This was supposed to be the season without a center, a conspicuous ain't in the paint, if you will. Patrick Ewing's graduation left a cast of candidates scrambling for top billing at center stage. Not counting Roy Tarpley (Michigan) and John Salley (Georgia Tech), who are really transplanted forwards, the leaders to date are:
1) Memphis State's William Bedford, who is erasing opponents' shots (22 through last week) and the memory of Keith Lee. Fighting a preseason rap for enjoying an occasional on-court nap, the 7-foot junior is playing the kind of ball coach Dana Kirk dreams about—18.6 points, 11 rebounds per game—thanks, in part, to the dreamy schedule Kirk devised. Bedford's best outing was a 30-point, 18-rebound, five-erasure evening against Middle Tennessee State. Said Blue Raider coach Bruce Stewart, "We wanted to lean on him, front him, wear him down, but he just started playing at an altitude we couldn't reach."
2) North Carolina's four-year starter Brad Daugherty, who opened his senior season shooting 13 for 13 from the field against UCLA—tying an NCAA record. In seven games the 6'11¾" Daugherty has hit 55 of 79 shots for an eyebrow-raising, opponent-fazing 69.6%.
3) Louisville's 6'9" Pervis Ellison, a freshman, who has 20 blocked shots and has yet to goaltend or find himself in foul trouble. And he has committed only one turnover a game. Also, Ellison plays a mean free safety backing up the Cards' full-court zone press. "He does that better than anyone we've ever had there," says coach Denny Crum. Write Ellison in as the Metro Conference's center for tomorrow—but do it in pencil. A 7'1" high school senior named Felton Spencer has signed with Louisville, and Ellison may move to power forward next year.
4) Chris Washburn, called "a forward held captive in a center's body," by NC State coach Jim Valvano, has averaged 18 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The 6'11" Washburn was dropped from the team last year for his involvement in the theft of stereo equipment from a dorm room; he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges and will serve a 46-hour jail term this week. "He's improved 100 percent since the beginning of this year alone," says Valvano. "I don't know what the gestation period is for a whale, or an elephant, or a dominating center, but it's a long period, and Chris has just started."