Most NBA general managers will tell you that with the possible exception of Hartford's Vin Baker (SI, Nov. 23), small schools will not turn out any players this year who have the potential of the Chicago Bulls' Scottie Pippen (Central Arkansas) or the Detroit Pistons' Dennis Rodman (Southeastern Oklahoma State). But these G.M.'s will also tell you that there could well be some players like the Dallas Mavericks' Terry Davis (Virginia Union), the Portland Trail Blazers' Mario Elie (American International) or the San Antonio Spurs' Avery Johnson (Southern)—players from obscure schools who become solid pros. Here are some small-school players who are unknown to almost everyone except NBA scouts.
•Tommy Tormohlen, 6'5" guard, Berry College, in Rome, Ga. Tormohlen, who's averaging 24.5 points, is an excellent three-point shooter and good leaper with NBA bloodlines. His father, Gene, played for the St. Louis Hawks in the '60s and is now a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers. More important, Tommy is one of the few NAIA players to be invited to the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament in April, a key predraft camp. One NBA G.M. says that Tormohlen may be a late-first-round pick.
•Bill Edwards, 6'8" forward Wright State, in Dayton, Ohio. He can rebound, run the floor, take the ball to the basket, and he has a fine shooting touch for a power forward. Questions remain about Edwards's apparent lack of emotion and his tendency to coast in games, but he has improved in both areas this season.
•Alex Wright, 6'2" guard, Central Oklahoma. NBA scouts are worried about his size—he's a shooting guard in the body of a point guard, a small point guard—but not about his marksmanship. Wright is a 44% three-point shooter and the second leading scorer in Division II, with a 30.2 average through Sunday. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of three other graduates of Harding High in Bridgeport, Conn.: John Bagley, Wes Matthews and Charles Smith, all of whom made the NBA.
•Darrin Robinson, 6'2" guard, Sacred Heart, in Fairfield, Conn. His slashing style has been compared with that of the New Jersey Nets' Kenny Anderson. Robinson has had a troubled college career—he dropped out of school once and twice was ruled academically ineligible—but at week's end he was averaging 32.3 points. Robinson's mother, Arlene, supplied the words by which all these would-be draftees live: "If you do well and play hard, they'll find you no matter where you are."
A NEW ORDER
Penn versus Columbia and Rice versus SMU aren't exactly your traditional powerhouse matchups, but there they were last Saturday, games that had conference supremacy and NCAA tournament bids riding on them. Penn (19-4 at week's end) clinched at least a tie for the Ivy League crown with its 10th straight win, a come-from-behind 74-67 win at Columbia. The game put the Quakers one victory, or one Lion loss, away from breaking Princeton's four-year hold on the conference trophy. Unfortunately there is no trophy to hold. The 15-pound silver cup was stolen from a display case at Princeton's Jadwin Gym last August. The culprits are still at large.
When the trophy is found or replaced, it might find itself in Philadelphia for a while. Penn has no seniors, and the team's talented guards Jerome Allen and Vanderbilt transfer Matt Maloney, who combined for 30 second-half points against Columbia, are both sophomores.
While Penn was clearing up the Ivy race, Rice was muddling the Southwest Conference picture with a 90-67 win over SMU. The result left both schools atop the conference standings at 10-2 with two games left. The only thing that seems certain is that the Owls, who were 16-7 overall at week's end, and the Mustangs (18-6) will claim the league's top two spots for the first time since 1957.
SMU's resurgence came just in time for coach John Shumate, who is in the last year of a five-year contract and has had four straight losing seasons. After the Mustangs beat Houston in January, Shumate ran into the stands and hugged SMU athletic director Forrest Gregg. "He supported me," said Shumate. "When the pressure was on him, he stuck by his guns. I thanked him."
Rice hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1970, but the Owls may well make it this year, thanks largely to guard Marvin Moore, center Brent Scott and first-year coach Willis Wilson, a former Rice player. Part of Wilson's secret has been motivation. Says guard David Holmes, "Coach told us if we wanted to show we were a legitimate team, we would have to kick butt and take names."
Rice kicking butt and taking names? Times have changed.
Not even his old coach, the potbellied guy with the red sweater down the road in Bloomington, could have turned Manchester (Ind.) College around faster than former Indiana star Steve Alford has. He took over eight games into last season, when Manchester was on its way to a 4-24 finish, and this season he has coached the Spartans to a 20-7 record and a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Alford, 28, has done it with a coaching philosophy borrowed from his father, Sam, one of the leading high school coaches in Indiana, and from John MacLeod, who coached Alford when he was with the Dallas Mavericks. But Alford doesn't have to throw a chair to make it plain that his approach to the game has also been heavily influenced by his coach at Indiana, Bob Knight. Manchester runs Knight's trademark motion offense, and like the Hoosiers, the Spartans believe the zone defense to be an instrument of the devil. Knight was so proud of his pupil that he sent him a letter of congratulations early this season, and it's posted in the Manchester locker room.
The Spartans' success has made the Alford name even more revered in Indiana. Nearly six years after he helped lead the Hoosiers to their most recent national championship, Alford still receives about 20 pieces of fan mail a week—autograph requests, speaking invitations, requests for his instructional videotape. The average crowd at a Manchester home game has climbed from 200 last season to 1,700. But Alford's presence has also made Manchester a target. "When I played at Indiana, a lot of people would come to the games to see their team beat Indiana, and some would come to see their team beat Bob Knight," says Alford. "A lot of kids who are playing college basketball in this state today grew up watching me play at Indiana. I'm sure they get pumped up trying to beat me."
They will be hard-pressed to succeed. Alford hopes to build a program that is to Division III what Indiana is to Division I. He's so focused on that goal that he doesn't think much about his unspectacular four-year NBA career. Says Alford, "I get all the NBA I need from ESPN."
Northwestern's 62-59 victory over No. 17 Purdue last Saturday meant a lot to Wildcat coach Bill Foster. Not only did the win end Northwestern's 60-game losing streak on the road in the Big Ten, but it also came against a team that has haunted Foster through the years. Consider:
March 1974—In Foster's last game as coach at Utah, the Utes lose the NIT championship game 87-81 to...Purdue.
March 1980—In Foster's last game as coach at Duke, the Blue Devils miss a trip to the Final Four by losing 68-60 in the Mideast Regional final to...Purdue.
December 1982—Foster has a heart attack after his South Carolina team defeats...Purdue.
March 1991—Northwestern finishes 0-18 in the Big Ten, losing its last game to (let's all say it together)...Purdue.
The women's team at Mitchell College, a junior college in New London, Conn., has won 163 straight regular-season games, a streak that started in February 1987. Mitchell is the top-ranked women's juco team in the nation.... After Oklahoma lost at Kansas State on Feb. 3, Sooner coach Billy Tubbs predicted his team would "beat the hell out of them in Norman.... You can mark that down." We did. The Wildcats defeated the Sooners in Norman on Feb. 23. Tubbs's reaction after the 67-63 defeat: "I'm burned out on that topic, so let's bury it."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Rice senior Brent Scott, a 6'10" center, had 49 points and 22 rebounds in a loss to Fordham and a victory over SMU. He made 19 of 29 field goal attempts and 11 of 15 free throws in the two games.
Senior Heather Burge, a 6'5" center at Virginia, scored 50 points and pulled down 27 rebounds as the 11th-ranked Cavaliers defeated No. 12 Maryland and North Carolina State to clinch the ACC title.
Jason Williams, a 6'7" senior forward at Division II New Haven, averaged 31.3 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Chargers to victories over Dowling College, Southern Connecticut and Keene State.