CHOPPED DOWN, BY GEORGE
As shocking as George Washington's 86-76 upset of previously
unbeaten Massachusetts last Saturday may have seemed, it was, in
many ways, predictable. Throughout the six years that Mike
Jarvis has coached the Colonials, George Washington has made the
Minutemen miserable. GW's record against UMass is now 7-5 under
Jarvis, including two straight wins at Amherst. Those are the
Minutemen's only defeats at the Mullins Center, which opened on
Feb. 4, 1993. "They just have our number," UMass center Marcus
Camby said after Saturday's game.
Camby struggled for much of the game against the Colonials'
7'1", 296-pound center, Alexander Koul, and that could be an
ominous sign for the Minutemen. Although Camby finished with 18
points, he made just 8 of 21 shots, reviving memories of UMass's
East Regional final loss to Oklahoma State a year ago, in which
Camby had trouble dealing with Bryant Reeves, another beefy
center. Because of fouls, Koul played only 21 minutes Saturday,
but he still had 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks, both on
shots by Camby. "He had his way with me inside," said Camby
later. "He's just big and strong."
A week before the trip to Amherst, Jarvis said publicly that he
and his players were looking ahead to playing UMass, a no-no
according to the coaching dictum: Play 'em one game at a time.
That approach might have been responsible for George
Washington's 76-70 loss at La Salle on Feb. 18, but no one was
talking about that defeat last Saturday.
Their teams almost never play on network television. The
national media know very little about them. Even in the hours
and hours of highlights on ESPN's SportsCenter, they rarely make
an appearance. But that doesn't mean the NBA hasn't found them.
They are the hidden gems of college basketball, players who may
very well hear their names called on NBA draft day, just as
Scottie Pippen of Central Arkansas and Lindsey Hunter of Jackson
State have before them.
Most notable among the unnoted is Murray State guard Marcus
Brown. A 6'3" senior who grew up in West Memphis, Ark., Brown
dreamed of attending Memphis, where he served as a ball boy when
he was a kid. (He still has a collection of about 100 wristbands
worn by former Tigers star Keith Lee.) Brown decided to go to
Murray State because Memphis didn't seriously recruit him until
two days before the national signing date in April 1992. "Coach
[Larry] Finch called and said there had been some kind of
mix-up," says Brown, "and they thought I was actually some other
player named Brown. Holy smokes, how could they not know who I
was when I grew up seven miles from their campus?"
Through last weekend Brown was the nation's third-leading
scorer, averaging 26.4 points per game and shooting 44.2% from
outside the three-point arc--not bad for someone most colleges
shied away from because he played low post in high school.
Memphis isn't the only college that missed a chance to get
Brown. Arkansas offered him a track scholarship--Brown has
high-jumped 6'10" at Murray State--but he turned it down because
the Razorbacks' basketball coaches wouldn't guarantee him a
chance to join their team, even as a walk-on.
Scott Edgar, a former Razorbacks assistant coach who took over
the Racers' program in 1991, was more than happy to offer Brown
a scholarship, however. "I was better off coming here, because I
got an opportunity to play right away," says Brown. "At a bigger
school I probably would have been on the bench for a couple of
years. If I was coming out of high school today and getting
recruited really hard by big schools, I'd still sign with Murray
State. I've enjoyed myself." He's also made himself into a
certain first-round NBA pick, according to many scouts.
Bradley's Anthony Parker, a 6'5" shooting guard, is only a
junior, but he too is attracting attention from the pros--and
eliciting comparisons to former Braves star Hersey Hawkins, who
now plays for the Seattle SuperSonics. Parker caught a lot of
people's eyes when he had 30 points, seven rebounds, five
assists and four steals in Bradley's 84-82 upset of Georgia Tech
in December. Twenty scouts and four NBA general managers turned
up that night at the Cable Car Classic to see Stephon Marbury
and Drew Barry of Tech, and Steve Nash of Santa Clara. They left
talking about Parker.
Like Brown, Parker is grateful that he ended up at one of
college basketball's more remote outposts. "I wanted to play
right off, not sometime in my junior or senior year," he says.
"I think to get to the NBA you have to keep getting better and
better and work on your weaknesses. If you're not playing, you
can't do that."
LEFTY'S LAST DAYS
This has been a season James Madison coach Lefty Driesell would
rather not think about. Even after a sloppy 81-80 victory over
George Mason last Saturday night--the Dukes' fourth straight
win--Driesell's team was a dismal 9-19. The only way the
Lefthander can avoid his first losing record since his rookie
season at Davidson (1960-61) is to earn an NCAA bid by winning
the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, then win the
national championship. "We do that," says the 64-year-old
Driesell, laughing, "and I will retire. I promise."
There has been talk at James Madison all winter that this will
be Driesell's final season. Even though he came into this year
with 657 career victories and a 133-78 record since taking over
the Dukes in 1988-89, it's no secret that he and athletic
director Donald Lemish are not what you would call close. Though
Driesell has one season left on his contract, Lemish has refused
to give him a vote of confidence for next season. "I'll probably
be back, but I'm not sure," says Driesell. "In a lot of ways I'd
rather not coach anymore. But I made a commitment to the four
recruits we signed in November, and we should be good next year."
When you watch Driesell on the sidelines, it's clear that his
passion has ebbed. He may still stomp a foot on occasion when
one of his players makes a foolish mistake, but he rarely looks
like the arms-flailing battler who promised to make Maryland
"the UCLA of the East" when he took over the Terrapins in 1969,
and then averaged 20 wins a year for 17 seasons before resigning
under fire after the death of Len Bias.
Driesell's dream has been to coach until he is 65 (he will hit
that milestone next Christmas Day) and then turn the program
over to his son, Chuck, 33, who is his top assistant. That isn't
likely to happen, it now appears, even though Chuck is highly
thought of in the coaching profession. So whenever Driesell
departs, whether in the wake of all these losses or next year
after a better season, it will probably be another bittersweet
ending for the Lefthander. But then, even with all his victories
over the years, Driesell is used to the taste of bittersweet.