A Wiz if Ever There Was
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that a player nicknamed the Wizard might be invisible at times, but Walt Williams, Maryland's 6'8" senior guard, has made himself one of the top players in the country, and almost no one has seen him do it. He has been on live network TV in a Maryland uniform only once in the last two seasons, and when the NCAA tournament begins next month, Williams won't be there. The Terps were only 10-11 at week's end but would be staying home regardless because they're under a three-year NCAA probation. Williams's play has been magical nonetheless.
Williams was always a fairly streaky shooter until he discovered earlier this season that he needed glasses. So the far-sighted Wizard was fitted for contact lenses, and presto, he went on the kind of scoring binge that is rarely seen in the ACC. He scored at least 30 points in seven straight games, one game short of the conference record set in 1961-62 by Len Chappell of Wake Forest. He made 33 of 58 three-pointers during that streak, which ended with a 21-point performance in a loss to Georgia Tech on Feb. 9.
Williams's decision to stay at Maryland may have shown farsightedness of another sort. When the Terps were hit with the NCAA probation two years ago, he could have transferred and played immediately at Georgetown, St. John's, Virginia or Georgia Tech, which were among the schools that expressed interest in him. He chose not to leave, in part because his family lives in nearby Temple Hills, Md.
The sanctions and a broken leg that forced him to miss 11 games last season have conspired to make the Wizard disappear from view, but he doesn't regret his decision to remain at Maryland. The NBA has certainly noticed him and will make him a first-round draft pick in June. Besides, says Williams, "a lot of players go through college not having any problems. It's like a fantasy. All the turmoil I've been through has made me a better man. I feel like I can take on anything."
Except maybe the loss of one of his contacts. Williams lost a lens the day before the Georgia Tech game, and although it was replaced before tip-off, the spell was broken. He then made only eight of 20 shots against North Carolina State last week. Coincidence? You decide.
A Man and His Horn
Minnesota has been tougher than anyone—except maybe the Gophers themselves—anticipated, with victories over Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. Still, coach Clem Haskins hasn't exactly been all smiles. Even after his team atoned for its embarrassing 96-50 loss at Indiana on Jan. 9 with a 71-67 home-court victory over the Hoosiers last week, Haskins had a few gripes he wanted to air.
He obviously wasn't pleased that Malcolm Sims, a 6'4" guard at Shaker Heights (Ohio) High, whom the Gophers had recruited heavily, had recently made an oral commitment to Indiana. Neither Hoosier coach Bob Knight nor anyone on his staff had seen Sims play in person, and Indiana recruited him merely by making a Hurry of late phone calls. That may have been the cause of Haskins's somewhat caustic comments after the Indiana game.
"If I toot my own horn tonight, I hope you guys [reporters) forgive me, but I have to," Haskins said. "Credit needs to go to my staff and Clem Haskins for doing one hell of a job."
And how did you beat the Hoosiers, Coach? "It's superior coaching," Haskins said. "Superior preparation of our team. If that's bragging, it's bragging. On a national scale our program is not getting the recognition it deserves. We just got done beating the best team in basketball. I want my due."
Fair enough. At week's end the Gophers were 15-10, 7-5 in the Big Ten, and in position for a possible NCAA tournament berth, all of which qualities as a surprise. Haskins and his team deserve credit, and Haskins might even deserve some admiration for his postgame comments. Compare them with the reaction of Marquette coach Kevin O'Neill, who also recruited Sims intensely. O'Neill bowed out wimpishly, saying, "The last thing I need is to have Bob Knight ticked off at me."
Did Oklahoma State peak too soon? It's a question worth asking in light of the Cowboys' recent troubles. Their 84-83 overtime loss at Iowa State last Saturday, in which they blew a 38-20 halftime lead and a seven-point margin in OT, was their third defeat in four games after they started the season 20-0.
Granted, Oklahoma State plays in the nation's toughest conference. The Cowboys began the week ranked No. 2 in the country and ended it in third place in the Big Eight, behind Kansas and Missouri. But it has to be worrisome to the Cowboys that star forward Byron Houston has been struggling, most notably in a 57-53 loss earlier last week to the Big Eight's last-place team, Colorado.
The Buffaloes' 2-3 zone collapsed on Houston, denying him a single shot in the second half, and he finished with only seven points. "He didn't get the ball much, and he didn't do much when he did get it," said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton after the game. "Byron just isn't playing well. Part of the problem may be that we aren't coaching well enough."
A first-rate college basketball rivalry should feature two high-quality teams, a close series, fan interest that borders on fanaticism and a spirit of fair play. By those measures the 72-year-old war between Hope and Calvin, two Division III schools in western Michigan, is the equal of Duke-North Carolina, Georgetown-Syracuse or any of the big Division I rivalries.
The two colleges, whose campuses are 30 miles apart, added another memorable game to their shared history last Saturday, when top-ranked Calvin, of Grand Rapids, defeated No. 8 Hope 77-75 at the Holland (Mich.) Civic Center, Hope'? home court. The victory gave Calvin, which was 22-1 at week's end, a 64-60 lead in the series but after those 124 games only live points separate the two teams. Calvin has scored 8,000 points to Hope's 7,995.
Calvin is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church Hope with the Reformed Church in America. The religious underpinnings gave rise to a one-liner from Dr. Calvin VanderWerf, who, despite his first name, once was president of Hope. "An atheist," he said, "is someone who goes to the Hope-Calvin game and doesn't care who wins."
If that's so, there aren't many atheists in the Grand Rapids area. Fans there camp out overnight in line to get tickets to the game. The unlucky ones can watch at home, because a Grand Rapids TV station has shown the series for the last 10 years, even preempting President Bush's State of the Union address in 1990 when it conflicted with a game.
The only things the Hope-Calvin rivalry lacks are some of the perks of Division I. The Holland Civic Center, for instance, isn't exactly the Carrier Dome. It held a sellout crowd of 2,550 last Saturday. It's also unlikely that Christian Laettner and Alonzo Mourning do their own sneaker shopping, as does 6'7" Calvin center Steve Honderd. Honderd sported an ugly pair of black-and-white hightops for the game. "I went to the store, and they were the only size 13s they had, so I bought them," Honderd says.
"You know when you come to Hope, you won't get pampered the way players are in Division I," says 6'5" Hope forward Bart VerHulst. "But maybe that's what makes this so great. We work just as hard as they do, without getting the extras."
Maryland, then the top-ranked women's team, lost 75-74 in a rematch at home against No. 2 Virginia last week, but the Terrapins might have gained some badly needed fans. A sellout crowd of 14,500, an ACC women's record, saw the game at Cole Field House. Last season, the Terps had a total attendance of 11,385 for 13 home games....
The women's team from the College of Notre Dame (INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL, Dec. 30), a Division II school in Belmont, Calif., had lost 70 consecutive games dating back to December 1988, the longest such streak in NCAA history. One of those losses was a 79-31 defeat by Simpson Bible College in December, in which Simpson continued to press the Argonauts, even after Notre Dame had only three players left because the rest of the team had fouled out. The Argos snapped the streak last Friday with a 53-32 win over, yes, Simpson Bible College. Vengeance was sweet.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Florida State's Sam Cassell, a 6'3" junior guard, averaged 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists as the Seminoles defeated North Carolina State 87-79, Virginia 64-63 and Georgia Tech 80-67.
Toni Foster, a 6'1" junior center for Iowa, had 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in a 59-57 win over Indiana, and 18 points, seven boards and two blocks in a 68-59 victory over Ohio State.
Andre Foreman, a 6'6" senior forward for Salisbury State, averaged 38.3 points in three Sea Gull wins and, in the process, became the alltime scoring leader in Division III, with 2,807 points.