PAPER LIONS NO MORE
Maybe Penn State is for real. The Nittany Lions gave every
indication of that last week with easy victories over Purdue and
Indiana. The 82-68 defeat of the Hoosiers last Saturday, in Penn
State's new, 14,400-seat Bryce Jordan Center, left the 15-1
Lions in first place in the Big Ten with a 6-1 conference
record. Clearly Penn State is no longer just Linebacker U.
The transformation didn't happen overnight. Former coach Bruce
Parkhill laid the groundwork for the Nittany Lions' success,
taking them to the NCAA tournament in 1991, when Penn State was
still a member of the Atlantic 10, and shepherding them through
the first difficult seasons after joining the Big Ten in the
1992-93 season. Then Parkhill suddenly resigned in early
September--he cited burnout as the reason--leaving the Lions in
the unlikely hands of Jerry Dunn, one of his former assistants.
Dunn, 42, whose twin brother, Terry, is an assistant at Colorado
State, grew up in Raleigh, N.C., where he picked tobacco and
cotton starting at the age of five. He played a year of junior
college ball in 1973-74 at Casper (Wyo.) College, but bad knees
kept him from going on to Division I. A few years later he was
working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and
taking classes at nearby George Mason University, where he
volunteered to help out with the basketball team. Eventually he
was promoted to full-time assistant by Joe Harrington, and from
there he went to work for Parkhill.
Dunn knew he had a solid team returning this season, led by
senior forward Glenn Sekunda, sophomore shooting guard Pete
Lisicky and junior point guard Dan Earl. Those three are the
main reasons that Penn State is the nation's best
three-point-shooting team. After last week's victories, the
Nittany Lions were making 47.3% of their shots from beyond the
arc. Their perimeter shooting has been complemented by the
inside play of 6'11" redshirt freshman center Calvin Booth, who
was averaging 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks (third
best in the nation).
Perhaps the biggest question coming into the season concerned
the comeback of senior forward Matt Gaudio, whose career
appeared over when he underwent back surgery in May 1994. Last
season Gaudio served as a student-assistant coach, but after
last week's win over Indiana he was averaging 13.0 points and,
according to Dunn, was giving the Lions "a mental toughness that
infiltrates the rest of the team."
At week's end Penn State's only loss had been a 67-66
heartbreaker at Michigan in which Lisicky played only nine
minutes because of a sprained foot. Maybe soon the school will
need a new nickname. How about Three-Point U?
Going into last Saturday's game against UCLA, there wasn't a
single reason to think that Louisville had a shot to knock off
the defending champs. After all, during his previous 24 seasons
at Louisville, coach Denny Crum had an 0-6 record against his
alma mater in Pauley Pavilion.
More important, this wasn't one of Crum's powerhouse teams. The
players who weren't in the lineup might have been better than
those who were. Starting center Samaki Walker was out
indefinitely because of a university investigation into the
purchase of a car that his father gave him. Junior forward Jason
Osborne was declared academically ineligible this season after
averaging 11.6 points a year ago. Sophomore forward Alex Sanders
was also academically ineligible after sitting out his freshman
year as a Prop 48 nonqualifier. Sophomore swingman Eric Johnson
is finished for the season because of a knee injury. And backup
freshman point guard Charlie Taylor has taken a leave from the
team for personal reasons.
Naturally Louisville won, 78-76, on a clutch three-pointer by
senior Brian Kiser with four seconds left after a late UCLA
flurry had put the Bruins ahead 76-75. Kiser's basket was
straight out of the coaching handbook: Junior point guard DeJuan
Wheat dribbled the clock down and then started to penetrate.
With everyone in the building expecting Wheat (who finished with
25 points) to take the last shot, he dished to Kiser, who had
come around a back screen on the baseline and was wide open.
It was a coaching masterpiece for Crum, who has been criticized
this season because of the controversies surrounding his
program. In fact, a case can be made that given the obstacles he
has faced, Crum is doing his best job in years. Louisville was
14-6 after Saturday's win over the Bruins.
At the same time it is a little sad to see what has become of a
program that was as dominant as any in the game for much of the
1980s. From '80 to '86 the Cardinals were in four Final Fours
and won two national championships. In the last nine seasons,
however, the Cards have made it only as far as the Sweet Sixteen
(four times). Louisville even had a losing record in 1990-91,
when three prize freshmen had to sit out the season for academic
Beyond the repeated academic shortcomings of Crum's players and
a woeful graduation rate of 27%, according to the latest NCAA
study, there have been other controversies that have tarnished
the Cardinals' image. The latest is the resignation of assistant
coach Larry Gay after a Louisville Courier-Journal investigation
revealed that he allegedly made illegal contacts with numerous
recruits and that he may have lied about traveling to San
Antonio to recruit a player when he may actually have gone there
for a meeting with player agent Lance Luchnick (whose only
current NBA clients are former Louisville player Clifford Rozier
and Willie Anderson, who played at Georgia while Gay was an
Crum, who many observers believed had lost his zest for coaching
in recent years, seems to be energized by the controversy. "I
told the guys, 'I don't care about winning and losing from here
on out,'" he says. "If they give maximum effort, that's all I
With games against Massachusetts, Memphis (twice), Cincinnati,
UNC Charlotte and Marquette to come, Louisville still faces a
lot of questions this season. Beyond that, much larger questions
about the future of both Crum and the Cards remain.
LARGER THAN LIFE
When George Washington coach Mike Jarvis first saw Shawnta
Rogers play in a Baltimore summer league 2 1/2 years ago, his
first thought was simple: special player. We won't be able to
Even though Rogers was--and is--only 5'3", Jarvis was convinced he
would end up at an ACC or Big East school. Instead, Rogers is
now the Colonials' point guard, for a number of reasons, first
and foremost his childhood friendship with senior guard Kwame
Jarvis was also helped by the fact that other schools shied away
from Rogers after he failed to make the SAT score required for
athletic eligibility. At Jarvis's urging, Rogers decided not to
enroll in a junior college but instead to wait and see if he
could be certified as learning disabled, which would allow him
to retake the test untimed. According to George Washington vice
president Robert Chernak, Rogers has a reading deficiency that
causes him to have difficulty understanding words he sees on
paper that he easily understands when they are spoken to him.
The 1995 fall semester was already well under way at most
schools when Rogers got his certification, and he took the SAT
again in December. This time he scored in the high 900s.
Rogers became eligible for the Colonials' Dec. 27 game against
Cal State Sacramento two weeks before he took his first class.
He scored 14 points coming off the bench in that game, and the
next night against Idaho he had 18 points in an 84-83
Although he has struggled with his shooting--at week's end he was
making 31.6% of his shots--Rogers was averaging a respectable 9.6
points and had started the Colonials' last six games. He also
had 6.5 assists and, amazingly, just under five rebounds a game.
Since he is 5'3" and from Baltimore, Rogers is inevitably
compared with the Charlotte Hornets' Muggsy Bogues, who is also
a Baltimorean. "It's not fair to compare anyone to Muggsy,"
Virginia Tech coach Bill Foster said after George Washington had
blitzed the Hokies 64-47 last Thursday. "But I'll tell you,
Shawnta's a pest at both ends of the floor. If he's going to
guard you, you aren't likely to sleep well the night before."