This is the interim for UCLA—between Alcindor's years and the current freshmen, who are said to be something special. So what does a Bruin do during an interim? He wins, as the Uclans did last year and probably will again. Of course, someone could always get hot and break the string of NCAA championships at four. Any of a dozen teams—particularly the best half dozen—have the shooting, depth, height and balance to win the title. To assess their chances, the country's best teams were scouted—and ranked from I through 20—by Joe Jares, Pete Carry, Curry Kirkpatrick, Hal Peterson, Billy Reed, George Curry, Don Delliquanti, Larry Keith and Sandy Treadwell.
Missing from John Wooden's philosophical commandments is "Thou shalt not bite the hand that feeds you," which is unfortunate, considering what one of his former players did to him. His defending championship team really had only one problem—replacing Guard John Vallely, who graduated—and Wooden was all set to snap up Mike Reid, an impressive prospect who had led Compton Junior College to an undefeated season. Then two problems arose. One was Reid's grades. The other was Freddie Goss, a Bruin guard of the middle '60s who had landed a coaching job at Riverside with Wooden's help. Goss signed Reid and threw the backcourt situation at UCLA into controlled chaos. There turned out to be seven candidates for the job, including one Rick Barry, one Borsalino, two freshmen and a transfer student who had taken his basic training at Fort Steilacoom Community College in Ta-coma. Actually, Rich Betchley only thinks he is Rick Barry, whom he imitates down to the wristbands, razor cuts and Porsche, and Andy Hill only has a Borsalino hat, but the freshmen are just what they seem: 6' Tommy Curtis is quick-handed as well as bowlegged, and 6'3" Marv Vitatoe is the kind of jumper who can make a coach's heart leap. Both Betchley and Marvelous Marv are dazzling one-on-one players, but, as Wooden says, "We don't play man-for-man basketball at UCLA." Bob Webb, who gained a reputation for shooting at Fort Steilacoom, was expected to fill the void, but it has taken him a while to learn the UCLA system, which probably means Wooden will start the season using one of two seasoned players, Terry Schofield or Kenny Booker, both 6'3". Henry Bibby, of course, will take care of the ball handling and outside shooting. He averaged 16 points a game as a sophomore.
Up front Wooden has only one concern, keeping the professional bird dogs away from the door. Many pro teams would trade their front lines even up for Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe and Steve Patterson—an impressive trio. Nobody east of Palm Springs really knew how quick, strong and dominating Wicks could be until he demonstrated his driving stuff shot—whompf!—over 7'2" Artis Gilmore of Jacksonville in the NCAA tournament last year. Though Wooden chastised his player for the illegal move, it shook up Gilmore, turned the game around and won the title for UCLA. If anything, Wicks is quicker now, taller (he says he has grown an inch to 6'9"), more disciplined and a better shot. His explosiveness overshadows the 6'6" Rowe, an extraordinary athlete who does not make mistakes ("the most consistent player I've ever coached," says Wooden), and Patterson, who has always been underrated. The three, along with John Ecker, who plays just enough to save a game here and there, combined to shoot 52% a year ago. But pity poor Wooden. He still has that gnawing problem of the fifth starter. Somebody probably will turn up.
2 SOUTH CAROLINA
Assistant Coach Don Walsh, normally just as cheerful as all the other New York City Irish Catholics who have migrated to South Carolina to coach and play basketball at the university, frowned when he spotted a statuette standing on one of the top shelves of his bookcase. "I forgot I had it," he said. "As soon as I can get up there and take it down I'm gonna throw it away. That's what almost all the kids did with theirs."
The memento in question was the second-place trophy from last year's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and "the kids" were all those fine basketball players at South Carolina who were victimized by the ACC's annual postseason absurdity. The Gamecocks finished the regular season with a 23-2 record (14-0 in their league) and hopes of a national championship. But a double-overtime loss in the conference tournament finals to North Carolina State's slowdown left them with nothing more than a refuse heap of trinkets.
South Carolina's disappointment has only strengthened the team's appetite for this season. "We had spent all year working to go to the final four in the national tournament," said John Roche, the exquisite guard who should win his third consecutive ACC Player of the Year award. "If we had lost in the regionals of the NCAAs instead of in the ACC tournament we would have been just as disappointed. We're going for a national championship, and we'll be dissatisfied with anything less."
Roche is one of the six-New York area Catholic school graduates who form the heart of Coach Frank McGuire's team and the main reason why the Gamecocks should finish at least as high as the final four. Roche, who averaged 22.3 points a game last year even though 14 teams tried to unsettle Carolina by slowing down its offense, runs the fast break and McGuire's 1-3-1 patterns almost flawlessly. He will have added help in the backcourt from Kevin Joyce, the top player on the New York All-Catholic team two years ago. Joyce, 6'3" and a jumper, will give the Gamecocks explosive scoring and added rebounding where it was lacking last year. McGuire's towering front line returns intact. Slender Tom Owens, who was Roche's high school teammate, and 225-pound junior Tom Riker are both 6'10". They averaged 29 points and 23 rebounds between them last season. The only non-New York starter will be 6'8", 235-pound John Ribock, who rarely scores but is rarely scored upon.
All three of South Carolina's losses came in games in which fewer than 130 points were scored. Although 13 teams lost while trying to stall against Carolina, slowdowns will remain a favorite device of opponents. In preseason drills the Gamecocks worked on pressuring leisurely offenses more aggressively than they did last year. It is unlikely that they can be stalled out of a shot at a satisfactory trophy this year.
Two years ago when Jacksonville University's Tom Was-din was still the assistant coach in charge of recruiting, a hot junior-college prospect named Ernie Fleming told him, "Coach, I'm not gonna come to your school unless I can bring somebody with me." Coaches are always hearing that sort of thing, and generally the thing being brought along is a girl friend, cousin or pet ocelot. In Fleming's case, the request, was easier to heed—he had this buddy, Artis Gilmore, 7'2".
Gilmore, of course, is the player who made Jacksonville famous. At this time a year ago, when few people had heard of either the school or of Gilmore, one preseason poll picked JU 157th. But the Dolphins ended up in the NCAA finals, mostly because of Gilmore. He averaged 26.5 points a game, led the nation in rebounding and spiked away about 10 opponents' shots every time he played. His presence alone is enough to make Wasdin's slogan, "No. 1 in '71," a distinct possibility.
Maybe more than distinct, considering the players Jacksonville has to go with Gilmore. One of them is the 6'7" Fleming, who red-shirted last year but now is ready to take a starting spot away from Mike Blevens. Then there is a junior-college teammate of the Dolphins' other 7-footer, Pembrook Burrows III, who should give Coach Was-din another profitable friendship case. He is Harold Fox from Brevard (Fla.) Junior College, the most sought-after JC player in the country (SI, Feb. 23). Fox should be able to fill in neatly for Rex Morgan, the second-best man on the team last season whose departure could have hurt the team seriously. When Fox was playing at Washington, D.C.'s Northwestern High, he was the first player since Elgin Baylor to make the all-city team three straight years. He is three inches shorter than Morgan at 6'2", but his talents are perhaps better rounded.
Little Vaughn Wedeking, whose coolness in the NCAA tournament was startling, considering that most of his career had been spent bringing the ball up against the likes of University of the Virgin Islands, Mercer, Biscayne and East Tennessee State, can play the point almost as well as South Carolina's Roche. With Burrows in the lineup, Jacksonville looks very imposing, but the Dolphins may be more effective with strong, 6'6" Greg Nelson in the high post. Nelson, Blevens and Guard Chip Dublin give Wasdin an excellent bench.
Last spring when former Head Coach Joe Williams resigned to go to Furman, Wasdin was immediately offered the job. Concerned about the pressure of continuing Jacksonville's program at its present high level, Wasdin revealed his doubts to Jacksonville President Robert Spiro. "Don't worry, Tom," Spiro said. "You don't have to do anything like last year. If you just move up one place in the ratings I think it'll be fine." And he might—with a little friendly help.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to show you something," Al McGuire announces into the mike. The setting is a Marquette clinic at the high school gym in Janesville, Wis., and Dean Meminger is going to demonstrate the dunk shot. Very simple. Meminger—nice, neat, boy-next-door—steps on the floor, smiles wryly, floats in, jumps smoothly and proceeds to smash the backboard into a cascading shower of glass that comes close to maiming him for life. Dean the Dream has almost become a nightmare, and McGuire is speechless for the first time anyone can remember. Oh, the NCAA would have loved the moment, discomfiture for two of its most unfavorite things, Al McGuire and the dunk.
The NCAA will have to wait. McGuire is back and fully ready to take up where he left off last year when he refused to go to the NCAA tournament because his team was invited to play in the Midwest Regional rather than the Mideast, its own section. It was a matter of principle, said McGuire. It was chicken, said his critics. Nonetheless, McGuire packed his bags for the NIT, where Marquette outclassed the field. Meminger, returning home to New York, was the tournament MVP, and Forward Gary Brell, an astonishing rebounder, was the MUP (most unbelievable player).
Those two are the only returning starters, a situation that caused McGuire to predict in the spring that his team was in for "a .500 season." Now, he says, he has "reassessed." He really has only dropped the con. The Warriors will be no closer to .500 than they have been in the past four seasons when they won 21, 23, 24 and 26 games. For the first time since he has been at Marquette, McGuire will have a natural center, 6'10" Jim Chones, a giant of much potential who, some of the Milwaukee Bucks say, is the quickest big man in the game. They should know something. They have been practicing with Chones. A sophomore, Chones "opens up a whole new world of defenses" according to McGuire; at times this year he will play a one-man zone while the other Warriors are hustling around in the familiar press.
The offense, however, will not change much unless Chones becomes so good that the Warriors decide to give up their stylish patterns. These involve breaking Brell and 6'6" JC transfer Bob Lackey open in the corners; freeing the coach's son, Allie, a sophomore and fine shooter, on the outside; and firing the elusive Meminger away to all areas of the court. Hughie (The Enforcer) McMahon is back for board muscle while another sophomore, 6'4" George (Sugar) Frazier, has good speed. Early in the season, the Warriors will lack the cohesiveness of past Marquette teams since Lackey, especially, lacks something on defense. But Meminger is a brilliant player, and McGuire's "reassessment" is accurate. "We may pick up all the sweet gravy," he says. But which gravy this year, NCAA or NIT?
It dawned on Penn's Jim Wolf one day recently that he and his roommate had the dean of men and a minister as fraternity advisers. "You know, it's nice to have both God and the dean of men on your side," said Wolf. Coach Dick Harter has a simpler view. Pointing for his own Judgment Day—the NCAA tournament—he is pleased to have five proven disciples.
The team that gave Penn its best season in years (25-2) returns intact. Wolf, who held Villanova's Howard Porter to a career low of three points, will start at center. Bob Morse, the Quakers' leading scorer on an evenly balanced club (four of the five starters were in double figures, with only two points separating them), will return at one forward. At the other will be steady-handed, unflappable Dave (Corky) Calhoun. Trainer Bob Mathews says, "I've never heard him say one hell or damn. The only time I ever saw him even change expression was once when he missed a layup. He frowned." While Calhoun is calm, the opposition may well be rattled. He has a deadly jumper and can go after the ball with the best, which includes Wolf, who tied Calhoun last season as the team's surest rebounder. Harter did not hear of Calhoun until February of his senior year in high school. Then Penn coaches began "just passing through the neighborhood" in Waukegan, Ill. Said Calhoun one day, "I don't know where you guys are coming from or where you're going to, but you're doing a lot of stopping by."
One place the coaches almost missed entirely was the doorstep of Dave Wohl, who will be at guard. A standout quarterback at East Brunswick (N.J.) High, Wohl had about 70 schools interested in him for football, but only five for basketball. One school definitely not interested in his basketball was Penn, which ignored two glowing letters from Wohl's basketball coach. Fortunately for Penn, Wohl showed the same persistence that characterizes his play on the court and overcame Quaker indifference. Steve Bilsky, noted for his unusual play under pressure, will handle the other guard position, even though he joined preseason drills late because of a dislocated shoulder.
Two substitutes who won several games for Penn, Alan Cotler and John Koller, will be back, and up from the freshman squad are Craig Littlepage, an alert defensive player, and 6'8" Phil Hankinson, who set a freshman record with 429 points in 19 games. Both are excellent shooters and rebounders and can be used at forward or center.
Last season the one weakness in the Quaker game was rebounding. Morse and Calhoun, determined to repair that flaw, spent the fall training season going to the basket. In the way of college coaches, Harter has hung a sign on his office door. "You did it once," it reads. "You can do it again. Today's the day. Go Quakers Go." Nobody is quite sure what it is the Quakers did once, but the team is ready to go, perhaps to the very top.
The weeks before the basketball season are always a time of keen anticipation in Lexington, Ky., but this year the suspense for University of Kentucky fans borders on the unbearable. Just consider some of the questions to be resolved: Will this finally be the last season for Adolph Rupp, the winningest coach of all time? Will 7'2" Thomas Payne, the first black to play for Rupp and the school's tallest player ever (Bill Spivey, some 20 years earlier, was a mere 7 feet), be as devastating as advertised? Will senior Guard Mike Casey, all-Southeastern Conference as a sophomore and junior, be able to come back successfully after sitting out a season with a broken leg? And do the Kentucky Wildcats, after a 12-year drought, at last have the material to present Rupp with his fifth NCAA national championship?
The latter, of course, is paramount with Rupp, who experienced in the '60s the most frustrating era of his 40-year career. His 1966 team made it to the NCAA finals, only to be upset by a lightly regarded Texas at El Paso team, then known as Texas Western. His last three teams, led by high-scoring All-America Center Dan Issel, won three straight SEC titles (doesn't Kentucky always win the SEC?) but failed each time to survive the NCAA Mideast Regional. Now time is running out for Rupp. He is 69 and bothered incessantly by painful foot and back injuries. To coach after this season, Rupp would have to persuade the university to waive its mandatory retirement rule. In apparent recognition that it is twilight time for the Rupp Era, plans are afoot in Lexington to replace the 11,500-seat Memorial Coliseum with a new 28,000-seat palace to be named the Adolph F. Rupp Memorial Coliseum. "Oh, that's very nice," says Rupp, "very nice, except I'm not so sure about that memorial part."
With Issel gone, Rupp has not one but three young giants eager to take his place. This guarantees the Baron the tallest team of his career. Junior Mark Soderberg (6'10") and sophomore Jim Andrews (6'11") could start for almost anybody, but at Kentucky they will mainly back up Payne. Says a Kentucky assistant, "Payne will be the next dominant player in college ball—perhaps by the end of this season." The forward positions are set with 6'5" junior Tom Parker and 6'6" Larry Steele, and Rupp has more good guards than he will be able to use. One spot apparently will go to Casey, who also can swing to forward, and the other is being contested for by four experienced troupers—seniors Terry Mills and Jim Dinwiddie and juniors Stan Key and Kent Hollenbeck. Kentucky, in so many words, has thoroughbreds.
All this talent enables Rupp to toy with several combinations, the most interesting of which has Payne and Andrews in the game simultaneously, Payne at center and Andrews at forward. One thing is certain: this season nobody will call Kentucky "Rupp's Runts."
7 NOTRE DAME
Last season, down in New Orleans, Austin Carr of Notre Dame had one of his finest games. It came in the finals of the Sugar Bowl Classic against No. 3-ranked South Carolina. The Irish lost by one point in overtime and Carr played the full 45 minutes without a turnover, made 19 of 24 shots (14 in a row in one stretch), five of five free throws and had six rebounds and eight assists. At the other end of the court he held the Gamecocks' John Roche to 14 points, though, to be completely fair, Roche was playing with a cracked rib.
"Carr is as good as any player I've seen," said South Carolina Coach Frank McGuire. Easily the best player out of Washington, D.C. since Dave Bing—maybe since Elgin Baylor—Carr averaged 38.1 points a game last season. He was second only to Pete Maravich in total scoring and he was far more accurate than the Louisianian (.556 to .447).
The Irish again will operate out of the double-stack offense, the special formation of Coach Johnny Dee's chief assistant, Gene Sullivan. It has one man at the top of the key (a clever passer, Jackie Meehan) and two men lined up, or stacked, on either side. Carr, who moves constantly without the ball, starts out under the basket on the right side and then uses picks set by 6'7" Collis Jones and 6'8" John Pleick. The result is something like having a jackrabbit dodge about in a grove of redwoods. The middle third of the court gets congested and a defender would have to be a Mexico City taxi driver to get through the stacked-up traffic.
Other than Carr's moves and shooting, the important aspects of the double stack are the picks by Pleick (pronounced "plake"), which would slow up a truck, and the ball handling by Meehan, who has not been noticeably slowed by two knee operations in the last two years. With his knack for getting the ball to Carr and Carr's ability to get the ball in the basket, Meehan would be the favorite to lead the nation in assists—except that the colleges do not officially keep track of assists. Too bad for Meehan. Too bad for opponents.
Another D.C. product, Collis Jones, has not received much attention because he plays alongside Carr, but he is a good scorer (18.6 average) and is especially effective with his turnaround jump shot from the left side. He is also the best rebounder on the team. A third senior from Washington, 6'8" Sid Catlett, has not fulfilled his promise. He tends to hold the ball too long and lopes too leisurely down the court. Probably he will be a substitute again behind Pleick, Jones and Doug Gemmell.
Dee, a personable lawyer who tends to overstate everything, claims he has the country's best basketball program, and he is anything but coy about his star. "Austin Carr," he says, "is the finest basketball player who ever lived." That covers it, John.
8 LONG BEACH STATE
Jerry Tarkanian is not sleeping so well these days for worrying about his Long Beach 49ers. Not that Tarkanian is concerned that someone is going to pick on them—just the opposite. What he dreads are the kind of lines about his rugged team that go: "Yeah, they can play, but can they spell?" Tarkanian, who has been accused of recruiting some fairly intimidating types, is tired of that sort of talk. "We've had some tough guys," he says. "Especially last year. I'll be the first to admit it. But only two of our kids now are poor students, and we'll graduate more black kids than either UCLA or USC. My men cannot be called outlaws."
Be that as it may, his men certainly do shoot people up a lot. In Tarkanian's two years on the sprawling Long Beach campus (enrollment: 28,000, the largest state college in California), the 49ers have won 47 and lost eight, with only one of the defeats coming in their league. They are now in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association. His efforts have forced the rest of the league members to shape up their programs, but vast improvement is needed before any of them catch Tarkanian.
The speed-loving 49ers had to contend with stalling tactics in nine games last season and won them all thanks to George Trapp. The 6'9" brother of the San Diego Rockets' sometime Satanic-looking John Trapp, George controlled the game despite playing out of position in the pivot. This year he is the only returning starter (Forward Billy Jankans passed up his final year to sign with the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA and then, unfortunately, was dropped), but Trapp will not have to do it all. He will go to the corner now to make room for Bob Lynn, the starting center two years ago who sat out last season with a liver ailment. Lynn will add board strength, which despite his offensive weakness is all that matters. Tarkanian's mother lode of incoming talent includes two 6½-footers due to achieve quick fame. One is Chuck Terry, a handsome, solid shooter and defender who was the California junior college player of the year. The other is fluid Ed Ratleff, who became something of a legend before ever putting on a varsity uniform. Out of East High School in Columbus, Ohio, Ratleff signed a letter of intent at Florida State before detouring to Long Beach, where he averaged 40 points and 25 rebounds a game as a freshman. He also pitched the varsity baseball team to the NCAA playoffs. Tarkanian will start Ratleff in the backcourt alongside speedy Dwight Taylor, but Ratleff will end up roaming anywhere the game takes him—short of Florida State. Bernard (Bird) Williams will play backcourt, too, while high-jumping Dave McLucas can fill in at forward or center. The 49ers have such big-timers as Marquette, Colorado and Kansas on their schedule now, but if Tarkanian thinks he is sneaking up on anybody with Ratleff and his buddies, he is mistaken. Everybody is ready for Long Beach.
9 UTAH STATE
Well beyond the bleary glare of enormous population centers there is a lot of beautiful blackness, so pure and unmegalopolitan that the light patterns of the little towns of Utah's Cache Valley are framed in it like constellations on a clear winter night.
On the big college team of the area there is blackness, too, all beautiful. The Utah State players come from such distant nebulas as Oakland and Brooklyn. Forward Marvin Roberts and Center Walter Bees, for instance, are from Bedford-Stuyvesant, light-years away from Logan. Forward Nate Williams is from Oakland's McClymonds High School, center of its own kind of galaxy (Bill Russell, Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, et al.).
Roberts and Williams are a superb forward combination. Roberts, at 6'8", is a telepathic passer from the pivot and has the ball-handling ability to play guard. When Utah State scared UCLA in the West Regional final last year, he scored 33 points, took down 16 rebounds and drew three fouls from Sidney Wicks in the first 10 minutes. "Roberts has always been a superhuman being out there," Assistant Coach Dale Brown says matter of factly. Williams, a 6'5" junior, can jump 32 vertical inches and is kind of superhuman himself. After scoring 45,40, 35 and 40 points in sophomore-year games, he settled down to a 21.7-point average—with ball handling. Against Santa Clara, he made three consecutive steals and turned all of them into baskets. It was no fault of Williams or Roberts that the Aggies did not run right through their 1969-70 schedule. They tried hard enough.
Lafayette Love, all of 6'10", is double-quick for his size, rebounds well and has a good hook. Conscientious and likable even beyond the norm for this team, the sophomore center may tend to be overanxious but, Coach La-Dell Andersen hopes, not overmatched. Even if he isn't, two homegrown Utahans at forward could push Roberts out of the pivot. They are Ron Hatch and Bob Lauriski, who hit unearthly percentages from the field. "It's just like turning on a faucet," says Andersen, normally a conservative sort. "Hatch hits with monotonous consistency from 12 to 15 feet out. In a scrimmage this fall he went 17 for 20. But Lauriski did almost as well, and he hit 45% as a freshman."
Andersen seriously is considering playing four forwards. If Hatch or Lauriski plays at the top of the key, Jeff Tebbs will be the point man, a job for which he is well suited. He rarely commits a turnover, is as good as anybody one-on-one and can shoot, too.
Andersen should take this latest of his fast-breaking, flip-shooting teams to State's sixth postseason tournament in 10 years. And on the way State will frighten a lot of people; its new 11,000-seat Assembly Center, which will open in December and is a splendid rival of the new Utah facility, lies close by a graveyard.
10 WESTERN KENTUCKY
On the night of Dec. 23 Western Kentucky plays Jacksonville in Louisville's 18,000-seat Freedom Hall. Besides affording Coach Johnny Oldham an excellent chance to find out what his Hilltoppers are up to this season, the game also will give 7' Jim McDaniels and Western's four other returning starters a chance to get back at the team that embarrassed them in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament. Trailing by only six points at the half, the 'Toppers inexplicably fell apart early in the second period and the Dolphins won 109-96 in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final margin suggests. "We just went native," says Oldham, who talks Kentucky hillbilly but dresses like a regular city slicker. "I think somebody got to 'em at halftime and told 'em that they were on national television. You know, we did a pretty good job last year, but all anybody in the world remembers is that last horrible game."
Some 15,000 Western-Jacksonville tickets had been sold by early November, but none of the fans is awaiting the rematch more eagerly than McDaniels, the Hill-toppers' senior center who is challenging Jacksonville's Artis Gilmore as one of the best big men in the nation. In last season's game McDaniels scored 29 points to Gilmore's 30, but he also fouled out with 8:30 left, and thus had to sit on the bench while Western died. "The game with Jacksonville has been on my mind all year," says McDaniels, who led his team to one of its finest seasons (22-3 in all games, 14-0 in the tough little Ohio Valley Conference) before the Jacksonville debacle. Right after meeting the Dolphins, Western goes to New York to play in the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden, and Big Mac is also looking forward to that. "We went up there when I was a sophomore and stunk up the place against Toledo," he says. "We couldn't do anything right, we were so cold. We want to show people that we play basketball here."
No big man in the country shoots from outside any better than McDaniels, but this season he hopes to exert more influence in those areas traditionally reserved for tall centers—shot blocking, rebounding and scoring from underneath. McDaniels improved in all these phases of his game when he toured Europe last summer with 11 other college stars. Moreover, his weight is now up to 230—almost 20 pounds more than it was last season.
The other returning starters from the '69-'70 team are: Clarence Glover, 6'8", a fine rebounder; Jerome Perry, 6'4", and Jim Rose, 6'3", a couple of sure shooters; and Gary Sundmacker, 6'4", the playmaker and defensive ace. Although Sundmacker and Perry both were injured while working out this fall, they are expected to be ready for Jacksonville. "We're shooting for everything this season," says McDaniels, the team leader now. "I think we're together now."
When viewed from a certain perspective, Des Moines can seem a remarkably settled city, steeped in careful living and tenderly aware of its traditions. It is a city where more than 40 insurance companies have established offices and where the citizens, not surprisingly, stress traffic safety. The famous people who began here are well remembered, like Andy Williams, who started his career in a Des Moines Italian restaurant, and Jack Bailey, longtime host on Queen For a Day, who led the cheers for Drake University's football team during the late '20s. A decade later a young man everyone called "Dutch" came to town to broadcast Drake basketball. He left after two years for Hollywood and still lives in California—in the governor's residence. A student at Drake spent much of his time practicing the piano and writing a humor column, which he signed Steve Allen, for the student paper.
Today the big name in Des Moines is Maury John. During the winter he can be seen on two television shows every Sunday. Each afternoon some 50 businessmen drop by Drake's gym to watch him work and about 4,000 others have bought season tickets to catch his show at Veterans Auditorium. John has mellowed during his 12 years as Drake's basketball coach. He no longer runs laps between the bench and the scorer's table working off his spleen against officialdom, but he is still considered fun to watch, especially since his Drake Bulldogs should win their third consecutive Missouri Valley Conference title.
Two years ago at the NCAA national finals Drake barely lost to UCLA and Alcindor, 85-82, and John was named Coach of the Year. He could have been considered for the honor last year, too. With only one starter returning, Drake was picked at the bottom of the preseason conference standings. But John, who spent a dozen years as a junior-college coach, knew where to look for help. He brought in four transfers and Drake ended the year with a 22-7 record and a national ranking.
Now he has three starters back. One is Forward Jeff Halliburton, the leading scorer and team leader, who is considered to be one of the nation's best one-on-one players. Another is Tom Bush, a small center by Valley standards at 6'8", but strong, aggressive and what John calls "a sleight-of-hand artist—he has mastered the art of pushing." The third is Bobby Jones, a guard who turned into a 48% shooter. A fourth starter is certain to be Forward Leon Huff, who broke most of Halliburton's scoring records at San Jacinto Junior College in Texas a year ago. And there are talented candidates for the other guard.
"Our defense has been responsible for our success," Halliburton says. "While the other team is still congratulating itself on a basket, we're crawling up its back." With entertainment like that, who needs Andy Williams or Jack Bailey or Ronald Reagan or Steve Allen? What's more, the Bulldogs have stayed in town.
Sandy Grady, a Philadelphia Evening Bulletin columnist, recently described how Villanova got its Field House. "The truth is," he wrote, "50 years ago some guys were putting up a telephone booth on Lancaster Avenue. They made a mistake and put in two hoops."
The Field House has not grown since. It seats 3,200, and if the hoops in the place now number six, last month only two of them had nets attached. Fortunately, Villanova plays all but five of its home games away—at Penn's Palestra, which is not exactly the Ritz of Roundball either—and unfortunately for those who would beat the Wildcats, the team's star, Howard Porter, could play basketball superbly anywhere, even in a phone booth. Porter has led Villanova in scoring and rebounding in each of his varsity years, and his coach, Jack Kraft, claims he is "the best all-round big man we've ever had." Porter was 15th in the nation last year in rebounding and had a 22.2 scoring average. His best single-game performance was against St. Peter's, when he scored 37 points and took 32 rebounds.
But Porter is not the entire Villanova show. He will get some help from Forward Clarence Smith, who could be more aggressive under the boards; from Hank Siemiontkowski, a combative junior who will break the collective hearts of linotype setters everywhere and who moves into the starting lineup for the first time; and from Chris (Hot-dog) Ford, who returns at guard. Ford loves his role as the team's showboat. "After I score I raise my hands and the fans go wild," he says. But Kraft is wilder about Ford's subtler assets, such as his passing. Last year against St. Peter's (alas) he set a regular-season Madison Square Garden record with 14 assists.
Sophomore Tom Ingelsby, who averaged 21.9 points a game with the freshmen, is being counted on heavily to replace Fran O'Hanlon, the departed team leader. If he is the ball handler Kraft thinks he is, Ingelsby will free Ford for duty up front. Sophomore Ed Hastings, probably the best of the newcomers on defense, will then move into the backcourt, with Bob Gohl, Joe McDowell and John Fox helping out.
Last season, en route to a 22-7 record, including a 64-62 victory (in its own gym, of course) over St. Bona-venture, Villanova's primary weakness was its inability to adjust from a running game to a patterned offense when the initial attack bogged down. This was particularly noticeable in the early season, when Villanova traditionally is vulnerable. Kraft plans to stick to his free-lance offense and man-to-man and zone press defenses and hopes he has everything working smoothly by late December when the Wildcats have to go against Kansas in the Jayhawk Classic at Lawrence, Kans. and Illinois in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. If they get by those formidable hurdles, the Wildcats can retreat to Philadelphia and defend themselves nicely in their telephone redoubt.
Eventually, Bob Boyd will win a national championship. He has to. Heritage Hall, the new building going up to house athletic offices, locker rooms and trophy cases, should be ready this spring, and every USC sport from football to mumblety-peg will have an NCAA championship knick-knack to throw into one of the cases. Except basketball. USC has won 49 national championships in six sports (not including four mythical football titles), but none of them have come in Boyd's game. When he returned to his alma mater four years ago as head coach, Boyd looked across town at UCLA and saw a sophomore named Alcindor. He could have been forgiven had he decided to hibernate for the next three years, but what he did do was plot against Alcindor during every practice. He finally defeated UCLA in the last regular-season game of Alcindor's collegiate career, and in March of this year he beat John Wooden's Bruins again. So USC has defeated UCLA two of the last three times the teams have met; no other college can say that.
Boyd's boys have been eager and exciting—the average attendance at home games has increased from 2,500 to 6,000 recently—but their performances have been spotty. After beating strong teams like LSU, St. John's and Florida State, they tend to turn around and lose after being ahead by 17 points with seven minutes to go, or when their best foul shooter misses both tries with the game tied and no time left. "How do you lose that one?" asks Boyd. Angrily, one might answer.
Though 11 of the top 12 players return from the team that went 18-8, many of the personnel problems that came with divided playing time now seem solved, for Boyd has a more settled lineup. Paul Westphal, who became the best guard in the Pacific Eight after midseason, and Dennis (Mo) Layton will direct the offense, while Dana Pagett, who lacks speed but is a deft passer, will enter the lineup should the offense begin to bog down. The Trojans need muscle though 6'8" junior Center Ron Riley, a skinny 195 pounds, was second in the conference in rebounding and should improve.
Since George Watson, 6'8", and Joe Mackey, Chris Schrobilgen and Leroy Cobb, all 6'6", do not give Riley much help on the boards, Boyd is hoping for a quick recovery from 6'8" rookie Bruce Clark, who had a bone tumor removed from his shin early in the summer. Stronger and more aggressive than the others, Clark is able to score and rebound. He may be fully ready when conference play begins in January, but USC will find out how good it is before that. The Trojans open at Utah and play Florida State in the Sun Bowl in mid-December. "And I can't keep saying wait until next year," says Boyd. He can't even wait for his 6'7" son, Billy, a much-recruited forward who graduates from high school this June. "If Coach Wooden gets him for UCLA," says Dad, "I'll know I'm in trouble."
14 FLORIDA STATE
Coach Hugh Durham has dealt himself another winning hand. When the Seminoles compiled a 23-3 record with a blend of four superb black starters and Center Dave Cowens, the formerly bored fans in Tallahassee exuberantly nicknamed their team "The Busted Flush." The two best seniors in that lineup, Cowens and Willie Williams, have moved up to the Boston Celtics, but Durham has drawn a dandy pair of sophomores to replace them, 6'4" Ron King and 6'11" Reggie Royals. They will make FSU the first major college in the South to start an all-black lineup, and they give Durham and the university a chance to pick up lots of chips.
In fact, only two things can keep Florida State from having a good chance at the national championship: rebounding and the NCAA. Cowens and Williams pulled down an average of 28 rebounds a game. On the strength of that alone FSU could have challenged for any sort of national championship that was hanging around, but an NCAA probation resulting from FSU recruiting violations kept the school out of postseason tournaments. The ban is on again but this time it probably won't hurt as much as it did last year, for the Seminoles don't have quite the rebounding a No. 1 team needs. Among the likely regulars, only Royals stands taller than 6'6" and he stretches his 6'11" over an unintimidating 195-pound frame. Mean-looking and meaner-playing Vernell Ellzy, who switches from wing to low post in Durham's 1-3-1 offense, may end up being the team's top rebounder, even though he is a mere 6'4".
Speed in depth will permit Durham to compensate for FSU's lack of height by allowing him to employ the pressure defenses he prefers. The Seminoles, who had to travel fast to average 91.7 points a game last season, will be even faster on offense now, and there are more shooters available. Senior Skip Young returns to the point position to run the offense after a season on the wing. Two players, Ron Harris and Rowlande Garrett, who have started occasionally, will battle for one wing spot, backed up by sophomore Larry Gay. Gay averaged 21.9 points a game, but was only the third best scorer on the freshman team. Royals, an exceptionally rangy shooter for a big man, averaged 23.3 points a game, while King, an all-purpose offensive threat who is Coach Durham's second big steal out of the state of Kentucky (Cowers was the other), averaged 35.7.
Durham will mix all this together with a fast riffle. "Last year we usually used 10 men in the first half," he says. "We will try the same thing again. Using that number of players allows us to press more and run more on offense. Besides, a kid who gets into a game in the first half knows he's an important part of the team. He wants to play harder." Durham sounds like a man who has two hands to play.
Harv Schmidt is well liked around Champaign and Urbana, Ill. He is something of a local boy, hailing from up the road in Kankakee, and he came down to play basketball at Illinois in the mid-1950s instead of permitting himself to be wooed out of state after the Sweet Sixteen tournament. Schmidt was captain of the Illini and the team's best player, and then he went off to try AAU ball and serve his coaching apprenticeship. After the slush-fund scandal of 1967, Illinois decided it was time to call Schmidt back. He was straight and he knew every court and corncrib from Moline to Mattoon.
The new arrangement has worked out nicely. Schmidt quickly found the barber who used to give him painstaking, 45-minute crewcuts when he was a student, and then he went out and found a few players, too, though not all so well barbered. The result was a 19-5 record two seasons ago and 15-9 last year, which is not a reincarnation of the Whiz Kids of the early '40s, but certainly respectable.
This year Illini fans are polishing up their orange-and-blue "I Like Harv" buttons early because 1) football is having a few problems in Champaign-Urbana and 2) Schmidt has three starters back plus as fine a pair of sophomores as there is in the Big Ten, which happens to be loaded with fine sophomores. Best of the newcomers is 6'6" Nick Weatherspoon from Canton, Ohio, skinny, knock-kneed and aggressive. 'Spoon had a knee operation when he was a freshman, but it has not slowed him up or affected his excellent shooting. It was Weatherspoon who recruited another hotshot Nick from Ohio, 6'6" Nick Conner, whose high school team in Columbus had a 72-1 record in his three years and won two state titles. Conner jumps even higher than Weatherspoon.
In his fourth season Schmidt at last has the players who can speed things up, and there will be changes in the Illini attack. He is toying with the idea of using one guard, sharpshooting Rick Howat, with four front-court men moving in and out of the middle. It is hard to imagine 6'8", 260-pound Greg Jackson taking his turn in the corners, but Schmidt insists the new attack can work, particularly with Jackson, a boulder of a fellow, setting picks for Howat and Weatherspoon. And with Jackson, Weatherspoon, Conner and 6'4" Fred Miller up front, Illinois will be a formidable rebounding team. This especially pleases Schmidt, who says, "The Big Ten is the best it's ever been, and the league's going to be won or lost on the boards."
There is a good bench, too. Should Schmidt revert to a two-guard offense, Jim Krelle most likely will play beside Howat, with Miller as the swing man. As usual, Schmidt will stress what others call defense but he hides. As he puts it: "We will give up points with reluctance." Tight-lipped. Tight defense.
During practice sessions at Duke, folding chairs ring the edge of the court, each labeled with the name of a Blue Devil. It is all part of Coach Bucky Waters' philosophy of carefully regimented practices in which even the time-outs are designed to simulate game conditions. When a player is not participating in one of the drills, he must sprint to his seat. Once he sits down he finds he cannot talk with other resting teammates—even if he dared to—because Waters has the chairs spaced too far apart. The bench-sitting practice should come in handy for some of Duke's starters from last season. All five of them are back—reason enough to expect the Blue Devils to improve their 17-9 record of a year ago—but as many as four of them may not start.
Their places could be taken by a whole squad of sophomores who were Waters' first recruits when he came to Durham two years ago. They gave Duke the only undefeated (16-0) freshman team the school ever had, which is saying a lot, considering the quality and quantity of Duke players of the past. The lone returnee whose job is secure is Randy Denton, a 6'10", 240-pound senior center. Denton hesitated to use his bulk to punish opponents as a sophomore, but he toughened up last winter and now is a top pro prospect. Denton showed his new aggressiveness when he scored 36 points against Jacksonville's Artis Gilmore in a scrimmage and outscored (21-12) and outrebounded (17-1) All-America Dan Issel in the first half of Duke's game against Kentucky. He also decisively outplayed Michigan's Rudy Tomjanovich, the second pro pick last spring.
Sophomores Jeff Dawson and Richie O'Connor, both of whom scored more than 20 points a game as freshmen, will battle holdovers Rick Katherman, the only strong outside shooter among the upperclassmen, and Brad Evans for the wing positions. Dawson is almost sure to start since Evans decided to play football this year and will not join the team until after the season has begun. Either senior Larry Saunders or sophomore Alan Shaw, both 6'9", will open in the low post.
The most interesting battle for a starting spot will be between two-year starter Dick DeVenzio, a 5'10" point man who is an honor student in English and an aspiring author, and Gary Melchionni, a brother of the Villanova Melchionnis. Gary has four inches over DeVenzio and uses them to good advantage, especially on defense where he has shown exceptional poise. But the quarterback position is the one where experience counts the most. Who plays there will best indicate how Waters solved a preseason problem. "I have to decide whether to start the sophomores or the veterans," he said then. "I've got to determine how the older players would perform coming off the bench. It's called blending egos and ability, which is what they pay me to do."
Lou Watson, coach of the Hurryin' Hoosiers, missed last season while recovering from a back operation that removed two ruptured discs from his spine. They had "just disintegrated," said Watson, wincing at the memory. While he was immobilized, the team disintegrated, too, finishing with a sorry 7-17 record and earning, for the third year in a row, the Big Ten booby prize. What hurt Watson most of all, however, was the fact that he was well enough to watch the games. He had taken over from Branch McCracken six seasons earlier, had been first or last ever since, never in between, and was sick. But now he is healthy, and so is Indiana.
The chief reason for the new optimism at Bloomington is a fine physical specimen named George McGinnis, who is 6'7", 235 pounds, quick and agile. McGinnis is a sophomore from Indianapolis who did not play freshman ball because he had to beef up his grades and get out of the conference's "nonpredictor" category. But he did score 53 points and take 30 rebounds in an Indiana-Kentucky high school all-star game. And he did play for the U.S. college all-stars in Europe last year at the World Games, where he led the team in scoring and rebounding. And he does have every other coach in the league scared stiff. They will get scareder when they see McGinnis fast break, dribble behind his back and put up his soft jump shot.
One of Indiana's major disappointments last season was 6'8" Joby Wright from Savannah. He came into school with a ton of press clippings but, as a sophomore, almost an equal amount of lard. After playing on the U.S. experimental Olympic team last summer, he reported to practice in the fall with more confidence and less weight. As if McGinnis and Wright were not enough board strength, Watson also has 6'7" Steve Downing, McGinnis' teammate in high school and another nonpredictor-turned-predictor. He cannot shoot that well, but he is a good passer and a tremendous jumper who has the good timing needed to block shots.
There is more. Jim (Bubbles) Harris led the team in scoring last season (18.1 a game); Rick Ford was the best free-throw shooter in the Big Ten; sophomore Ed Daniels was on a Georgia state championship high school team with Wright; and Cornelius (Bootsie) White—still another sophomore—averaged 20 points a game with the freshmen. If Indiana plays Bubbles and Bootsie at the same time, it will deserve victories just for gall.
Next door to the Hurryin' Hoosiers' adequate field house there is a handsome new basketball arena under construction. It will open next season with 17,500 permanent theater seats, rollaway bleachers at either end and a floor named for the late Coach McCracken. The building's official name will be Assembly Hall, but Lou Watson thinks that one of these days people will call it The House McGinnis Built.
The country around Lawrence oozes basketball tradition. The man who invented the sport, Dr. James Naismith, was the first coach at the University of Kansas, and there is a dorm and a street named for him. He was succeeded by the famous and somewhat eccentric Phog Allen, who insisted that his players warm their feet before going onto the court. KU is the school where Wilt Chamberlain was a disc jockey as well as a center, and where Jo Jo White, Bill Bridges, B.H. Born, Clyde Lovellette and so many other notable players polished their skills. Last season, after four straight 20-victory years, Kansas slipped to 17-9. Coach Ted Owens places his left hand on one of Wilt's old sneakers, raises his right hand and swears it will not happen again.
As usual, Owens and his staff have a large group of good athletes, the most notable being 6'9" Dave Robisch, who also pitches for the KU basketball team. Robisch has been first-team All-Big Eight two straight years and was picked over Colorado's Cliff Meely and Oklahoma's Garfield Heard last season as the conference MVP. He averaged 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, at center, but Owens will move him to forward for his senior year and play 6'10" Roger Brown in the pivot. Brown cannot shoot as well, but he rebounds better. Continuing the musical chairs, Pierre Russell shifts from forward to guard. "He is as fine an athlete as we've had at Kansas," says Owens. Russell worked all summer on his outside shooting. A good jumper, he will sometimes crash in to help with the offensive rebounding.
These three seniors were all heavily recruited high school stars, but one of their teammates, junior Isaac (Bud) Stall-worth, came to KU because of his trumpet. The son of a high school principal in Hartselle, Ala., Stallworth played basketball and also in the marching band. One day he was at a band conference on the Kansas campus and took some time off to play in a pickup game in the gym. One of the other participants was All-America Jo Jo White, who rushed out to report to Owens that there was an Alabaman over at the gym who could play the game. Owens decided to take a look, and Stallworth ended up going to Kansas on an athletic grant-in-aid. He scored 27 points in his first varsity game.
Kansas also has 6'9" sophomore Randy Canfield, an aggressive pre-med major; Guard Bob Kivisto, a high school All-America from Illinois (a favorite Jayhawk recruiting lode) and 6'8" Greg Douglas, who started at times for the 1968-69 team that went to the NIT finals. He was ineligible last year but now is back in academic grace.
Only Captain Chester Lawrence was lost, so Owens will be fielding experienced hands for the first time in three seasons. There are no Jo Jos or Wilts around, but the Robisches, Browns and Russells should be good enough for a Big Eight championship.
The shortest distance between two points is not the route the Houston Cougars will take this year if by some slim chance they reach their goal. They will play 12 games at home in Hofheinz Pavilion and another 14 on the road, all to get right back to Houston, only this time to the Astrodome where the NCAA finals will be held in March before an anticipated crowd of 50,000. For the Cougars to get there, Coach Guy Lewis would successfully have to replace Ollie Taylor (now graduated to the New York Nets), find a center and survive a killing schedule. Houston, which admittedly had an easy time of it last season, must play at least 10 teams capable of making the top 20 ranking and will travel to such distracting places as Miami, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Why these cities? "Well," says Lewis, "we went to Hawaii and Vegas last year."
The Cougars also won a surprising 25 games, overcoming their lack of a bona fide pivotman by sending the 6'2" Taylor high into the Texas heavens to average 24 points and 12 rebounds. This time, with the exception of a home-town boy, "Double D" (Dwight Davis), the other teams will have the jumpers. Houston's backcourt will be smart and swift with an improved Poo Welch and newcomer Larry Brown, who brings a 35-point scoring average from Northeastern Oklahoma A & M Junior College. Welch's marksmanship, or the sometimes glaring lack of aim, was a disappointment last winter, but Lewis expects him to select better shots now that he is a senior; his ball handling and direction of the fast break have never been in question.
In the corners are the 6'7" Davis and 6'5" Jeff Hickman, who had fine sophomore years. Davis, an intimidator on defense, was only the second Cougar in history to score over 500 points as a rookie (Elvin Hayes was the first) while Hickman may well be Houston's best outside shooter ever. Hickman can also play backcourt, as can 6'4" Jerry Bonney, a red shirt last year. The problem is in the middle. Davis could play there, and does on defense. Or the seasoned Bob Hall could. Or sophomore Gene Bodden, who is 6'9" and muscular. But Steve Newsome, another sophomore and a natural cornerman, probably will. The 6'8" Newsome was primarily a football player in high school and is still learning the fundamentals of basketball, but he has been the leading scorer and rebounder in preseason practice and seems to be maturing rapidly.
Sad though it may be, the real Houston center is on the freshman team. His name is Dwight Jones, and he is the kind of extraordinary player who makes coaches look ahead. As Lewis says of this year's varsity, "I've quit dreamin'. We're not very impressive. I wish I had Jones right now." The NCAA probably came to the Astrodome a year early.
Once upon a time all University of Utah teams dressed in one locker room and Athletic Director Bud Jack had his office in a converted lavatory. But last winter the school finally got Jack out of the John and its athletes into a five-building, $10.5 million sports center. The complex includes such delights as carpeted dressing-rooms, a palatial natatorium with automatic timers that can do everything but leave wake-up calls after the diving events, and enough shower and dressing rooms to wash and clothe the Russian army. Indeed, the third tallest building in Salt Lake City would fit comfortably inside the 15,000-seat basketball arena.
The one trouble with going deluxe is that a school has to turn out teams worthy of the treatment. The Utes are, thanks in good part to the recruitment of two distinguished players before the building program got under way, Mike Newlin and Ken Gardner. Newlin is a senior guard who averaged 26 points last season. Twice a conference player of the year, he led the Redskins in scoring in every league game. He is an honor student, he is among the best guards in the West and he is the type of player who thrives on pressure. Fouled an unusual number of times—he was among the nation's leaders in the attacked and mugged category—Newlin sank 87.2% of his free throws. His style with free throws is distinctive: bounce, bounce, bounce—as unfriendly stands count the bounces in unison—and then, suddenly, without looking at the basket, the shot.
Gardner complements Newlin. A good shooter—very sharp from the corner—he consistently scores 15 points a game and leads the Utes in rebounding. As intense as Newlin, he channels his drive into steady play.
At 6'10" and 225 pounds, Center Jim Mahler will be more than adequate against most teams, but will have trouble against the quicker, better-shooting big men. Help here could come from another senior, a 6'5" forward and center with the fetching name of Early Laster. He is strong and plays the Utah high post well, but he has a weakness opponents might exploit. His nickname is "Peaches."
If Laster does not settle into a forward spot, transfer John Dearman, a stylish shooter, probably will. Eddie Trail, another transfer, has the ball handling and driving ability to take defensive pressure off Newlin and enable Coach Jack Gardner to rely more on guard options. And Jimmy Wright, though only 5'7", is so quick he could go through the laundry without getting wet.
Coach Gardner is a methodical teacher who believes in organization. "If it moves, we chart it," he admits. Will the fans in the new arena be watching the usual freewheeling Utah fast break? Because his statistics convince him it is easier to teach than complicated set offenses, they will. And, anyway, Gardner says, "It works." It better. Somebody has to pay for that carpeting.