One of the best-kept secrets in college basketball last year was Michael Young (below). He didn't come from any far-off place like his Nigerian teammate, Akeem Olajuwon (page 106), and he didn't do any far-out things around the basket like fellow Cougar, Benny Anders, and he didn't have a far-out nickname like two of his other teammates, Clyde (The Glide) Drexler and Larry (Mr. Mean) Micheaux. No, all plain old Michael Young did was lead the NCAA runner-up Cougars in scoring with 17.3 points per game, and receive his team's MVP award. "If Michael Young's not an All-America this year," says Drexler, who's now a pro with Portland, "then they should stop naming a team."
Not so fast, Glide. It will still be difficult for Young, a senior forward, to get recognition while the game's most imposing player, Olajuwon, is on the court. Besides, Young may have to adjust to a new role that involves more inside play. The Cougars will miss Mr. Mean and The Glide, but you can still expect them to be around come Final Four time, for the third straight year.
Coach Guy Lewis may start five players who saw extensive action in the '83 NCAA final—Young, Olajuwon, Anders, Alvin Franklin and Reid Gettys—and who can match that experience? The Cougars also landed last year's leading junior college scorer, Forward Braxton Clark, who went for 34.8 points a game at DeAnza College in Cupertino, Calif., and they have one of the best freshmen in the country in Forward Rickie Winslow from Houston's Yates High School. "You can't fold up just because two powerhouses like Larry and Clyde are gone," says sophomore Point Guard Franklin. "We're expecting nothing but the best."
Olajuwon makes that expectation more than reasonable. One of Lewis' major concerns was finding someone to push the 7-foot Olajuwon during practice, a role convincingly played by Mr. Mean last year. Lewis found him in Greg Anderson, a 6'10" Houston product who was recruited by only one other Southwest Conference school, Rice. Anderson has been absolutely tenacious in challenging Olajuwon. "Greg soaks up learning like a sponge," says Lewis. "He's picked up stuff faster than any big man we've ever had." Including Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes? "I said faster than anyone," answers Lewis.
Lewis has been criticized as purely a roll-the-ball-out-there type of coach, but his practices are long, tough and sometimes even bloody. And although Houston often shows a lack of offensive discipline, the coach doesn't countenance prima donnas, either. "You may be an All-America in Nigeria," he screamed at Olajuwon during one early-season practice session, "but you take a shot like that during a game and your butt will be over on the bench."
Lewis is counting on Winslow to split his time among both forward positions and the No. 2 guard slot. The leaping ability and sense of timing Winslow showed in preseason drills make it a good bet he'll be starting by January. Lewis describes him this way: "Good dunker, good jammer, good ball handler, good passer." When you coach the Phi Slamma Jammas, you've got to have your priorities in order.
With Winslow and Anders in the lineup at the same time, the offense will be as exciting as it was last year when Anders said: "We like to take it to the rack." No one does that more than Anders, himself, who has a tendency to go a little shot-crazy even by Houston's freewheeling standards. "Benny! Benny!" Lewis shouted at him in one preseason practice. "I like guys to take it to the paint [inside], too, but, my gosh, you've got an open 15-footer. Take it!" Lewis worked Anders hard in those early sessions, holding a starting job out like a carrot.
Franklin and Gettys have the difficult job of keeping everyone happy with just one basketball. Though Franklin is more a pure point guard, nobody handled the distribution system better last year than the 6'7" Gettys, who broke Houston's single-season assist record with 209. If he sometimes goes unnoticed, he doesn't go unappreciated. "Reid feed me so much," says Olajuwon, "that if he go to bench, I want to be on bench." Houston's opponents would dearly love to see them there, too.