It's instructive to note that after Michigan won the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu last week, Wolverine point guard Jalen Rose was stuck for an answer when asked what he had enjoyed most about the tropical paradise. "I didn't see much," Rose said. "When we weren't playing, I was in my room listening to rap and thinking about playing. About the only thing I went out for was to go down to Jack-in-the-Box."
That single-mindedness helped Michigan complete a task that even the NCAA tournament doesn't require—beating three Top 20 teams in three days. The Wolverines, who were ranked sixth when they arrived in Hawaii, knocked off Nebraska (No. 20), North Carolina (5) and Kansas (2) to win the eight-team tournament. Although Michigan had lost only once this year, at Duke, the Wolverines seemed to lack the focus they had maintained while reaching the NCAA finals last season. They may have regained their concentration in Hawaii. After Rose's follow-up at the buzzer beat the Tar Heels 79-78 in the semifinals, North Carolina coach Dean Smith said, "That Michigan was much better than the Michigan I've been watching on tape."
"In a way, we have to go back to last year to be successful," said Wolverine forward Chris Webber, who was named tournament MVP. "Earlier this season we were thinking, We're older now, we're sophomores, so let's be really serious and businesslike on the court. I think now we're back to being more ourselves, not holding our emotions back."
The Michigan players weren't the only ones who showed their colors at the Rainbow. Tar Heel junior center Eric Montross and Jackson State's Lindsey Hunter Jr., a senior guard with seemingly boundless range who scored 48 points against Kansas and 39 against Southwestern Louisiana, raised the eyebrows of the NBA scouts in attendance. But it was the Wolverines who left Hawaii with the most reason to anticipate a Hau'oli Makahiki Hou—Happy New Year.
Less than a year ago the plug was about to be pulled on Division II Bridgeport. Now, not only are the Purple Knights up and around, but they're the picture of health, at least on the court. Their 115-109 victory over top-ranked Virginia Union, the defending Division II champion, was almost as remarkable as the fact that the Knights are playing basketball at all.
Shortly before Bridgeport lost the national-championship game last March, the university was on the verge of closing because of financial difficulties. After the season, players made plans to transfer, and Knight coach Bruce Webster took a job as a limousine driver.
But in July the Professors World Peace Academy, an organization that receives most of its funding from Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, took over the school for $50.5 million. The affiliation has angered some local residents because the church has a reputation for brainwashing its followers and because Moon has proclaimed himself the second messiah. "We've heard all the jokes about being Moon U," says junior captain Winston Jones. "But I don't see [the church's] presence at all at the university."
Against Virginia Union, Jones scored 20 points, David Sweeting had 26, and sophomore Lamont Jones, who had been heavily recruited by the Panthers when Bridgeport was close to folding, poured in 30. A few more victories for the Knights, who improved their record to 7-5, might even stop the Moonie jokes. "One fellow coach sent me a picture of one of our players with a big moon cut out and placed over his backside," says Webster. "And, of course, everyone asks me when I'm going to shave my head and sell flowers. But, hey, it sure beats driving a limo."
HOME AT LAST
Donald Taylor first attracted national attention in 1989. At the time he was a senior guard at Prospect Heights High in Brooklyn and commuting 70 minutes by subway to school from a homeless shelter in Harlem. Taylor appeared on ABC's World News Tonight and The Arsenio Hall Show, won the Most Courageous Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and signed a scholarship to Maine. After he graduated from high school in the spring of 1990, his mother and three younger brothers moved into a Brooklyn housing project.
That sounds like a happy ending, but as Taylor no doubt knows, happy endings don't always come easily. He had failed to score 700 on the SAT—the minimum required for freshman eligibility—and was placed in a university program that prepares students for college courses. However, after a year in Orono, Taylor, who is black, found life there to be "racially too stressful," so he left school in the spring of 1991 and returned to New York City and playground ball.
It was there that an assistant to Dave Possinger, the coach at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., spotted Taylor that August. Possinger, who was about to begin his first season at the school, needed players in a hurry, so it wasn't long before Taylor was going to class in the Catskills.
Taylor and Possinger have yet to lose at Sullivan. Last season the Generals were 35-0 and Division III champions of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and the 6'2" Taylor, who averaged 16.8 points per game, was MVP of the conference, regional and national tournaments. This season the team is 14-0, and Taylor is scoring 15.9 per game. More important, he's on track to graduate this spring with better than a 3.0 GPA.
Taylor hopes to attend a Division I school next season, and Boston College, Coppin State, Delaware State, Texas and West Virginia have shown interest. He doesn't get to go home often, but when he does, he appreciates how much his family's life has improved. "We've been in the housing project about two-and-a-half years," he says. "Things are certainly easier. Everything seems to be going well."
As a transfer, Wake Forest guard Charlie Harrison, who came to Winston-Salem from Georgetown last January, had to sit out the first semester. In his first game as a Demon Deacon, a 69-65 defeat of Rhode Island on Dec. 15, Harrison scored 21 points but then found out he was still ineligible to play. According to NCAA rules, a transfer must sit out for one academic year, and that year isn't considered over until the day after he completes his final exams. Harrison took his last exam on the day of the Rhode Island game. Because the infraction was so minor, the game will count as a win for Wake Forest, although it will have an asterisk in the record books....
Missouri suspended two members of the Antlers, its infamous student cheering group, for seven games after a hog's head that the two were brandishing brushed against Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's face when he arrived for a game at Hearnes Center. Although the Antlers are not officially affiliated with the university, all 28 members of the group signed an agreement with Missouri before the season that they would abide by the school's code of conduct....
After Maryland shot 44 free throws to Howard's 16 in a 109-69 Terrapin win last Saturday, Howard coach Butch Beard spoke for all the small schools that not only have to travel to bigger schools to find lucrative matchups but also must cope with referees from the host teams' conferences. "I've been around the game a long time, and what you saw tonight is a crime," Beard said. "The way the officiating is in college basketball is unbelievable. I guarantee when [the Terps] play an ACC school, like a Duke or a North Carolina, they won't shoot 44 free throws. The way it is takes all the fun out of it for the kids."...
Texas A&M picked up a rare family triple technical against New Orleans on Dec. 29. Aggie coach Tony Barone was given one T for throwing his jacket, and his son Tony Jr., a sophomore guard, earned two more—and an ejection—for comments he made to the officials.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
In a loss to Notre Dame and wins over Texas A&M, Bucknell, Monmouth and Jacksonville, center Ervin Johnson, a 6'11" senior at New Orleans, averaged 19.2 points, 14 rebounds and 5.4 blocks.
Texas Tech's Sheryl Swoopes, a six-foot senior forward, averaged 34.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals in Red Raider victories over Oklahoma, Florida International, Miami and Washington.
Senior Fred Tyler, a 6'7" forward at Division II Central Oklahoma, had 39 points, 32 rebounds, six blocks and eight steals as the Bronchos defeated Millersville 114-101 and Slippery Rock 123-84.