The leading contenders in the Border area are beginning to flex their muscles and build up their schedules, and their efforts have been rewarded by appreciative fans whose numbers grow each year. Last season a dramatic three-way tie stimulated interest in league play, especially at ambitious NEW MEXICO STATE, where the 1960 schedule includes such ranking powers as San Francisco, Utah, Colorado, and UCLA. Although the Aggies don't appear to be quite as strong this time, they are overwhelming favorites to win the title. Billy Joe Price, 6-foot-8 all-conference center, who led the league in scoring and was second in rebounding, returns with Forwards Lee Bowen and Gerald Robison. In the backcourt Coach Presley Askew has only one experienced man, Roy Clymer, to help orient promising sophomore Darrell Bushmiaer. The team's leading new feature is 6-foot-6 Forward George Knighton; the only other holdover is Adison Canady. Lack of speed is one handicap the team will simply have to live with. The other is ARIZONA STATE, whose speed, deception and experience (four veteran starters) are a perfect fit for Coach Ned Wulk's fast-breaking multiple-pivot offense. Here, too, is the spectacular 5-foot-10 all-conference guard, Paul Howard, a fine ball handler and floor leader who hit 43% of his 411 field goal attempts, using almost exclusively a 25-foot jump shot. Al Nealey, all-conference second-team forward for two years, led State in rebounding and scoring; his fellow front linemen, Gary Norton and Bill Pryor, return with him. The fifth starter is likely to be transfer Larry Armstrong. Tom Hughes adds proved depth at center, and Troy Neal, Mike McConnell, Ollie Payne, Harv Darche and Chico Morrison complete the roster, WEST TEXAS STATE'S plans to stir up the first division are solidly based on the return of four big starters. The front line will average more than 6 feet 5, and includes Center Milt Fitts and Forwards Jim Reid and Gene King. Keith Blair is back at guard, where he will team with sophomore Jim Curtsinger. Biggest new man is Center Jim Conner, 6 feet 8; other sophomores who will play often are Dave Seal, Henry Hardaway and Jerry Bell. New Coach Metz LaFollette has no veteran reserves but may be able to balance this inexperience with the best height in the conference, fine speed and shooting. TEXAS WESTERN, where basketball has a bigger following than at any other conference school, faces a year of taxing readjustment. Only one returning starter is on campus to greet new Coach Harold Davis, who plans to change the Miners' traditionally deliberate style of attack to the fast break. Guard Don Burgess will have to run the offense with the help of veteran reserves John Corcoran, Jerry Gilley and Don Vollintine, sophomore Matt Turner and several transfers who are still unknown quantities. ARIZONA'S three returning starters have hopes of atoning for last year's worst-ever record. One of the league's better pivotmen, Ernie McCray, leads Jon Conner, Miles Zeller, Warner Lee and sophomores Kirk Young and Dick Cunningham in the drive to return the Wildcats to their once-familiar perch at the top. HARDIN-SIMMONS Coach Bill Scott will have a small, young, green-as-grass squad, with no height, a little speed, fair shooting and lots of headaches for him. He must build around Joe Arden, Mel Cunningham, Milton Martin and soph Rick Stapleton, and work toward next year.
This area also boasts two basketball-rich Negro colleges which have produced more than their share of pro talent while amassing fine won-lost records. GRAMBLING won 28 of 29 games last year and averaged 95.3 points per game. Charlie Hardnett and Howard (Jim Dandy) Willis, both 6 feet 8, return to see if they can swell their combined average of 33 rebounds a game. Five others who contributed to the squad's startling .514 shooting average are gone, but last year's reserves, Rex Tippitt, Roy Johnson, Mike Dinkins and Tracy Hobdy, are ready. Coach Fred Hobdy rightfully expects big things from freshman Jimmy Stone, prep All-America from Ohio, and Guard Herschell West. TEXAS SOUTHERN, denied its ninth Southwestern Athletic Conference title in 10 years by Grambling last season, does not expect to duplicate its good 18-7 record. Coach Isaac Moorehead lost his first nine regulars and most of the squad's height. Leroy Manna, Charlie Moore and Vic Dupree are the heart of this year's team.
BACKHAND FLIP by Guard Paul Howard to Forward Al Nealey sets up Arizona State's fast break. Howard's deceptive ball handling is essential element in this style of offense.