Hey, guys, NC-Double A Radio is looking for a dominant center, and we've got a national title for any listener who's got one! How about it—are there any dominant centers out there? We're not talking just any old big guy, but a genuine thyroid ya gotta avoid! If you think you've got one, give us a ring at 555-1986. Let's go to the phones....
NC-Double A, you're on the air.
Ehhhh, this is Dean Smith, and there's a young man named Brad Daugherty who has come along quite nicely for us here at North Carolina.
Sorry, Deano. Brad's gotten better, but he's still stiff and one-dimensional. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air.
November 20, 1985
Tom Brennan, Yale.
Hail fellow well met! How goes it, old boy?
We've got a 7-footer named Ewing.
Right. Ricky Ewing. No crank calls. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air.
This is Larry Brown.
Yes, Larry, where are you?
I'd like to say something on behalf of one of my kids, Greg Dreiling.
Your best center starts at forward, Larry. Get with it. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air.
Moe Iba at Nebraska calling.
Moe! Just heard from Larry! Is Curly in the Big Eight, too?
Our boy Dave Hoppen shot 64.6 percent last season.
Needs work on his defense and offensive rebounding. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air. (Static.) NC-Double A, you're—
Lou Carnesecca from St. John's.
Mamma mia! Lou, could you turn your radio down?
Yes...there. That's my shortwave. New recruiting aid. Helped me find Marco Baldi in the old country. He's 6'11", you know.
Lou, there'll be a protected left turn off the Via Veneto before Marco dominates over here. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air.
Dana Kirk here, Memphis State.
Dana, we just heard your name on the top-of-the-hour newscast. What's up?
Well, William Bedford, for one.
He's got possibilities, but see if you can get him to play D all the time. And to stop talking back to your staff. (Click.) NC-Double A, you're on the air.
This is Dale Brown at LSU, and I just want to say that our Tito Horford...
How'd you get him, Dale?
...is as fine a basketball player...
I know how you got him, Dale.
...as he is a young man.
I know. You told Tito he could play on a front line with Nikita (Wilson) and John (Williams) and go down in history. (Click.) Hey, where were you in '62? NC-Double A, you're on the air.
Paul Evans, sir. U.S. Naval Academy.
Aye, aye, coach! We were all set to play "Anchors Aweigh."
We appreciate that, sir. As we would appreciate your considering our David Robinson.
He still needs some work in the defense department. Ha! (Click.)
Well, that's it. We don't have a winner yet. But we'll send each caller an official Patrick Ewing memorial fill-that-hole-in-the-middle plastic 45 rpm record adapter as a consolation prize....
College basketball has undergone a top-to-bottom; November-through-Dallas programming change. NCAA's deejay may be a bit cynical about the quality of big men this season, but he's broadcasting the fundamental truth: Long-player 33s are out. Forty-fives are in.
That No. 33 stands for Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and all he represented. Patrick is gone, indentured to the pros along with the 12 other players 6'9" or taller who were taken with the first 17 picks in the NBA draft. Meanwhile, the NCAA Rules Committee, like an edgy program director keeping an eye on the Arbitron ratings, has adopted the 45-second clock to eliminate all-out stalls.
If the rich won't exactly get richer as a result of these developments, they'll certainly have their interests protected. In theory, the clock will force the action, put an even greater premium on pure talent and make upsets more difficult and less frequent. "Now every team will have to deliver the goods every time down the court," says Providence assistant coach Gordon Chiesa. And while there are some good centers in the college game, there aren't any great ones. That figures to reward depth, speed and quickness at the other four spots on the floor. "It'll make a lot of games more interesting," says San Diego State coach Dave (Smokey) Gaines. "You can't go 32-0 without that man in the middle. And I mean man." Adds Jim Satalin, of Duquesne, "It comes down to who's got the most, not the biggest."
All of which should make for the most unpredictable season since 1980, when a guard, Darrell Griffith, led Louisville through a pivot-poor NCAA tournament field to the national title. Overall, look for more platter, less chatter and:
•More games. On the East Coast, the NIT, figuring that its tournament is so nice they'll play it twice, adds a 16-team preseason Big Apple tournament to its postseason romp. Out West, the Hawaiian Islands threaten to sink into the drink from the weight of eight classics to be held there before the end of 1985.
•More teams. The Tulane payola scandal forced that school to drop basketball, but the universities of San Francisco and Miami are reinstating it. Even Maryland's Coppin State is up from obscurity, now playing under a big-time label. That brings the number of Division I colleges to 282, an alltime high.
•More imports. The trade deficit grows.
The Dominican Republic, West Germany, Greece, the Sudan, Yugoslavia, Italy, Israel, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, England, Guadeloupe, Colombia, Holland, Iceland, Senegal, Denmark, Kenya and Nigeria will each contribute at least one player 6'8" or taller to U.S. rosters. Houston Baptist will have two players from the Central African Republic and a third from the Ivory Coast. Our typesetters persuaded us not to list their names. Says Huskies sports information director Billy Siems, "We're the only school that could put its P.A. man on the disabled list."
•More variety. After six seasons under the rigid influence of Ewing, Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, a consensus exists that this is the Year of Something Else. But there's little agreement on Exactly What. "The point guards will dominate this season," says Notre Dame's Digger Phelps, who has a pretty fair specimen in David Rivers. "Most of the best players are forward-oriented," counters Miami of Ohio coach Jerry Peirson. "Now the game could go to the swift," says Mike Jarvis, Ewing's former high school coach, who takes over at Boston University. No, says Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "The veteran team will have the advantage." Indiana State coach Ron Greene figures that, sooner or later, some center will rise up and assert himself. "There may be some well-kept secrets," he says. "Though they won't surface at Indiana State."
Even more anxiety surrounds the 45-second clock and its likely impact. The clock was used in 20 of the 30 Division I conferences last season, then disconnected at tournament time—much to the chagrin of the TV networks, which have lobbied for a clock since the 47-45 travesty between North Carolina and Virginia in the 1982 ACC championship game. This season the clock will tick in every game all the way through the Final Four in Dallas, thus guaranteeing that the NCAA championship game on March 31 will be quite unlike Villanova's palpitating 66-64 title win over Georgetown last spring—a classic example of how size and superior talent can be neutralized by tempo control.
For every coach who's delighted to see the clock, there's another who fears it will encourage some things that the NCAA elders want no part of. Like even more cheating to load teams with talented scorers. "The clock puts coaching in the hands of recruiters," says Montana coach Mike Montgomery. "The more possessions you get, the more opportunities you have for talent to pay off." Adds Purdue's Gene Keady, "If you don't have good talent, what do you do? Your principles might be lowered as you recruit to survive under a shot clock."
Zones will certainly proliferate, too. Without the clock, a team with a lead could usually hold the ball and force a defense out of a zone. Now, defenses can simply sit back until the clock runs down. "There are going to be more zones than ever, especially when you're playing a team with superior quickness," VMI coach Marty Fletcher says. Bill Foster, who takes over Miami's reinstated program, agrees. "In three years max, maybe two, you'll see the three-point shot come in with the clock. Otherwise, there's no way to penalize a team that zones all the time." In 1982-83, nine conferences experimented with three-point shots of varying distances. This season, the Big Sky Conference and the PCAA will be the only leagues to use a three-pointer.
The story of the year, however, will unfold in closer quarters, in the seams of all those zones. At least four of the first 12 teams in SI's Top 40 (page 48) will employ non-centers at center at least part of the time in hopes of solving the riddle of the middle. Georgia Tech's John Salley and Michigan's Roy Tarpley are both converted cornermen, with a forward's instincts and skills. Danny Manning of Kansas will move into the post when Dreiling leaves the lineup. And Kenny Walker, though nominally not a center, had the statistical profile of one last season for Kentucky. All four—Manning is a sophomore, the others are seniors—are versatile talents with the potential to take over a game.
Walker, who's from the two-stoplight hamlet of Roberta, Ga., chose not to attend Georgia because he feared he would have to play the pivot. "I feel real natural at forward," he says. "But if I had to play center, I would." Last season he was a center in everything but name, scoring most of his 22.9 points per game in the paint, eschewing the baseline and rarely—also wisely, for the Wildcats had no other scorer close to his caliber—passing. Walker, who describes himself as "wiry strong," also led Kentucky in rebounds (10.2 per game) and minutes played. "He's such a great athlete at 6'8½"," says Eddie Sutton, the new Cat coach, "that he has the skills to be a better center than somebody 7'2"."
With Dreiling and Ron Kellogg joining Manning in Kansas's frontcourt, the 6'11" sophomore will have more support than Walker. Larry Brown wants his young star to be "more efficient" and to avoid the silly fouls that helped disqualify him from seven games last season. "I like to roam the floor," says Manning, who led the Jayhawks in steals last year while playing mostly at big forward. And that's fine with at least one Big Eight coach, who says, "You can run him all over the court, and guard him there. But get him around the goal and he'll jump-hook the ball in. He gets under the goal and it's over."
Tarpley was obscure as a high school player, partly because he was a relatively ordinary 6'6", 180-pounder before his senior year, and partly because he split his residence among the homes of relatives in New York City, Detroit and Mobile, Ala. Now he's grown to 6'11" and 230 pounds and feels quite at home in Ann Arbor, where he stepped into the middle last season after Tim McCormick's early departure to the NBA. "The big guys, they think it's an easy job to check me because I'm slim," Tarpley says. "But I'm quick." Says Marquette coach Rick Majerus, "He has the whole package. He can block shots, rebound and go out on the elbow and beat you with 15-footers."
Salley, who like Tarpley came late to his long-limbed form, answers to the nickname Spider but would prefer to be called Sir John. It's part of a more respectable profile that Salley, a 7-footer from the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, has adopted as he replaces the departed Yvon Joseph at center. Salley has added some extra bulk, which should take him up to a playing weight of 240. But the Rambling Wreck would most like to see Salley break his habit of taking midgame siestas. "I've heard people talk about my 10-minute slumps," he says. "This year I hope to put out every minute. I have no choice." Salley may be referring to the possibility that he'll be the top pick in next spring's NBA draft. "That's more pressure," he allows. "But I don't mind. Like I say these days, 'Pressure makes diamonds.' "
And diamonds—as in diamond styluses—are what make music come pouring forth from those inert stacks of wax. Cue up the new season. By March, one of those things with a hole in its middle will turn out to be solid gold.