Big No. 33 was in the air and ready to unleash a jumper from his favorite spot just outside the foul lane, 18 feet away. He hits with such numbing regularity from there that everyone else on the practice floor turned toward the basket in anticipation of another two-pointer. Everyone, that is, except the blond kid's partner in deception, blade-thin No. 32, who zoomed inside, grabbed what had become a pass instead of a shot and slipped the ball into the net.
"Ah, the Larry and Harry Show!" bellowed a white-haired gent at midcourt with obvious delight. "So it's already started again."
That remark, which put an end to the no-nonsense atmosphere of the practice, came from Indiana State Coach Bob King, a heretofore conservative strategist who now has a pair of freewheeling offensive players on hand.
"Larry," the player who traded his jump shot for an assist, is Larry Bird, the 6'9" scoring and rebounding machine (32.8/13.7) who led the Sycamores to a 25-3 record last season. He also makes ISU the favorite to win the Missouri Valley championship in its first year in the conference. "Harry," the beneficiary of the pass, is Harry Morgan (above), a 6'7" forward who averaged 16.8 points and combined with Bird for 60 in one game.
November 28, 1977
"There isn't a finer pair of forwards in college," says King, and he is probably right. "They are so gifted that I have put no restrictions on them. That's a departure for me. I knew we wouldn't want to shackle Larry. But Harry? He was a center at Vincennes Junior College. All he ever shot was a hook. I saw him four times, never talked to him. We had backed off" on him when Mel Daniels of the Pacers called me. 'Get on this guy,' he said. 'I've played against him, and he is super.' "
The man in the middle of all this talent, 6'11" Center DeCarsta Webster, was sixth in the nation in rebounding two years ago. Despite Bird and Morgan, Webster still managed to grab 10 per game last year, enabling Indiana State to finish second to Notre Dame in rebound margin. The guards are Jim Smith, a 207-assist man who keeps Bird well fed, and 6'4½" Leroy Staley.
What does Bird think of Morgan? "We're partners on the court, but I have to keep beating him one-on-one. If it got out that he can take me, the guys might stop looking for me in the clutch."
"There is very little chance of that," replies Morgan. "He whups me again and again. I just feel sorry for the opposition. We're really going places this year."