January 13, 1997


Xavier assistant Jeff Battle often wonders where coach Skip
Prosser hides his pixie dust. "He sprinkles it on the players,
and no matter what story he tells them, they believe it," says
Battle. "Every day they are wide-eyed and looking forward to his

Prosser, a former high school history teacher who plucks his
daily motivational gems from any source that moves him, be it
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or the latest Tom Clancy novel,
called upon the recorded wisdom of women's soccer coach Anson
Dorrance, who has won 13 NCAA titles at North Carolina, to
inspire his Musketeers before a game against Atlantic 10 rival
Virginia Tech last Saturday. "The greatest tribute you can give
an opponent is to crush them," Prosser told his enthralled
charges on Friday. "It shows you've prepared for them."

Anyone who doubts the potency of pixie dust should have been at
the Cincinnati Gardens on Saturday night. The Hokies left
Xavier's funky old home court with a 102-67 loss, the worst
defeat--or was it the best tribute?--in coach Bill Foster's
six-year tenure at Tech. "Xavier is the team to beat in this
league, no question," said Foster after the game. "I just hope
they're as good as they're going to get."

Who expected Xavier, a small Jesuit school (enrollment 3,756)
that starts three sophomores and two juniors, to be even this
good: 10-0 at week's end and rated 12th in the country, the
Musketeers' highest ranking since the 1958-59 season? Who
expected a team that was 13-15 last year, in its first season in
the Atlantic 10, to be so formidable? Not crosstown rival
Cincinnati, which lost its No. 1 ranking when it fell 71-69 to
Xavier on Nov. 26, and not Kansas State, which was thrashed
95-54 by the Musketeers on Dec. 29.

Before Xavier faced the Wildcats, Prosser didn't say much; he
just popped in a videotape showing a scene from Super Bowl X,
between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's
probably my favorite play in sports," says Prosser, a Pittsburgh
native. In it, Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert picks up a
Cowboy who was picking on the Pittsburgh kicker and throws him
to the ground. "The point Coach was making was that we are the
intimidators," said 5'11" senior guard Sherwin Anderson. "No one
can push us around."

So far, remarkably, no one has. The undersized Musketeers, whose
starters average a mere 6'5 3/4", have stood up to all their
opponents with a withering pressure defense and a balanced
attack. At week's end six different players had led Xavier in
scoring. "We're all the go-to guys on this team," says junior
forward Torraye Braggs.

During the nine-season reign of former coach Pete Gillen, the
Musketeers went to seven NCAA tournaments and slew several
giants, including Missouri in 1987 and Georgetown in '90. But
when Gillen left after the '93-94 season for Providence, it was
widely assumed the program would slip back into its pre-Gillen
obscurity, especially given the growing shadow of Cincinnati.
Instead the Xavier administration got more aggressive: It hired
Prosser, a former Gillen assistant who had taken Loyola of
Maryland from a 2-25 record to an NCAA berth in one year; a year
later it ditched the Midwestern Collegiate Conference for the
much tougher Atlantic 10; and it set down plans for an
on-campus, 10,000-seat arena that should be finished by the year

Though the addition of the 6'8" Braggs, a junior college
transfer, and 6'7" James Posey has given the Musketeers a
low-post presence they lacked last year, Xavier's heart and soul
are sophomore guards Lenny Brown and Gary Lumpkin, who are in
their seventh year together. They were teammates in middle
school and at William Penn High in New Castle, Del., but are
"like night and day," says Battle. Point guard Lumpkin, whose
father died when he was five, grew up in the suburbs, where he
played the organ in church and "did exactly what I was told," he
says. Brown, a ninth-grade truant who barely knew his father,
lived in the Wilmington projects, where, he says, "I used
basketball as a tool to keep me from selling drugs." When they
moved in together as freshmen at Xavier, Lumpkin brought his
gospel tapes, Brown brought his rap. But they've always had a
harmonious relationship. "Each of us is the first to
congratulate the other on a good play," says Brown.

That spirit is not confined to the starting backcourt. "This
team has great chemistry," says Anderson. "The guys all love
playing with each other. I think we all realize we have a chance
to do something really special. And I believe we will."


Anyone feeling worn out by the whirlwind holiday season ought to
consider the Yuletide schedule of Cal junior Tony Gonzalez, a
6'6", 240-pound power forward who was also an All-America tight
end for the Golden Bears football team. After finishing the
regular football season on Nov. 23 with 44 receptions for 699
yards--the most yardage in the nation for a tight end--Gonzalez
joined the basketball team the next day in Maui for the start of
its season. He had two points in the Bears' 75-59 opening win
over Iowa and three points and eight rebounds in the next four
games. Just as Gonzalez was regaining his touch with an
eight-point, seven-rebound performance against Mississippi State
on Dec. 9, the football team called him back to prepare for a
Dec. 25 matchup with Navy in the Aloha Bowl.

Over the next two weeks Gonzalez, an American studies major,
knocked off three final exams, and on Christmas he caught nine
passes for 69 yards in Cal's 42-38 loss to Navy. On Dec. 26
Gonzalez arrived in Sunset Beach, Calif., for a delayed holiday
with his family, and he then made the eight-hour drive back to
Berkeley in time for a 4 p.m. basketball practice the next day.
In wins over Howard and Cal Poly State-San Luis Obispo in that
weekend's Golden Bear Classic, he had six points, seven rebounds
and one block. Two days later he held a press conference
announcing that he would forgo his final year of college
football to make himself eligible for the NFL draft. He also
said he intended to finish out the season with the basketball

"I thought I needed to take this opportunity in football," says
Gonzalez, who expects to be drafted in the first round. He adds
that he's not worried about the danger of continuing to play
hoops: "The risk of injury is always there, but--knock on
wood--I've never been hurt playing basketball yet." Indeed, with
his physical style under the boards, he's more likely to hurt
somebody else.

Gonzalez promises his football career will cause no further
disruptions to the basketball Bears, who are off to a surprising
9-4 start under new coach Ben Braun despite a convulsive
off-season that saw forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim bolt to the NBA,
stars Jelani Gardner and Tremaine Fowlkes transfer and former
coach Todd Bozeman step down amid allegations of recruiting
violations. As the leading rebounder (4.6 per game) back from
last season's team, Gonzalez feels a strong commitment to his
teammates and to the game, which he didn't start playing until
eighth grade but says is his "first love."

"Football comes naturally to me, but basketball is a challenge,
that's why I like it so much," says Gonzalez. "I'd love to play
both, but I guess that wouldn't be realistic."

Some might have said the same about his end-of-the-year

COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Transfer Braggs has been a highlight in the low post for the Musketeers. [Torraye Braggs] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID TAYLOR/ALLSPORT Only Santa had a busier Yuletide than Gonzalez, who played two sports and announced plans to jump to the NFL. [Tony Gonzalez playing football] COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT WACHTER [See caption above--Tony Gonzalez playing basketball]

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