Over the summer UCLA players took their ease in Canada and Mexico while Coach John Wooden conducted clinics in Alaska and Spain. Though history's most successful coach spent time driving dogsleds through the Klondike and going barefoot in the Mediterranean rather than being chosen to coach the Olympic team (the USOC should again hang its head in shame), out-of-breath publishing types came running anyway. The result is a spate of Wooden books that will hit the market sometime between Christmas and Groundhog Day. Or right about the time UCLA should be roaring toward one of the most remarkable records in sport: 60 consecutive victories.
Having concluded That Championship Season for the sixth year in a row (and eight of the last nine), having gone undefeated (30-0) for the third time and won 32 straight NCAA tournament games and having invented the pompon girl, all that is left for the Bruins is to puff the magic 60. If all goes well they would do that on Jan. 27 at Notre Dame, which is back home in Indiana where it all started for Wooden ages ago.
As always, UCLA is well prepared. Though Henry Bibby's long-range bombing is gone, the Bruins are so deep and talented his departure will hardly be noticed. Formerly, opponents had to honor Bibby from outside and play an honest game inside. Now more deep zones will collapse on the big men and challenge somebody to fling the long ones. That somebody might be 6'11" Swen Nater, the rage of the Olympic team before he nearly starved to death in training camp and blew the joint for the nearest cheeseburger house. If Nater gets rag arm from too many shots or rag mouth from too few French fries, there is Ralph Drollinger, a skinny 7' freshman who has a nice touch but not enough muscle.
Wooden will continue his swarming "containment" defense and one-guard-with-wingmen offense. The rebounding wing is Dave Meyers, a local boy whom Wooden calls "my gangly colt—he's getting it together." Contesting the point position are Tommy Curtis, the bowlegged fireball who ignited the Bruins to their NCAA title victory over Florida State last March, and sophomore Andre McCarter. Curtis, "an inspirational, crazy guy" according to one teammate, never lets a team rest—his own or the opponents'; he is probably ahead of McCarter, who has as much physical equipment as any backcourt man in the land. At the shooting wing senior Larry Hollyfield has experience and 40 pounds on sophomore Pete Trgovich, whose floppy body, Serbian features and innovative moves are the image of another Pete named Maravich.
All are so good that two of them, probably Hollyfield and maybe Curtis, could even make the first team. Oh, you noticed that—a few names missing. Well, it is true. UCLA's second team could be ranked No. 1. As it is, the scrubs on this possibly best of all teams will have to watch Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Larry Farmer and Greg Lee run up the scores before they get in to mop up. It looks like another season to write a book about.
Yearly, Florida State has the only collegiate circus in the nation. Called Flying High, it is described by university publicists as a year-round extravaganza designed to delight folks from eight to 80, and apparently it does. In spring it plays at Tallahassee, home of the Seminoles, and in summer it moves up north to Callaway Gardens in Georgia.
The name of the show could just as well be applied to the FSU basketball team, which has been flying high and delighting its fans ever since it soared into last season's NCAA final. The team uses no trapezes, to be sure, but it has a cast that includes a King and a Cole and together they are making Coach Hugh Durham a merry old soul. King's first name is Ron and his high-arching shots last year were strictly out of the Karl Wallenda playbook. When Durham wants to expand on the act, he sends Otis Cole out on the wing, from which far-off vantage spot he provides his own occasional spectacular.
Four starters return from the cool and collected team that lost by only five points to UCLA. It was the closest any school had come to the Bruins in the national championship game in light years.
The Seminoles are strong up the middle with Lawrence McCray, one year older and 20 pounds heavier, at the low post and dependable Reggie Royals at the high post. That perpetrator of larceny, Otto Petty, who alternated at one guard with Greg Samuel last year, has moments when he runs the offense as well as anyone. Just a split-second slower than a hummingbird, he also has been known to throw perfect passes to infinity. Sophomore Dennis Burke, slightly more conservative, should provide consistency when Petty isn't humming.
Florida State lost three valuable men, Samuel, Rowland Garrett and the versatile Ron Harris. But as Petty says, "We lost three pretty good dudes and got ourselves four pretty good dudes in return." Burke and 6'9" freshman Greg Grady are both out of the New York area and will be eased in gradually. Two spectacular junior-college additions will complement King and Cole. Benny (Glide) Clyde, who has moves the dancers down at The Electric Eye, the town's soulful disco, would appreciate, is one. He moves smoothly upcourt and then suddenly takes off to drive on the basket or catapult himself to the top of Tully Gym for a one-handed rebound.
Showman Durham also has an O.J.—as anybody from orange-juice country should—Otis Johnson, to be more precise. O.J. is simply a stronger version of Clyde. Where Clyde will finesse opponents, O.J. will hit them like a glass of the stuff on the morning of a hangover. "The Man," which is what his players call Durham, has shown every indication of being pleased with either result. Clyde has a reputation for being belligerent, but King, his roommate, says, "He does not smile much and people think he's mean. But basically he's a pretty good guy." Well, it's not a rave review, but there will be plenty of those before next spring. On with the show and the high flyers.
Lefty Driesell, who has enjoyed neither luck nor success in tournament competition over the years, went out a winner for the first time last spring. Although the NIT championship was not exactly the one Maryland was after, it did relieve certain early aggravations and give the Terrapins precisely what they deserved. "I was emotionally worn out when it was over," says Lefty. "It was a very tough year. We started slowly and played badly. When we finally came on at the end we were playing great. I figured I deserved a rest so I took my family to Florida. But then I started worrying about next year and what all the other coaches were doing to get ready. I was home in four days."
Driesell, by his own admission, really does not have that much to fret over. After welcoming back the eight top players from a 27-5 team, he said, "This is the best situation I've ever been in. The only thing we have to worry about is overconfidence."
There seems little danger of that taking hold, especially with so many newcomers pushing veterans for playing time if not starting jobs. Big fellows like sophomores Owen Brown and Tom Roy. Little fellows like freshmen John Lucas and Maurice (Mo) Howard. From them should come the strong rebounding forward and the steady backcourt hand to help make a good team a better one. Game after game last season it was plain that if just one person could move the ball consistently the Terps would be terrors.
The most prominent returnees arc Tom McMillen, the 6'11" shooter who plays excellent defense, and Len Elmore, a superb rebounder and shot blocker. McMillen has survived what Driesell feels was the most pressure ever to face one of his players. "People have to realize that Tom is not a dominant-type player like a Jabbar or a Thurmond," says Lefty. With fewer responsibilities around the basket, the NIT's Most Valuable Player should be even more effective. Nobody ever has doubted that he can shoot. And nobody ever has doubted Elmore's abilities under the basket, although there is some question whether his knees, often hurt, can stand up to the pounding they get all season long.
Dependable Bob Bodell brings his long-range scoring eye to one guard position, and Jim O'Brien, the team's second-leading scorer behind McMillen, will again be effective coming off the bench. Because of knee trouble and general inconsistency, Howard White may lose out to Lucas, a Junior Davis Cup tennis player who would be happy to decide the position with a Ping-Pong match. "After all," asks Lucas, "you want to go with a winner, right?"
Maryland most likely will be less susceptible to the hazards of Atlantic Coast Conference road play where all of their losses came last year. But the ACC tournament presents another problem. For mental and physical agony, Lefty believes it is tougher than the final round of the NCAA. Of course, never having played there, he doesn't really know. But he'd like to find out—and possibly will.
Even if they did not have one of the best shooters, one of the best sophomores, one of the best junior-college transfers and seven, eight or maybe 78 other guys who arc among the best something or others, the Titans of Oral Roberts University would have a lot of the good things in life going for them. After all, the school's modernistic Prayer Tower sends out heavenly signals 24 hours a day. At Oral Roberts, whether the appeals are going skyward or toward the referees, winning is an around-the-clock proposition.
The Titans lost but two of 26 games last season, their first as a major college, when they set an NCAA record for scoring and led the nation in rebounding. A 100-point game at ORU, in fact, is just about as ho-hum as someone throwing away his crutches after a session with the school's founder, President Oral Roberts, the dynamic minister who believes that a winning basketball team can help spread the faith.
Located on 500 gently rolling acres at the southeastern fringe of Tulsa, Okla., ORU began sprouting its widely spaced blue, gold and white buildings of futuristic steel and glass in 1962. Now the young Davids are ready to venture forth to play the Goliaths of college basketball. Only this time their leader is a 7' sophomore, David Vaughn. He was the object of a vigorous recruiting tug-of-war between Memphis State and Oral Roberts. The Tennessee school thought it had tugged for most of the rope when Vaughn met and fell in love with star Memphis State Guard Larry Finch's sister (whom Vaughn later married), but David's father is a minister and the president showed up in person one day and...well, mortal love lasts only for a lifetime.
Vaughn will give the Titans something they lacked last winter, size inside to go with some divine outside shooting by Guard Richard Fuqua. Fuqua's long-range jump shots averaged 35.9 points per game last year, just half a point away from leading the nation, and a chart of his shots showed that those taken farther from the basket fell in more often than those closer. Fuqua, who has an odd, loose-jointed way about him in the court, was held under 25 points three times. On those nights the Titans won two games by a point and lost the other. Vaughn's addition allows high-jumping Eddie Woods to move to forward, where he will be joined by junior-college recruit Greg McDougald. The other guard spot will he tilled by Larry Baker, a 6'4" senior who played on the same high school team as Fuqua. By no means does the ability end there. On the bench there are plenty of reserves to spell the regulars when the pace becomes too fast.
The Titans play a more arduous schedule than before, but with their new and old talent, plus a little help from the Prayer Tower, winning the close ones should be no problem. "You know," mused Coach Ken Trickey one day, lifting his eyes skyward, "it just seems that when it comes down to that last-second shot, the one you must make, the ball always goes in for us."
As a basketball school Marquette represents a purgatorial stage for high schoolers wanting to turn pro. It is a place where a player's bad habits get corrected quickly—by the competition or the sympathetic coaching or, more likely, both. He learns to perform in a style popular with pro scouts, knowing that the NBA and ABA keep their eyes on Marquette and its iconoclastic coach, Al McGuire, who looks like a young priest, sounds like an Eastern dock worker but thinks and talks like a sociologist. There are no rabid strictures and very little rah-rah in McGuire's coaching liturgy. He is a free spirit who encourages his team to be every bit as adventurous.
On the first afternoon of practice, 15 hours after some coaches have already begun with a midnight scrimmage and others have sent their men huffing through a mile run or into an initiation pileup to retrieve a loose ball, McGuire is talking about the last time he saw Charlie Scott play and his choice (which he prefers to keep to himself) of the best referee in the NBA. "The playoffs are the only thing," he says, talking about the NBA but perhaps thinking about the NCAA tournament. "All the rest is garbage." So, to hear McGuire, is all that mystery surrounding coaching.
"Look," he says, "the kids I get should already be blue-chip thoroughbreds. All I have to do is teach them a little discipline and the rest is a jelling of the minds. I try to start my seniors; I feel I owe them that. And we try to showcase our black players for the pros, because making it is very important within their culture.
"You can't lecture these boys all the time, so occasionally I have medical, legal and business people advise them on how to run their lives. Last week a couple of FBI agents came in and told them there were maybe three bad places in town to stay out of—and two of them were my favorites."
To keep his players out of the kind of weekend mischief he sometimes cannot avoid himself, McGuire holds scrimmages from eight to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. "I'm surprised other teams don't do the same," he says. "By the time my boys get to the parties they have to really pour it on to catch up." McGuire is betting that they won't, but if they do he tells them to stay out of his part of town.
The beneficiaries of this liberal education are four starters from last year's 25-4 team—Forwards Larry McNeill and George (Sugar) Frazier and Guards Marcus Washington and Al's son, Allie—and 6'8" sophomore Maurice Lucas who, many believe, is already better than either Jim Chones or Bob Lackey. Throw in—should McGuire decide to play him—freshman Earl Tatum, who is only a step behind Lucas, reserve Guard Ed Daniels and backup Center Mike Mills and, voil√†! the ingredients for a stay-at-home stew, the reason why McGuire turned down two pro coaching offers, one for some $90,000 from the Philadelphia 76ers. No matter what town Marquette plays, the pros are always in the wings.
While all the Acadians down in Lafayette wait in terror that the big, bad NCAA will sentence Southwestern Louisiana to the electric chair, the man with the golden arm and the man with the plastic knuckle go on about their business. That means Dwight (Bo Pete) Lamar, firing those rockets from somewhere out in the bayous, and Roy Ebron, waiting for a miss so he can jam it back in. While leading his team to a 25-4 record, Lamar took 949 shots last season, made 36 points a game and became the first man ever to lead the university division in scoring a year after he had led the college division. The 6'9" Ebron averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds despite playing with a fractured finger the second half of the year after taking one mighty leap and jamming it on a backboard. The big fellow finally had a pink plastic knuckle reinforcement inserted during the off-season, so he should be well again. As for Lamar, he is always in the pink. "From 35 feet I'm 50-50 to make the shot," says the handsome point champion. "If I miss a couple, the coach says, 'Scoot in a little.' "
Coach Beryl Shipley's team came so far so fast that a lot of people scooted in a little and started enough investigations to make old Blackham Coliseum look like a Creole Watergate. The results were that Shipley was put on a two-year probation period by the school administration and warnings were heard of further penalties from the NCAA. "I'm just sittin' and hopin'," says Shipley with as fine a country 'n' Western drawl as anyone this side of Ferlin Husky.
The coach faces other questions: how to fire up Ebron, who sometimes squanders his considerable talent by pouting and getting into foul trouble; who to blame for a monstrous road schedule that includes away games with Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Houston, Oral Roberts and Hawaii twice; and where he can find a court big enough to hold both Lamar and the excellent freshman, Larry Fogle.
The Cajuns will not be as physical as last year but they should be quicker and more versatile. Tall Guard Jerry Bisbano is a solid, active veteran who complements Lamar well (meaning he passes to him) while junior Fred Saunders and 6'6" redshirt Robert (Turkey) Wilson are big and quick enough to play either inside or out. Another freshman, 6'8" André Brown, is a sleeper behind Ebron.
To correct the team's bad habit of gaping when Lamar is groping, Saunders, who has the touch but not the thirst, is being ordered to shoot more. The leaping Fogle, who has the thirst and the touch, needs no such encouragement. The youngster gives up the ball only on alternate Tuesdays and already in practice Lamar looks frustrated, a Bo Pete who has lost his sheep. The Cajuns raged all the way to the Midwest Regional last season and they are capable of carrying on a lot further. Ebron has to stay in the games, of course, and the NCAA wolf has to stay away from the door.
Neither Ohio State nor Minnesota is fully recovered from the infamous brawl of last January. The bloodied Buckeyes, who won the game but lost the rumble, never regained their nerve and missed out on a second straight conference championship. Minnesota won but is still concerned.
"Much has been made of our 6-4 collapse following that game," an OSU official said. "But Minnesota, having lost a starter and a sixth man and what with all that was said about them, could easily have been the ones who cracked under the pressure. They didn't, though, and we played like zombies the rest of the way." Which is one good reason why the Gophers arc expected to win the conference again, if at last they do not succumb to the pressure of all that bad publicity.
To recapitulate, after the imbroglio Ron Behagen and Corky Taylor were suspended and Coach Bill Musselman, who won his players', if not his country's, lasting respect by supporting them strongly, was left with only four starters, four substitute guards and a baseball player to finish out the season. Miraculously, they won. Now Behagen and Taylor arc back and there are three new faces around to reinforce the Iron Five that Musselman went with after the Ohio State game.
Heading the team is Olympian Jim Brewer, the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. Taylor is behind him along with 7' freshman Tommy Barker. Clyde Turner, who scored 19 of the Gophers' 64 points per game, is a fixture at one forward. Bruiser Dave Winfield may go to the bench now that sleek Behagen and his 17 points per game are off suspension. Bob Nix and Keith Young man the guard positions, but sophomore Greg Olson could shoot his way into prominence and junior-college All-America Bob Larsen will back up Young. Going into practice Minnesota was impressive and nothing it has done since offers much in the way of aid and comfort to opponents.
But what of the trouble? Musselman is willing to make a personal apology to Ohio State's Fred Taylor, but Taylor says he can never bring himself to respond. "I'm just country enough," he said not long ago, "to think it all comes home to roost someday." The players, on the other hand, appear to have settled, if not forgotten, their differences. Brewer and OSU's Luke Witte, the stomped-on victim of the Minnesota-Ohio State nongame, played on the same Olympic Trials team, and Turner and Ohio's Dan Gerhard toured Australia as Big Ten all-stars. In both instances the players talked over their differences privately, then refused to answer any questions put to them by the press. They proceeded to play like teammates from the same school.
Yet the tension refuses to go away. Already scheduled for national television—surely because of anticipated public interest—is the first rematch on Feb. 10 at Ohio State. If the atmosphere becomes recharged, Minnesota may well feel fortunate that it led the nation in defense last year. Defense could come in handy.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Before they start writing songs about him, putting his face on the front of cereal boxes, spreading his exploits from campfire to campfire and negotiating professional contracts with more zeroes in them than the Japanese air force had during World War II, here are the simple facts about the 6'4" basketball phenomenon known as David (Doctor D.) Thompson. He is quiet, shy, cooperative and friendly, which is to say, in some respects a normal sophomore. That North Carolina State's fervor to recruit him two years ago put the school on probation this season is not his fault—and neither he nor his coach is worried all that much about the stigma anyway. What is a rule or two when you have a player aboard who has already been called by Purdue Coach Fred Schaus one of the 10 best, pro or college, in the country today?
Now to more basic information. Doctor D. Thompson is a player with a 42-inch vertical jump, which means he gets that high off the floor without benefit of a run. He is a player who is being called the best ever in the Atlantic Coast Conference even before opponents' first curses have sounded. A player, furthermore, who will hereafter be known around Reynolds Coliseum as The Franchise.
"David is the heart of our plans," says Coach Norman Sloan. "We're going to keep him around the basket and work awfully hard to get the ball to him. If he is stopped we'll be hurt, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. He is the best I have ever seen. There is something about the way he moves and acts that says great. Because of him it is justifiable to say we'll have one of the best teams in the country this year."
As for David Thompson, 18, the youngest of 11 children from a poor black family in Shelby, N.C., he only hopes people aren't expecting too much. "I'm not sure what they want," he says, preferring to play his game unobtrusively, listen to soul music and go to school. It was not so long ago that the big kids in his neighborhood came to his house, took his ball, used his goal and refused to let him play. "I would go off and hide so they wouldn't see me cry," he says.
These, then, are a few of the truths concerning David Thompson. They will be obscured and enlarged upon if he is the player people believe him to be or forgotten if he is something less, which is not very likely.
Should there be even slight slippage in the Thompson image, Sloan and the Wolfpack will not cancel the schedule. There is 7'4" Tommy Burleson, the top rebounder and second-leading scorer in the ACC last year who is doing everything better. There is Joe Cafferky, an excellent shooter who has gladly changed positions to let in 5'7" Monte Towe, a "playmaking buzz saw" according to Sloan. And there are enough forward candidates to fill two lineups. Returnee Rick Holdt may start early but Tim Stoddard or Steve Nuce could fit Sloan's plans better. Those plans will include running, shooting and pressure defense, but mostly David Thompson.
LONG BEACH STATE
To the surprise of many, including themselves. Coach Jerry Tarkanian and his star, Ed Ratleff, have returned for another year at the sprawling campus on the banks of the California oil slicks. After their team won 25 games and a third straight Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship, the friendly Armenian received another flock of coaching bids while Ratleff was a first-round draft of the Indiana Pacers. Fortunately their loyalty to school and each other plus the usual pleasing prospects at Long Beach made it easy enough to turn down all the offers. In gratitude the school gave Tarkanian a full professorship and his own office while Ratleff was guaranteed another winterful of joy watching 7' teammate Nate Stephens go one-on-one with Rip Van Winkle.
The 49ers for sure need a wide-awake big man because much of their inside depth (namely Chuck Terry, Eric McWilliams and Bob Lynn) has graduated. Last year Tarkanian could withstand the uncoordinated defense and shooting lapses of Stephens and mammoth (6'8", 240-pound) Leonard Gray because he had so many other people. Now the two are the ones. Tarkanian says Stephens "has changed his life pattern" and is working hard (Big Nate hits the sack early these days since the coach convinced him "inhaling midnight air is poisonous") but his concentration span still is suspect, say, after it passes the 15-second mark.
Long Beach will run more, play its scratchy 1-2-2 zone and try to get the ball anywhere on the floor to the marvelous Ratleff. The rest of the 49er backcourt previously looked more like old Oscar Mayer (heh, heh—weiners) but that may be remedied by the arrival of Ernie Douse from Boys High in New York and the change in attitude of Lamont King. Douse is a sleek 6'6" sophomore who can fly, score and deliver an exciting array of shots. Moreover, he is cooperative and coachable, which is an upset of sorts at Long Beach. King was to be last year's playmaker before he flopped, was surly and created dissension with sniping criticism of Ratleff; now he is a changed man, sacrificing his shooting, smiling at everybody and quietly becoming the finest defensive player on the team. "I'm not letting anyone down this year," he says. King is backed up by JC transfer Rick Aberegg, who passes with flair, and veteran Tom Motley, while Douse will alternate at one wing with Glenn McDonald.
Up front Gray, who has lost 10 pounds (he actually played at 250 before) and Stephens should scare enough people to enable blond Phil Hicks (late of Loyola of New Orleans) to get in some hot licks. Also expected to help the cause is walk-on Kyle Jackson, who lacks experience but may be the best shooter-jumper the 49ers have. Long Beach has toughened the schedule, moved its home games from a tiny campus gym to the 12,000-seat downtown arena and contracted to play in four tournaments before the New Year. Hopefully all will end sometime before midnight; Stephens has to get in out of that air.
It has been a long time since notes of optimism were heard along historic Beale Street in Memphis, the Mississippi port that contributed so much to jazz, but the Memphis State Tigers lately have made their fans so lyrical that they have plagiarized a song to extol their chances. It's called: "Meet Me in St. Louis, Wooden."
Whether Memphis State can get humming and face UCLA and John Wooden in the NCAA finals up the river next spring depends on Coach Gene Bartow's ability to weave some new and admittedly impressive talent around seniors Larry Finch and Ronnie (Big Cat) Robinson, who led the Tigers to the NIT last season.
The scholarly Bartow would seem ideally suited for the job. Before he arrived at MSU in 1970, someone looking at the Tigers' record might have concluded it was compiled by players with sloping foreheads who walked with their fingers dragging along the ground. Using a ball-control system, the team trudged to a 20-56 mark in the previous three years and, worse, won only three games in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bartow replaced the Neanderthal era with the Age of Aquarius. "He taught us to love each other," remembers Finch, the team's best songbird. Love—and let's admit it, a far sprightlier style of basketball—produced an 18-8 record, then last year's 21-7 mark and an MVC co-title.
The benefits of improvement are evident: new wall-to-wall carpeting in the coaches' offices; a sold-out home court—the Mid-South Coliseum where attendance doubled after Bartow arrived—and a cluster of conspicuous junior-college transfers and freshmen, all eager to join a winner. Bartow says any of five freshmen has star potential. Among them are two big guards, Bill Cook, a high school All-America from Memphis who broke Johnny Neumann's city and state scoring records, and Clarence Jones, who turned down pro baseball offers to play basketball. The others include a 6'10" center who, at 17, is still sprouting and a pair of big forwards. Where is the NCAA being played in 1976?
More immediate help is expected from Center Larry Kenon, a junior-college All-America at Amarillo. He joins Finch, whom Bartow calls "the best college guard in the country," and Robinson, a teammate of Finch's since they were students in a Memphis junior high school. "If I had a choice of any big man in the country, Ronnie's got to be my pick," says Finch. "I can't play without him. He's just like a brother."
Finch is an extremely accurate outside shooter under pressure. With Kenon and Robinson, plus help from junior Ken Andrews, the best-shooting big man on the team, or Wes Westfall, another junior-college transfer, the opposition may have to play hard defense against the Tigers since Finch is notorious for letting the chorus sing. "If you score 50 points, your teammates aren't shooting and they're not happy," says Finch. "I'd rather win. It's not how many you score. It's how many you win."
Alumni Hall always was too small; there was something about a 3,300-seat arena that seemed awfully picayune for the big-time Friars. Indeed; with NIT and ECAC Holiday Festival championship banners draped from the rafters, the place seems hardly big enough even for practices. This is never more evident than when Providence is running its fast break, which is most of the time. It is spectacular and at every session there should be thousands of New Englanders on hand going bananas.
Starting Dec. 11, there can be 11,215 of the breed watching the Friars at the new Providence Civic Center, where the team will play 16 of its 26 regular-season games. If the Friars are looking for a nickname for their new home they could do worse than call it Marvin Gardens. The King of Marvin Gardens—if Actor Jack Nicholson will allow the comparison—is Marvin Barnes, the leading rebounder at the Olympic Trials who somehow failed to make the team. "They picked the best all-round team," Barnes says without much conviction. "I went out there knowing I wasn't going to make it. People told me there would be politics involved. I wanted to prove I could be the leading rebounder and I was. I played tough and two coaches told me to stop playing street ball or ghetto ball and play civilized."
Providence runs a very civil fast break when Barnes gets the ball off the defensive backboard and clears it to Ernie DiGregorio—the best playmaker in New England and one of the best in the country. "Ernie isn't too fast," says Coach Dave Gavitt. "If I lined up my players and told them to run baseline to baseline, he would finish near the end. But if I had them do it dribbling a ball, just watch where he would finish." And watch where he would pass the ball if Gavitt ordered that. DiGregorio seems to have six pairs of eyes and four hands, all with a soft touch.
Both DiGregorio and Barnes, a junior, could be pros next year. Barnes received substantial offers this spring but resisted. Ironically, the school almost lost him in October when he and 6'10" Larry Ketvirtis had an argument in the cafeteria after a hard practice. Ketvirtis came out of it with a broken cheekbone that required surgery. "I'm definitely sorry the whole thing happened," Barnes says, and then, anticlimactically, "there was nothing to it."
Two other starters, Fran Costello and Charlie Crawford, return, as does Nehru King, a valuable sixth man. Kevin Stacom, a transfer from Holy Cross, probably will start at guard with DiGregorio. "We can be better from a standpoint of how well we play, if not our won-loss record," Gavitt says. The Friars were 21-6 last year and could improve if—among other things—Costello, an agile 6'8" swingman, shoots more often. Costello has been known to wear his custom-made bowler and spats or a zoot suit on occasion. He has also referred to himself as an anachronism, but he just may have the last word on Alumni Hall: "I know the Civic Center will be great for the program and I'm pleased. But personally 1 will miss the viable audience response at Alumni Hall."
When you've got it, flaunt it—don't make turnovers. That, essentially, is the philosophy of Gale Catlett, the young, enthusiastic and untried coach who has plans to shake off the dust coating on Cincinnati basketball. Cincinnati fans will be escorted to their seats by demure young ladies, the team will take the floor in snazzy redesigned uniforms and then unveil its nifty new ball handling and pregame routines. The arena will be darkened, the starting lineups will run through a spotlighted hoop to be introduced and girls in hot pants will sing the national anthem. The best will follow, for this year's team could be stronger than any since the Bearcats won national titles back in 1961 and 1962.
Since those days, two coaches, Ed Jucker and Tay Baker, abruptly announced their resignations in midseason. Even though Cincinnati has had 19 straight winning seasons, home crowds began dwindling a few years ago and the always vocal alumni clamored for something besides passing drills. Catlett will give them a pro-style running game and multiple defenses plus pattern basketball on occasion. His theories are a mélange of ideas picked up during stints as an assistant coach to Lefty Driesell at Davidson, to Ted Owens at Kansas and to Adolph Rupp at Kentucky. In an obvious effort to relate to the players on a team that was openly critical of Baker last year, Catlett has retained his predecessor's assistants, none of whom is over 34 years of age.
Following Baker's announcement of his resignation, Cincinnati won 10 of its final 12 games, beating such nationally ranked teams as Florida State, Jacksonville and Southwestern Louisiana. "Once the pressure was off Tay," explains senior Guard Dave Johnson, "he took it off us. He'd come into the locker room, laughing and joking and say, 'Just go out and play.' And that's what we did." Earlier in the season the abrasiveness of young sophomore Lloyd Batts, plus rumors that Batts and Derrek Dickey were talking to the pros, contributed to some lackadaisical performances, especially away from home.
Catlett has everyone back, plus a junior-college transfer, Ron Hightower, who can play forward or guard. Assistant Coach Tony Yates, the floor leader of those NCAA title teams, thinks Hightower will move right into the starting lineup and Catlett agrees. Batts and Dickey averaged 36 points and 20 rebounds a game between them last year, but the Bearcats missed muscle in the middle. There are hopes that sophomore Mike Franklin, who weighs 235, can supply that. With a plethora of big men that includes junior Jesse Jemison, Catlett probably will use a one-guard offense with four wing men, letting either Johnson or junior Dan Murphy run the show.
That takes care of the team, and those mettlesome alumni are taking care of Catlett. One fellow chipped in with a nice deal on a Cadillac, a real-estate man found the coach a $65,000 house and one day in the fall another supporter mowed Catlett's lawn. Obviously, some people think the Bearcats are ready to run.
Cazzie Russell was a legend in the Big Ten. Take Crisler Arena, where the Wolverines have played basketball since 1967. In Ann Arbor it is known as "the house that Cazzie built" even though he played his last college game a year before it was opened. Russell laid the foundation for its construction by leading the Michigan teams of 1964-66 to three consecutive conference titles, something old Yost Fieldhouse had not seen in 16 years. Back then, his baskets produced a sizzling "Cazzie R-r-russell" from the public-address announcer. And now that R-r-russell will sound again, many times over, with a slight variation. It will be "Campy R-r-russell."
Campanella Russell should be every bit as good as his name sounds. A 6'8" forward, he was selected as the outstanding high school player in the country two years ago. He is from nearby Pontiac, where main street is named Wide Track Drive, and that's a pretty good description of Campy's move to the basket when he vrooms past a defender. His presence in the Michigan lineup will, among other positive things, relieve All-America Henry Wilmore from the pressure of all those "...best since Cazzie Russell" headlines, and he will make the Wolverines a more powerful contender than they have been recently with only Wilmore's brilliance to sustain them.
As a freshman, Campy Russell averaged a point for every minute he played on a 12-0 team that beat the varsity late in the season. That varsity finished 14-10, quite a record considering that Coach Johnny Orr had to do without 6'10" Center Ken Brady for the first dozen games and without Wilmore for four.
Brady, the conference's leading percentage shooter as a sophomore, and Wilmore, its highest scorer over the last two years, are the senior co-captains and both are anxious to take something of value with them when they leave, like a championship. So are Forwards John Lockard and Ernie Johnson, who combined for 26 points and 19 rebounds a game in 1971. They are joined by sophomore Joe Johnson, a superfly who will play guard alongside Wilmore in a first-six alignment that rivals the brothers from Minnesota in size and ability.
An excellent fellow to talk to, Orr has never been accused by his peers of being an excellent coach, and he will have to prove that he can guide all this sophomore-senior talent through a Big Ten that promises to be strongest overall in years. Michigan averaged more than 17 turnovers a game last season and Orr's idea of defense is to score a lot of points and hope for a wide victory margin. The Wolverines won big and lost big.
There is a feeling around the league that this team has so much talent it is impossible to squander. If true, Wilmore will have been smart waiting around one more year instead of signing a pro contract, and Russell in selecting Michigan over hundreds of other schools. In a way, Campy had to go to Michigan. He has been trying to live up to Cazzie's reputation since junior high. Anyway, "R-r-russell" has kind of a ring to it.
In the Astrodome and in their own stately pleasure dome, Hofheinz Pavilion, the Houston Cougars have won 26 games while losing only one over the last two seasons. On the road, perhaps troubled by jet lag, lumpy hotel mattresses or highwaymen disguised as referees, their record is a lackluster 16-12. The obvious solution—to be a constant stay-at-home and receive callers in the manner of a trap-door spider—is, by luck or design, at hand this year. Coach Guy V. Lewis' team plays 13 of its last 16 games at Hofheinz Pavilion and seems almost a certainty to be picked for the NCAA Tournament (its 10th in 14 years). If they get by one qualifying game on a neutral court, then the Cougars move to the semifinals of the Midwest Regional in—that's correct—Hofheinz Pavilion.
Chances are that even with a Harlem Globetrotters traveling schedule, this Houston team would finish among the nation's best. The Cougars lost All-America Forward Dwight Davis, a first-round draft pick by both pro leagues, but they get back and add enough frontcourt muscle and height to make people at Hofheinz forget Dwight in a hurry. The most impressive of the big men is Dwight No. 2, the homegrown Dwight Jones, a 6'10" junior who started for the U.S. Olympic team. Jones appears too slender to hold his own under the backboards, but he is deceptively strong and is tougher and more aggressive for having battled his way through Munich. He gets good practice competition from sophomore Maurice Presley, also listed at 6'10" but perhaps a full inch taller than that even without his Afro. Lewis has installed double-low post plays so he can use both stingers at the same time.
The Cougars also have two-year starting Forward Steve Newsome, one of the few top major-college basketball players to come out of the state of Mississippi, and a tall, talented freshman, David Mans, plus Sidney Edwards, who played little last year but looked good when he did. In fact, Lewis is so loaded with forwards and centers that he may move 6'9" sophomore Louis Dunbar to guard, which under ordinary circumstances could damage Houston's useful full-court press and perhaps leave it vulnerable to other teams' presses were not Dunbar so good. The son of a deputy sheriff in Minden, La., he grew up not far from Bernice, hometown of Willis Reed, and Rayville, which produced Elvin Hayes. Dunbar had impressive scoring and rebounding averages as a freshman (27.5, a school record, and 15.3) and Lewis claims, "He can handle the ball well enough to bring it downcourt on a press."
Houston pleads poverty when it comes to playmaking guards, but both starters, Jerry Bonney and Donnell Hayes, are back and they will be pushed by, among others, Ed Riska, who transferred in when Loyola of New Orleans dropped basketball, and sophomore Vinnie Caruso of Puerto Rican and Italian descent from New York City, who broke John Roche's records at LaSalle Academy. California, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Southwestern Louisiana et al., welcome to Mr. Hofheinz' friendly parlor.
Dr. Drayton Miller was coaching the Jacksonville University freshmen last year when he was approached by a member of the school's Century Club. The Super Six, as the freshman team was called—on it were six high school All-Americas—was on its way to the lockers after scoring 93 points and the man was upset that he had missed seeing them play. "Why did you start early?" he asked Miller. "We began on time," was the reply. "Stick around and watch the second half." The Baby Dolphins finished with 153 points and by the time the season was over had broken every school record for a 25-game schedule. The team received so much publicity that a 10-minute film clip was shown on a major television network. "No matter where I go," says Don Beasley, another assistant coach and recruiter, "people tell me they saw that film and they want to know if we really are going to be that good this year."
Head Coach Tom Wasdin also wonders. "I know we are young and strong and quick," he says, "but how do we gain experience? There is only one way and that is under the gun." And against the sternest schedule the school has yet attempted. "Our goal each year is a postseason tournament and I don't want people saying, 'How good can they be? They don't play anyone,' " Wasdin says. And then the awfulness of that statement strikes him. Doing a double take, he adds: "I am afraid of that schedule. We are in three tournaments in December. We'll know our fate by the New Year."
For starters, Wasdin has Henry Williams, one of the better sophomores in the country. The brother of Jim Williams, who played at Temple and in Italy, he is a 6'6" 220-pounder who handles the ball like Walt Frazier. "He will take a 30-footer at the end of a close game and tip in the rebound if he misses," says Miller. Williams and sophomores Ricky Coleman and Shawn Leftwich all played on a Pennsylvania All-Star team that beat the best from the rest of the country in Pittsburgh's annual Dapper Dan tournament two years ago.
Jimmie Clark, Dave Stowers and Mike Denney were the other members of the Super Six. Coleman, who was expected to start at one guard, has been slow in recovering from a knee operation, so Clark will share the position with the experienced George Scholz. Leftwich and junior-college addition Butch Taylor will share the low-post spot. Both are quick, love to reject opponents' shots and score well themselves.
But these are only the new men. It is not as though the team that rose to national prominence several years ago suddenly found itself fresh out of able bodies. Indeed, Leon Benbow and Abe Steward, starters on last year's 23-8 varsity, return, Benbow at wing and Steward at the high post, which he shares with Bob Nylin. Steward led the team in rebounding. "We're hungry, fast and we want to play," he says. So what do you feed a young, hungry Dolphin? Why, all those Cougars and Owls and Friars on that schedule—and then hope like mad that he has an iron constitution.
When Frank McGuire greeted his team for the first time in Carolina Coliseum last month he intended nothing more exciting than a round of handshakes and a rudimentary drill or two. But also awaiting McGuire on a Sunday afternoon that should have belonged to the World Series telecast were 4,000 Gamecock loyalists. "I thought they'd be pretty disappointed if we did nothing more than shoot layups," said McGuire. "With that kind of turnout, I felt the least we could do was hold a scrimmage." That was the very least that they did. McGuire and his players had the crowd hungrily awaiting the opening game by the time they finished.
That the freshmen played the veterans to a standoff was the big news since South Carolina, having lost some of its finest players, is counting on newcomers this year. Although there are enough quality returnees to breed optimism, too, 7' Danny Traylor frankly wishes Tom Riker was still around. "If things don't go well I can expect a lot of criticism," says Traylor. "Comments like 'Traylor's not hustling enough.' I just hope people realize how tough it's going to be without Riker here. This is the first time in several years we haven't had two real big guys."
Fortunately, Traylor's abilities are not as modest as his outlook. He led South Carolina in rebounding and blocked shots while averaging 14.3 points per game. The greater emphasis on guard play is sound strategy since South Carolina will have one of the best backcourts in the country. Olympian Kevin Joyce, who led the U.S. team's refusal to accept the silver medal following the controversial loss to Russia, will be joined by his former New York City high school teammate, Brian Winters. Both outstanding athletes, they can also serve on the front line. "The great thing about Brian," says Joyce, who expects to improve on his 18.3 scoring average, "is that he doesn't mind giving up a little bit of his game to help me." The fact is, however, both Joyce and Winters can and will produce points and leadership.
The forwards will be inexperienced Rick Mousa, who looks promising despite the fact that he scarcely played last year—McGuire-coached teams tend to rely on their five starters, treating substitutes as though they were the flu—and a pair of sophomores, smooth Tommy Cox and powerful Clyde Agnew. McGuire believes he must also find room for freshman Alex English, a member of the largest and possibly best class he's ever recruited. English, a slender 6'8", is not one of the New York imports who always make their way to McGuire but, for a rare change, a local product from Columbia. "He's a young Bill Russell," says Frank.
The Gamecocks, who have lost at home only four times in four years, play 13 games on their court this season, making up for 1971-72 when they finished 24-5 while playing out of a suitcase. They still make a few dangerous road trips but most of the time McGuire should have matters right where he likes to keep them, in his hip pocket.
There is a brand new game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a place where before now no one has thought much about anything 'cept The Game and The Bear during a football season that runs about 11 or 12 months a year. The University of Alabama has discovered how to play basketball, and it probably has discovered it well enough to win the Southeastern Conference title. After all, Alabama almost won the Southeastern Conference title last season and three of its five conference losses were by a total of seven points. Those seven points look mighty insignificant standing next to Charles Cleveland and Leon Douglas.
For a while Cleveland, a sophomore, and Douglas, a freshman, had something of a monopoly on the Most Valuable Player award in the Alabama state high school tournament. Cleveland won it in 1970 and Douglas in 1971 and 1972. And both are products of Coach C. M. Newton's law: the longer it takes a rebounder to come down, the more you try to recruit him. Alabama is loaded with players who have helium, as well as mercury, in their bloodstreams and the youngsters join three starters back from a team that was 18-8.
When Newton took over at Alabama four years ago, his first harvest yielded four victories. A desultory high school program that occasionally even found an assistant football coach moonlighting on the basketball court was about as much help as the boll weevil is to cotton farmers. Then high school basketball began catching on in the state and the good players—particularly the blacks, who appreciated Newton's color-blind viewpoint—took to staying home. The Tide's starting lineup could have four Alabama-born blacks on it. "I'll play the best players," says Newton, encouraged by fans who at one time stayed away in droves from the magnificent Memorial Coliseum, which was completed in 1968 and seats over 15,000. This year season-ticket sales have at least doubled.
The crowds will be coming out to see a winner, especially if Douglas can provide the immediate help many people think he should. Newton tends to play down Douglas' chances of contributing, trying to take some of the pressure off the 6'10" center. "He's only 18 and it is a lot to ask a guy his age to go against the kind of big men we'll be facing this year," says Newton, perhaps forgetting he is talking about a conference noted for the absence of many good, big men. Cleveland broke the school freshman scoring and rebounding records last season and will move into the backcourt with Ray (Big O) Odums, another of those state tournament MVPs (1969). Odums, who makes the fast break work with his burning speed, led the SEC in assists last year.
Senior Wendell Hudson, the first black to play basketball for Alabama, was the team's best player the last two seasons and assuredly will benefit on the boards by Douglas' arrival. That could be woeful for the opposition. Alabama scored over 100 points five times last year. The total should be easily eclipsed, along with the rest of the SEC, including Kentucky and Tennessee.
At St. Joe's of Philadelphia, basketball is more than a student's passing fancy. As athletes and academicians alike insist, it is a source of identity for the school and even an answer of sorts for the problems of a small, private. Catholic liberal arts college in today's society. St. Joe's does have its problems: attracting students in a secular age without displeasing alumni, funding in the face of a small endowment, relating its campus to a changing neighborhood. Half of the school is in Philadelphia, half in suburban Merion and it has an enrollment of day students, night students and boarders, many of them first-generation collegiates. The school's very name is confusing, shared as it is by dozens of others. Its programs in the hard sciences, physics and engineering are highly regarded and it has one of the few food-marketing majors in the country, but outside of academe, who pays any attention to things of that sort? As St. Joseph's long ago discovered, it remains for its varsity basketball team to supply the missing image.
This year that will be easy. St. Joe's should receive the kind of recognition it has not enjoyed since two of Jack Ramsay's squads combined for a 50-8 mark in the mid-1960s. And the school better enjoy it. Unless present Coach Jack McKinney comes up with another Mike (Stick) Bantom, the chance probably won't come again for a while. Bantom, at 6'9" the biggest and possibly best player in St. Joe's history, is a senior. McKinney has had so much trouble recruiting other men as large as Bantom that, he says only half in jest, he had to "get out a book and learn how to coach him." The results were mixed. Last year the Hawks operated a 2-3 offense that allowed two or three opponents to converge on Bantom, who, good as he was, could not play the game all by himself. "We found that they could defense us," admits McKinney.
This season the Hawks will go into a 1-2-2 to give Bantom more mobility and an opportunity to increase his 22-point scoring average. Forward Pat McFarland (18 points) and Guard Jim O'Brien, who for no strong reason shot little last winter, are other sure shots. O'Brien may lose his job by midseason to sophomore Fran Rafferty, whom McKinney identifies as "a real Philadelphia guard—they're such animals." The other starting guard will be the capable Mike Moody, who returns from a year's probation. Bantom, who fouled out of five games and accumulated 93 fouls in 28 games, must get more help on the boards from Bob Sabol, who does exceptionally well for a 6'4" forward but gets knocked down about 105 times a game. Fortunately, he is used to playing hurt. Kevin Furey, taller but somewhat less effective than Sabol, should improve and help out all around. Swingman Lou Peltzer already has and surely will play in some spot.
While Bantom was training for the Olympics, the rest of the team was touring Europe on its own and playing national teams, including Russia's. The 19-9 outfit of last season could be live games better this time around, which, all things considered, should be identity enough.
Overlooking the immaculate campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah is the newest temple of the Mormon Church. Its golden spire climbs just high enough into the sky to be seen half a mile away at the J. Willard Marriott Center, the second most important building on the priority lists of Provo Mormons. It is here that some 23,000 of the faithful will gather this winter to chant praises to that conglomeration of Yugoslavs, Finns, Indians, Utahans and Californians—otherwise known as the BYU basketball team—that hopes to win a record-setting third consecutive Western Athletic Conference crown, the Lord willing.
If He is, the rest of the responsibility could well be shouldered by the Clown Prince of Yugoslavia, Kresimir Cosic (Kresh-a-meer Cho-sitch), the 6'11" center who leads fast breaks, shoots a deadly dipsy-doodle hooker and disarms the fiercest of opponents with a grin that monopolizes his face. The smile may be on the wane this year because a limitation imposed on foreign athletes has made the 24-year-old Cosic ineligible for NCAA playoffs, should BYU get that far. So there is already talk in Provo that second-best may be better this year because the conference runner-up traditionally receives a bid from the National Invitation Tournament where Cosic, BYU is hoping, would be made eligible.
For a while this fall there was some question of whether Cosic would be eligible to play all. When drills opened in mid-October, he was nowhere to be seen and word was out that he was either 1) scouting for the Mormon Church in Yugoslavia, 2) recovering in Zadar from an illness he had contracted while on church assignment, 3) playing in China with a European all-star team—which indeed he had been doing earlier—or 4) none of these. The nones had it. Cosic simply was having trouble making plane connections in France, which was no way to treat a first-year coach, Glenn Potter, who was admitting freely that he had bought up all the goats' milk and Maalox in the Utah Valley. Cosic did arrive just in time for his fall classes.
Potter's nervousness was doubly compounded. Not only did he have the onerous chore of taking over a winning basketball team, but he was following the eminently successful and popular Stan Watts, who in nearly a quarter century at BYU compiled a 410-253 record, including two NIT titles. Luckily, Potter has come up with some of the quickest hands in the West in Guards Doug Richards, Belmont (Bill) Anderson and Grig Clawson, all fine shots and—surprise!—all from Salt Lake City. Anderson will add board strength with his 36-inch straight-up leap. "He just sorta floats up there," said one admirer. Brian Ambrozich will play one forward and possibly Cosic the other, with senior Jay Bunker trading off at center with 7-footer Steve Lackey. Complementing these are several other good forwards. If the combination works, too bad. BYU will be in the NCAAs without Cosic, and as religious folk well know, many are called but few are Cosic.
NEW MEXICO STATE
At the annual meeting of Missouri Valley Conference basketball coaches, New Mexico State's Lou Henson made a startling revelation before the society he had just joined. "We plan to use the Wishbone in our offense this year," he said. The Tulsa Kiwanis Club, hosts of a luncheon for the affair, politely applauded the announcement. Later on a newsman approached Henson and asked hesitantly just what was a Wishbone offense—in basketball. "One that scores about 45 points a game," the coach said.
Henson had to be kidding. For six years his Aggie squads have averaged 81 points, and John Williamson, the nation's sixth leading scorer and straightest shooter in the Las cruces area since Billy the Kid, could toss in 45 himself. "John is like a good pool player who knows how to handle the cue ball. He takes few bad shots because he seldom shoots out of position," says Henson. After sputtering early, the Aggies caught fire toward the end of last season. A final-game win over Marquette at Pan American Center, in which Williamson scored his team's last 12 points, was the highlight of a surge that included 19 victories in the last 22 games. The Aggies would like to keep the hot streak going, but that will not be so easily accomplished now that they have joined the Missouri Valley people. Still, says Williamson, a junior now, "We've played together a year. We've learned a lot. We'll be better this time out."
The only significant loss is the toothpick that Williamson used to dangle from his mouth. In the interest of safety, he's given it up. Truman Ward, a self-styled "master blaster" with a soul radio show in the off-season, has moved to the wing opposite Williamson. His high post position is being sought by 6'8" sophomore Jim Bostic and junior Hal Robinson. "Ideally the man at this position should score about 12 to 14 points a game and be a steady rebounder," says Henson. Being a good ball handler also helps, since the high post man is frequently called upon to set up his teammates. Steve White will quarterback the team but freshman Scott Wynn from El Paso could play a lot before the season is out. "I'll have a starting five before the season begins," says Henson. "If you start alternating two guys, then both of them will play like substitutes."
One position that should be stable is the low post where Roland (Tree) Grant played as a sophomore. Grant, a 7-footer, can do anything offensively a man a foot shorter can. Regretfully, one of those things is rebounding, which the coaching staff hopes might be improved to a 6'9" level anyway before play begins. New Mexico State received a break in scheduling and the players should thank the nearby Organ Mountain gods for that. The first two conference games—both at home—follow seven tune-up games and two holiday tournaments. Then things get grim and the Aggies will have to plow deep into their own resources. They face tough Memphis State and Louisville away one day apart. Maybe they could use a wishbone after all.