Big Eight championship in six years. They got that good when Coach Sox Walseth turned up the sleeper of the year in 6'8" Cliff Meely. He emerged from Northeastern JC in Sterling, Colo. to lead the league in scoring and earn its most-valuable-player award. A remarkably versatile athlete who plays both ends of the court and can start, finish and center the break equally well, Meely has two more years at Boulder where he will serve admirably at any of three positions.
However, Colorado is not a one-man team. Guard Gordon Tope is a fragile-looking 5'11", but he was All-Conference as a junior and his deft left-handed passes are the perfect complement to the Buffaloes' dazzling team speed. Returning at the other guard is Dudley Mitchell, a 6'3" shooter who also plays center field on the baseball team, reminding people of his father Dale, the old Cleveland Indian. Freddie Shell, a high school teammate of Meely's in Chicago, adds depth to the backcourt.
Up front are Mike Coleman and Tim Wedgeworth, both experienced and both 6'5", but one of them will probably have to move over for sophomore Jim Creighton, two inches taller, who has moves and savvy underneath. Some opposing coaches say Colorado will be better without 7'2" Ron Smith, who transferred this fall to Wichita State. But the Buffs were 15-3 last season with Smith and only 6-4 after he became ineligible and Meely had to move into the pivot. Now Creighton may play a lot there so Meely can go outside again. Colorado is fortunate to have a Cliff who can play anywhere on The Rock.
9 FLORIDA STATE
Florida State Coach Hugh Durham does not smoke, drink or get rated. He is the best badminton player in Florida but cannot play in the state tournament because of recruiting trips. He had the finest team in FSU history last season but could not go anywhere because the school was on NCAA probation. In the three years he has been head coach at Tallahassee, in fact, the most news coverage his Seminoles have received came last season when one of their games was called off. State was leading South Carolina 87-76 with 1:57 to go when USC's Frank McGuire and the referees disagreed and—just like that—the game was over. Just like that, Florida State had come of age.
Now, Durham believes, his team can stir up interest by itself. "This is the fastest team in the history of the South," he says, "and Dave Cowens is the most underestimated player in the country." For two years Cowens has been a better kept secret than cyclamates. A sandy-haired 6'10" lefthander out of Newport, Ky., he joined the varsity and singlehandedly turned a team that was 11-15 the previous year into a 19-8 winner. Cowens was the eighth best rebounder in the land as a sophomore and sixth best last year when the Seminoles beat three Top 20 teams and finished 18-8. Because of some outstanding sophomore and junior college help, he will switch from the baseline to a high post. His range has improved, but it is quickness and mobility that make him special. Cowens also is that rarest of birds, a white star on a predominantly black team. Durham plans to start four blacks with him this time; Tallahassee fans already call the team "the busted flush."
Florida State lost only one starter but the newcomers are so good that they have taken over three jobs. In Durham's 1-3-1 offense sophomores Rowland Garrett, 6'6", and Ron Harris, 6'4", play the wings with Vernell Ellzy, a 6'4" gazelle from Seminole JC, moving into the low post. Garrett broke all of Cowens' freshman scoring records last year while Harris, less spectacular on attack, is probably the best defensive player. Senior Randy Cable has shooting range and will come in against zones. Back for his second year as Florida State's quarterback is Skip Young, who was thrust into the point position by default last season and, after a period of unsteadiness, finally began passing the ball.
Durham has a stronger bench this year and hopefully his team can avoid the strange pits it fell into last season—losses to lightweights like Kent State, Rice and Georgia Tech. Recently his 9-year-old son made 952 layups out on the backyard hoop. He was going for 1,000 straight, but he didn't get there. Hugh Durham, going just as hard for the national rankings, should.
10 NORTH CAROLINA
Dean Smith is a latent Marine drill instructor. After putting his players through a grueling two hours of practice, the Tar Heel coach stops pampering them and makes them run enough wind sprints to wear out a mechanical rabbit. They sprint a quarter length of the court, touch fingers to the floor and sprint back, then sprint to half-court and back, three-fourths of the way and back, the full length and back. They do this over and over, until their tongues are dragging on the floor—all but Charlie Scott's, that is. During one preseason session, he finished half a court length ahead of everybody else, barely puffing.
After two regional championships and an Olympic Games gold medal, Scott is back for his senior season at Chapel Hill, and it should be fun because he is one of the best all-round players in the country. As a junior at forward and guard, he averaged 22.3 points a game, scored 40 points against Duke in the ACC tournament title game and 32 more and the winning basket against Davidson in the East final. Then he stepped into a telephone booth for a quick change and came out a dean's list student.
It is of some comfort to Coach Smith that, in tight situations, he can order his other people out of the way and let Scott go on his own, but the preferred, calmer style at North Carolina is a tough man-to-man defense, intelligent shot selection and tall rebounders. The important man in Scott's supporting cast of characters is 6'10" junior Center Lee Dedmon. According to Smith, he must develop into the Atlantic Coast Conference's best pivotman if the Tar Heels are to retain their title. The problems are that North Carolina lost starting Guard Dick Grubar, 6'10" Center Rusty Clark and 6'8" Forward Bill Bunting, and Dedmon, who was not discovered by his Baltimore high school coach until his junior year, has had a great deal of catching up to do.
Fortunately, Smith and his smooth assistants have their usual abundance of replacements on hand. The sophomores this time are 6'5" Dennis Wuycik and 6'2" Steve Previs from Pennsylvania, and 6'6" Bill Chamberlain, a quick and talented player from Long Island. All three were rabidly chased by top schools, and all three could start.
Which puts it up to Scott. Because of the team's inexperience, Scott will have to keep his mind off his promising future in pro basketball, law school and politics and concentrate on beating South Carolina and Duke. "It brings on a challenge," he says. "I'm just hoping we can jell." If they do not, Scott will take the ball. Anytime he goes one-on-five, Tar Heel chances are good.
Nine years ago when the head basketball coaching position at Villanova opened up, the wife of the coach at suburban Malvern Prep egged her husband into applying for the job even though Philadelphia newspapers had already conceded it to a number of big-time coaches. Two weeks later Jack Kraft was called out of a PTA meeting at Malvern to attend a midnight interview on the Villanova campus and three hours after that Villanova offered him one of the genuine plums among college coaching jobs. "I was dumbfounded," Kraft remembers. "I didn't hesitate, though. I knew I wanted the job and I accepted right then."
In the years since, Kraft, a chunky, gray crew-cut man with the looks but not the disposition of a Marine DI, has never failed to dumbfound the opposition with his harassing "ball" defense and the ability to tailor an offense to his players. Not one of his teams has ever missed receiving a postseason bid to either the NCAA or NIT tournaments, and this year's Wildcats are just as good, perhaps better, than any of the others.
Kraft will continue to use his rigorous defense, but the offense, which has been slow-paced the past three years, will be as geared up as it was when Kraft first came to Villanova and Wally Jones engineered the attack. Key to the Wildcats' running game will be 6'8" junior Howard Porter, who led his nationally ranked team in both scoring (22.4 points a game) and rebounding in 1968-69. "Howard had the best sophomore year of any big man I've ever had," says Kraft, "and if preseason drills are any indication, he is better now. Particularly in driving to the basket." That is a frightening prospect for opponents who saw him rip off rebounds and zero in 25-foot jumpers a year ago.
While speedy, springy 6'6" Sam Sims or bulky sophomore Hank Siemiontkowski play center and help Porter with rebounding, senior Guard Fran O'Hanlon will quarterback the offense and defense from the point. O'Hanlon, an adept ball handler who looks about half of his 21 years, wears a moppet haircut and is the darling of the Main Line Catholic high school girls, is fast, but no more so than 6'5" sophomore Guard Chris Ford, or 6'5" Forward Clarence Smith. With that trio burning down the court, Kraft will have all the speed he needs to work his revved-up offense, especially since O'Hanlon and Ford are also excellent passers. Still, the coach is not entirely satisfied. "I'd like Howard to fill one of the lanes on the fast break to take advantage of his shot and to get the rebound in case we miss," he says. Since Villanova's only weakness is height, Porter may be too busy rebounding to run, but nobody will be stunned if he finds a way to do that, too.
Vic Bubas, coach at Duke the last 10 seasons and developer of such fine players as Art Heyman, Jeff Mullins and Jack Marin, has left the job to do public relations work for the university. His old office down at the end of Championship Hall is now occupied by Raymond (Bucky) Waters and these days Duke Indoor Stadium is ringing with Buckyisms. To a timid dribbler: "That's a route Mary Poppins might take!" To an elbow-shy forward: "That's for conscientious objectors out there, not rebounders!"
Breezy Bucky, who was Bubas' assistant before moving to West Virginia as head coach four years ago, thinks basketball is "a man's game; there's got to be some slamming in there." To him there are no backcourt or frontcourt men. They are just the "little people" and the "studs."
One of the little people, 5'10" junior Guard Dick DeVenzio, is amused by his coach's way with words and is recording the most graphic of them in a diary he is keeping of the season. It should make good reading in March after Duke has warred with Dayton, West Virginia and Davidson in addition to all the tough teams of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Waters probably will use a double-post offense with DeVenzio at the point. The Blue Devils need the little lefty's quickness and playmaking, so they work hard in practice at protecting him on defense, avoiding switches that would force him into guarding a big opponent.
Duke does not have too many good little people behind DeVenzio, but the studs are plentiful. Junior Randy Denton, who has, says Bucky, "the finest physical potential of any center I've had the pleasure of working with," is 6'10", 240 and "can run with the guards, but he needs a tougher mental attitude. He won't walk on the floor as a destroyer." Denton averaged 17.4 points a game last season but was inconsistent, as was the whole sophomore-dominated team (8-6 in league, 15-13 overall). His chief rebounding help should come from 6'6" sophomore Don Blackman, out of Brooklyn, who is not much of a shooter but the kind of man who would snatch a honeycomb from a grizzly bear.
Best shooter on the team is 6'7" Rick Katherman, a junior from Massachusetts. He will play one wing, opposite 6'3" junior Brad Evans, a strong, skilled driver who was a high-school All-America quarterback. Chief backup stud—actually a stringbean—is 6'9" Larry Saunders, a transfer from Northwestern who can rebound.
Duke is obviously good, yet good gets only third or fourth place in the ACC. Waters will have to talk up a storm if he wants to make DeVenzio's diary a drama with a happy ending.
13 WEBER STATE
While Coach Phil Johnson of Weber State was recruiting 6'5" Forward Kent Ross, who broke all scoring records at Cochise Junior College in Arizona, and Forward-Guard Bill Orr, who was New York all-city and averaged 28.5 points at Iowa Central, he rattled them both. "I just don't know if you have the basic equipment to measure up to what you'd be replacing," he told Orr, shaking his head.
"What's that?" asked Orr.
"No," Johnson said mournfully, "how can a guy named Bill Orr ever replace a Justus Thigpen?"
Thigpen will be hard to top, all right, particularly since he scored 18.6 points per game. So will Weber's record last year: 15-0 in the Big Sky Conference, 27-3 overall and third place in the NCAA Far West Regional. And the Wildcats from the Wasatch also lost some tall, muscly forwards. But Willie Sojourner and Sessions Harlan are back in the rack. Since 6'8" Sojourner and pepperpot Sessions are two of the most exciting, game-breaking ballplayers in the country, Johnson need not throw himself under a streetcar.
"That Sesh," he says admiringly. "He gets psyched way up for practice. He's so sky high the first two plays, I think if I told him anything, he'd faint."
Team Captain Sessions can jump three to four feet off the floor and also execute such fancy drives that his one weakness may be a tendency to bypass the easy shot. He is also one of the best nerve-twangling defensive guards in the nation. With his jokes, his Motown accent, his porkpie hat and his direct, engaging manner, Sessions is also that imponderable asset: a strong unifying influence. "I hate to seem like an authority figure," he says, worriedly. "If someone is slow, I'll just say, 'Man, let's get this play over.' "
Laconic, sly-witted Sojourner has an opposite, calming effect. "Except sometimes he really gets turned on when we keep hitting him," a Weber Stater says. "Then he just won't quit scoring."
Although Orr needs more roar on defense and Ross a little more on rebounding, they are of the Sojourner-Sessions stripe. Johnson hopes to use Orr at guard for his excellent ball handling, driving and passing. If Orr must be moved to forward, strong two-year letterman Rich Nielsen will play guard. Dave Sackolwitz, a street fighter of a forward, seems to lead smooth-shooting Jon Knoble for the fifth starting spot.
"We have seven great ballplayers," says one observer. "If one of the key men doesn't get hurt, if at least one newcomer gets good and if the Wildcats can pad past Arizona State, Arizona and Seattle in December, Weber will be something." It will be.
In a year when all of Milwaukee is celebrating the 300th anniversary of his discovery of the area, P√®re Marquette's basketball team has come prepared. Last month three other fellow travelers, Messrs. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, were presented with replicas of the Marquette warmup uniforms. In turn, the team will wear Apollo 11 patches on their warmup jerseys. "Well, it's a crazy scheme," says Al McGuire, the marvelously loquacious coach. "But they're legitimate heroes and we wanted to get on the bandwagon."
This week the Warriors start taking their own giant leaps. Again McGuire will have no starter over 6'6" and again he will probably win 20 games against a schedule made up predominantly of moondust, using rough defenses and a collection of springers who use wooden courts like trampolines. "If a man's nose bleeds, you know he's trying," McGuire says.
The best of his bleeders, George Thompson, is gone, but the other two starters up front return: Joe Thomas and Ullrick (Rick) Cobb, both 6'5", who averaged 20 points and 19 rebounds between them last year. Thomas is stronger than Thompson was and can take up some of the scoring slack, but the good-looking Cobb, who is called 'Vator Man, because he delivers himself three floors above the backboard, has to get off the elevator when it comes time to shoot. Stepping into the other forward position will be transfer Gary Brell, a native of Germany who is still adjusting from soccer to basketball but is aggressive in the pivot and an improvement defensively over Thompson.
The backcourt is three-man solid with veterans Jeff Sewell, Jack Burke and Dean Meminger. The two married men, Sewell and Burke, are fast and shoot well from the perimeters, but it is Meminger who will make it all go for the Warriors. Only six feet tall, he will run the fast break, go to the boards, feed off with flair, and, best of all, operate inside where he is—as Jimmy Clanton used to sing—just a dream. "Last year we had the wraps on him," says McGuire, "but he'll pave the driveway for us now. Dean the Dream is my star."
McGuire has two sophomores, Guy Lam and Terry McQuade, to help out when the starters get in foul trouble. Ironically, small Marquette seldom is hurt by big men. Only Bob Lanier of St. Bonaventure beat them badly last season, and that was in Madison Square Garden after the New York-bred Warriors had celebrated their return with one of the legendary nights in Gotham history.
"My guys were frothing at the mouth. I'm never going east again," says McGuire. He won't have to. Marquette looks like an NCAA tournament team again.
15 SANTA CLARA
When a coach has a Dennis Awtrey, a 6'10" center who averages 21.3 points a game, 13.3 rebounds and who never needs a tutor because he is an academic All-America, there is a tendency sometimes to take him for granted. Or to forget that the opposing centers are pretty good, too. In the West Regional last season Santa Clara's Awtrey shot well in a very close game against Weber State and battled Weber's Willard Sojourner even all the way. The Broncos barely won (only to be humiliated in the finals by UCLA's press), but Coach Dick Garibaldi and Assistant Carroll Williams were disappointed in their center's performance.
"We were a little mad," says Garibaldi. "Then the Weber State coach came up to us and said it was the greatest defensive job done that year on Sojourner."
Awtrey is probably the finest player Santa Clara has ever had, better than Ken Sears or Bud Ogden, and he should improve a great deal this year because every day in practice he will be going against a most promising redshirt, 6'9½" Mike Stewart, who is being held out a year because, the coach says, "He's a mediocre forward and could be a great center." Certainly he was not going to beat out Awtrey this campaign.
Awtrey has a seasoned team around him, 6'5" Forward Ralph Ogden (16.1 points a game as a junior) and Guards Terry O'Brien, Kevin Eagleson and Keith Paulson, all seniors. The most serious loss was Ralph's older brother, Bud, an All-America and first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers. His vacated forward spot probably will be shared by a strong 6'5" senior, Bob Tobin, and two sophomores, 6'7" Mart (short for Martin) Petersen, who lacks aggressiveness, and 6'4" Bruce Bochte, often too aggressive. Bochte has a soft jump shot and, away from basketball, real ability as a first baseman and outfielder.
The Broncos' three senior guards are stern competitors and Garibaldi insists he has confidence in them despite the UCLA debacle, when they had a terrible time getting the ball across half court. However, a sophomore named Jolly Spight could jolly well become a starting guard if he can avoid the aching legs and pulled groin muscles that have plagued him.
When the Broncos were riding high in the polls last season, some in the East and South made fun—justifiable at times—of their schedule. Davidson fans were the biggest hooters, forgetting that their own Southern Conference, without West Virginia, was not exactly the NBA. Anyway, Santa Clara and Dennis Awtrey have a 50-6 record for the last two years, second only to UCLA, and that would look pretty good even in the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference.
16 ST. BONAVENTURE
St. Bonaventure University lies in the Allegheny foothills some 70 miles southeast of Buffalo. Its campus, a collection of brick buildings and neat lawns, borders the Allegheny River and Olean, a city where the downtown center is protected against speeders and would-be bank robbers by TV cameras. To the private Catholic school's 2,500 students, whose vision of a big time in Olean is sloshing through a new foot of snow, this seems an obvious case of overkill. Reflecting on St. Bonaventure's quiet atmosphere, Dean of Men Father Gervase has said, "If it weren't for basketball, the students would tear the place apart." This is only a slight exaggeration. If it weren't for basketball and a campus beer parlor, they would split en masse for Buffalo or Rochester or Canada.
Fortunately, there is enough good basketball to keep the student body home—for instance, the '68 team that went 22-0 in the regular season and received a congratulatory telegram from President Johnson, or last year's squad that had incentive to go 17-7 despite a last-minute one-year NCAA probation. The star of those teams, Center Bob Lanier, is a senior now, and when students gather at the Rathskeller they tell of the time Lanier stood guard while a teammate removed Coach Larry Weise's shorts from his locker. After practice Lanier was summoned by the stark-naked Weise. "Why did you do that, Bobby?" the coach asked his 6'11", 265-pound athlete. Bobby, indeed.
The most startling thing about Big Bob Lanier is the length of his feet. He wears size 20 shoes and it took Converse three tries before the company could make sneakers to fit him. One pair is displayed in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. As the joke goes, Lanier's feet arrive on court at 8:25, Lanier at 8:30. Lanier is so agile and talented he is expected, along with Pete Maravich, to be the pros' favorite choice next spring.
This season Lanier has several strong outside shooters to keep opponents from double- and triple-teaming him. Sophomore Matt Gantt, 6'5", is an excellent shooter, and Bubba Gary, the other forward, will help Lanier with rebounds. Paul Hoffman, another sophomore, and Mike Kull are quick and will share one guard position. Billy Kalbaugh, Lanier's roommate, begins his third year as court general, at which he has become adept. The bench, thanks largely to versatile Dale Tepas, has depth. Only if Lanier gets injured will the Bonnies be in trouble. They are without a second big man. "Around here we don't think about that," Weise says, hoping, no doubt, to keep Lanier and the students in Olean all winter.
One night just a year ago Coach John Dromo was sitting all alone at the press table, his swarthy brow knitted into the puzzled frown of a man who did not know whether to laugh or cry. Out there on the floor in Freedom Hall his varsity team was stumbling its sorry way to a 107-90 loss to the freshmen, of all people. It was not until season's end that Dromo knew for sure that he should have been laughing uproariously. By then his varsity had tied for the Missouri Valley championship and run up a 21-6 record. The lesson of that preseason debacle was obvious: his varsity was good enough but, brother, just wait till next year. "Potentially, we're better than we were last year," underestimated Dromo as practice began this fall. "This is going to be an exciting bunch of kids to watch."
Not since the early days of the Westley Unseld-Butch Beard teams has basketball excitement been so high in Louisville. The fans were talking about winning the NCAA championship with such earnestness that even a natural optimist like Dromo felt compelled to temper the enthusiasm. "Look, our problem is that we've got four great individual sophomores," he said, "but it's tough trying to harness them into a team. It's like the paratrooper going out the plane door for the first time. He wanted to know what would happen if his chute didn't open and his instructor said, 'I would say you're jumping to a conclusion, son.' Well, that's exactly what our fans are doing with these kids. Thank God we've got Grosso."
Grosso's first name is Mike and he is the only starter returning. At 6'9" and 235 pounds, he was the leading rebounder last year despite a bum right knee and now, with the knee more or less workable, he should become a Louisville center in the Unseld-Charlie Tyra mold. "He's unselfish like Wes and Charlie—he'd rather score 5 and win than get 25 and lose," says Dromo. "He's the cement that can hold us together."
As for the sophomores, 6'9" Forward Al Vilcheck is expected to help Grosso get plenty of rebounds, while 6'0" Guard Larry Carter is regarded as the Cardinals' best shooter in years. The other guard, 6'2" Jim Price, is as smooth and gifted all-round as Beard, but the best athlete of all may be 6'3" Forward Henry Bacon, a homegrown high school All-America who "pound for pound is the best player in America," in Dromo's opinion.
The Cardinals will be tested early on, playing Florida and Florida State in back-to-back road games Dec. 20 and 22. "Those two games are it," says Dromo. "If we win them, we know we'll be loaded." Get with it, John—the fans know it already.
When Bob Boyd arrived to begin the resuscitation of USC basketball three years ago, Lew Alcindor started his varsity eligibility at UCLA. While Alcindor and the Bruins packed in the crowds at their Pauley Pavilion, a lecture on medieval art could have outdrawn the Trojans on some of those same nights. Now, suddenly, USC has sold more season tickets than it ever has, and the Sports Arena on game nights will be something more than a nice place to do homework.
One reason for the new interest is USC's 46-44 upset of UCLA on the Bruins' own floor last season, but more important is the presence of the most talented group of sophomores in the school's history. These five had a 19-0 record as freshmen and each one averaged in double figures while making better than 50% of his shots. To give them some competition Boyd has two good junior lettermen and, for whipped cream, three fellows from Phoenix JC who played together on a two-time state championship high school team in Newark.
"There is more potential here than in any group I've coached at USC," says Boyd, "but it's also the most inexperienced team I will have coached. Just say I have guarded optimism."
His novices should learn quickly with a December and early January schedule that includes Florida State, St. John's, Vanderbilt, Colorado, LSU, Houston and the Far West Classic in Portland, Ore. Then comes the Pacific Eight, which "may well be the top basketball conference in the country this year," Boyd says.
Sophomores could wilt under pressure like that, but 6'4" Guard Paul Westphal is likely to bloom. He scored 1,042 points in 31 games his senior year in high school, and one black player who saw him in pickup games last summer reported to his coach, "That Westphal is great even if he is white."
The other backcourt starter will be either junior Dana Pagett or Dennis (Mo) Layton, one of the Newark products and a JC All-America. A fourth guard, 6'5" Monroe Nash, might be red-shirted. Best shooter on the team is 6'6" sophomore Forward Joe Mackey from Arizona, who has done 6'10" in the high jump. Junior Forward Don Crenshaw, 6'4", scored 20 points in the UCLA upset and perhaps can pass on some of his rebounding ability to Mackey, who is not aggressive enough. Center will be 6'8" Ron Riley or 6'10" Bill Taylor, both off that freshman team. The Trojans are so deep in the frontcourt that Jerseyites George Watson and Leroy Cobb are not likely to be starters.
USC has won more national championships in more sports than any other school but never one in basketball. Maybe that day is coming.
Disaster has courted Utah's new 15,000-seat special-events arena almost from the moment the $10.5 million athletic complex was started 2½ years ago. Once, construction was halted when three workers fell to their deaths off a scaffold. Later, glaziers went on strike for four months. Finally, just a few days after practice for the 1969-70 season began in October, a pipe in the women's rest room self-destructed and water flooded down through the aisles and wrecked the court. If all this wasn't hardship enough, on the same day the floor snapped, so did star Forward Kenny Gardner's knee. The floor is retrievable—the arena should be ready for opening night—the lives are not, and Gardner (no relation to Coach Jack Gardner) will have trouble finding a new knee.
"I didn't dare go to the arena the next day," says the coach, who popularized the drinking of milk during games to silence ulcers. "I could have filled it again...with tears. We may have had a basketball court and a season washed away in 24 hours."
Not quite. Two weeks after Gardner's accident in a one-on-one drill, he was back running hard in practice scrimmage and attempting to rehabilitate his knee as quickly as possible. If it heals properly, he conceivably can play as well as he did last year, when he was one of three sophomores who came out of nowhere to make the Runnin' Redskins a potent force in the West all season long. Mike Newlin, a 6'4" guard with the body of Adonis, led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring with a 24-point average and was Player of the Year; 6'10" Jim Mahler, out of Sandy, Utah, improved rapidly and used brawn, if not quickness, to become an adequate post man. Gardner himself, Utah's most complete player, scored, played defense and led the league in rebounding up to the final two games—yeoman work considering he is only 6'4".
Bob Martin, a stockily built playmaker, returns in backcourt alongside Newlin, but there is not much help for them on the bench. In the corners, Walt Hawkins is only 6'3", but his jumping ability puts him ahead of two taller and stronger men, Early (Peaches) Laster and Ken Reynolds. Laster, a football player, still is not as solid as Reynolds. Both will play a lot if Gardner's knee does not come around.
Coach Gardner has an early season schedule to envy—11 of his first 12 games are in the new arena. His most important early game, however, is the guessing kind: whether to play the Namath-kneed Gardner this season or red-shirt him. The Fox, as the coach is called, may need more than milk while he ponders that one.
20 WESTERN KENTUCKY
The faces around Western Kentucky University last season were almost as red as those towels everybody waves during games in Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers simply flopped, embarrassingly so, in what was supposed to have been a superseason. The final record was 16-10, barely good enough for third place in the Ohio Valley, a tough little conference that Western was favored to stick into its hip pocket. "Our fans have expressed to the players and the coaching staff their disappointment in our season," said Coach Johnny Oldham, with massive understatement. "This year we're working on this thing called togetherness."
With four sophomores starting most of the time, some Western partisans were inclined to attribute last season's problems to "sophomoritis," a view that is slightly naive. Western had the physical ability—nobody came up with a better sophomore center than 7-foot Jim McDaniels—but, as Oldham suggests, the Hilltoppers' demise was due to a sort of spiritual and mental malaise that spread rapidly and then fatally at season's end, when Western lost its last three games. A lack of on-court leadership begat a lack of team play that in turn begat virtual anarchy on the floor. So Oldham closed most of Western's practices this fall and the coaches began trying to restore order.
The catalyst may be 6'1" sophomore Guard Danny Johnson, who averaged 19.7 points for the freshmen but has impressed Oldham more with his passing and ball handling. "We believe he will sort of take command," said Oldham, "because he's the kind of kid who would rather make an assist than a basket—and that's certainly what we need." Western definitely is not lacking for shooters, beginning with McDaniels, a giant who prefers scoring from the key to going underneath. He averaged 24.8 points a game as a sophomore, and although Oldham says "he had a fine season," the coach would be happier if McDaniels were more aggressive rebounding and on defense. McDaniel upped his weight 12 pounds over the summer to 220 and will play a high post this season, with 6'8" senior Wayne Bright on a low post, 6'3" junior Jerome Perry on the wing and 6'3" junior Jim Rose in the back court with Johnson. The team's best rebounder may be 6'8" junior Clarence Glover, but he will be only the No. 6 man until he learns to shoot.
The Hilltoppers should find out a lot about themselves on Dec. 15, when they play Duquesne in Pittsburgh. "If we can pull ourselves together, this should be our year, because usually you get your best year out of juniors," says Oldham. If that's so, the blush at Western may yet become the pink flush of success.