THE CHOICE...KANSAS STATE
The coaches in the wheat belt circuit of basketball are in rare and unanimous agreement this fall about two things. First, enough eligible talent has been lost through academic failings and undergraduates turning professional and transferring schools to stock a team that could trounce them all. Second, mighty KANSAS STATE should carve up the remnants of this weakened league with comparative ease. In fact, if Coach Tex Winter succeeds in pouring enough of a high-calorie concentrate called Sustagen down the elongated gullet of his 7-foot sophomore center, Roger Suttner, the Wildcats may even improve on their fourth-place national ranking of last season. Suttner is far underweight at 195 pounds, but with some added muscle this red-shirt holdover may work very well either with or as a substitute for 6-foot-8 Center Mike Wroblewski in State's complicated triple-post offense. Wroblewski, who is experienced but also erratic, is one of nine lettermen back, including starters Richard Ewy and Al Peithman, a pair of exceptional guards, and Forward Pat McKenzie. The other forward spot will likely go to either senior Phil Heitmeyer or a high-scoring sophomore prospect, Jeff Simons. They are both 6 feet 5. Another sophomore, 6-foot Max Moss, has developed surprisingly during practices—and may see considerable playing time in the backcourt, especially later in the season. With fine depth, including a regiment of good guards, Kansas State should top the Big Eight for the fifth straight year and avoid the massive dogfight sure to occur among the other seven very evenly matched teams.
Much of COLORADO'S substantial hope rests on the slow-healing knee of fast Wilky Gilmore, the team's best shot—and most controversial player. The Big Eight made Colorado forfeit seven of last season's games, declaring Gilmore had been ineligible because he played summer basketball in 1960. As a result, the Buffaloes' 15-10 record was changed to 8-17 and they finished last in the conference. Injured midway through last season, Gilmore at last looks 100% sound and ready to repair last year's damage. At 6 feet 5, he and Ken Charlton, 6 feet 6, are a pair of imposing forwards. And again Coach Russell (Sox) Walseth will have the option of using the versatile Gilmore at center or guard. His help may be especially needed at center, where Jim Davis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, must make up for the loss of scholastically ineligible Roger Voss. At guard there are Eric Lee and Gil Whissen, both of whom have been part-time starters. Good height and rebounding can overcome lack of backcourt scoring punch to make Colorado a better club than it was a year ago.
Oklahoma State will be led by two Iba's this year and that means double trouble for opponents. The boss on the bench is still Coach Hank Iba. The leader on the floor is his son Moe, a jump-shooting guard who averaged .456 on his field goal tries last year and sank an outlandish 63 of 68 foul shots. He and two other returning regulars, Forward Cecil Epperley, the top rebounder, and hook-shooting Center Eddie Bunch, are the tested strength of a team that did surprisingly well last season, finishing third after being picked for seventh. Jim Smelser and Ray Reins, two seniors, are the best bets to complete the starting lineup, with sophomores Vernon Smith, James Cooper and Gary Hassmann next in line. None of them, however, are as fast as the graduates they replace. Lack of speed plus an over-all rebounding weakness make it likely that Coach Iba's ball-control team will have to play even more slowly and carefully than usual. But it probably will do so successfully, and win more than its share once again.
Iowa State will have five tested regulars as starters and a total of eight lettermen available on a squad that has depth at forward and guard, speed and a good offense. Gary Wheeler, a mere 5 feet 10, operates the backcourt with 6-foot-4 John Ptacek. Up front are Marvin Straw and a hot-shot junior, Vince Brewer, who scored 366 points in his sophomore season and then dropped out of school for a year. Added depth in the forecourt comes from 6-foot-5 Gary Kleven, a junior. Bob Stoy, 6 feet 8, is an inadequate scorer at center but does nearly everything else well. He is the only big man with playing experience, and Coach Glendon Anderson would like to develop some rebound help quickly, possibly through two tall sophomores, 6-foot-8 Dick Froistad and 6-foot-7 Tom Peterson, or a transfer student, 6-foot-8 Ron Doncavage. Obviously, there is no lack of size here. "It's impossible to predict how we'll do in this league," says Anderson. "It's too even. But with a few breaks we could finish quite high."
Kansas has already had some breaks, all bad. Three players Coach Dick Harp hoped to have are gone, and for the first time in years a school that has had a phenomenal run of centers (All-Americas Clyde Lovellette, B. H. Born and Wilt Chamberlain) finds itself without a proven man over 6 feet 6. This has forced Harp to shift to a radically different offense in which Guards Nolen Ellison and Jerry Gardner, the only returning starters, will not only bring the ball upcourt but do most of the shooting, too, while the forwards and center screen for them. This is quite a responsibility for these two guards, considering the pair averaged only nine points a game last season. John Matt, the only man at 6 feet 6, probably will be at center. He averaged exactly six-tenths of a point a game, playing behind the high-scoring but now departed forecourt combination of Wayne Hightower (who turned up last month as a professional playing for Real Madrid, which is apparently trying to develop Europe's best basketball team to go with its championship soccer club) and Bill Bridges. Junior Jim Dumas starts at one forward, with one of the area's better transfers, 6-foot-5 Loye Sparks, at the other. Depth up front must come from sophomores Harry Gibson and Derrill Gwinner. The harassed Harp began his fall practice with full scrimmages just to see what talent he had. Fundamentals, he decided, could be taught later. Poor Dick.
Improvement at the guard positions should help an OKLAHOMA team that was a disappointment last season when it won only two games from Big Eight foes. The rugged forecourt has 6-foot-7 Warren Fouts, last year's leading scorer, 6-foot-6 Harvey Chaffin and 6-foot-7 Stan Morrison. A sophomore guard, Farrell Johnson, pairs with tiny (5 feet 9) Ed Evans, who has shown more defensive finesse in recent practices. Jack Lee, a starting forward last year, but now bothered with a recurrence of a back injury, is the sixth man, while 6-foot-10 Eddie Jackson provides a big substitute at center.
Nebraska has a solid scoring potential in the middle for the first time in years and should capitalize on this to improve its record. Three starters are back, the best of them being Tommy Russell, a 6-foot-7 center and forward who was the team high-point man and outstanding rebounder last season. Additional experienced help will come from Bill Bowers, usually at center, and Rex Swett, a guard. Three sophomores, Charles Jones, Chuck Sladovnik and Bill Vincent, and a junior-college transfer, Buddy Deckard, all have a chance to break into the starting lineup.
Like Tex Winter at the top of the league, MISSOURI'S Coach Sparky Stalcup near the bottom is trying to fatten up some of his players, though he is using Metrecal. He may only succeed in fattening them for the kill, however, for his team lost five starters and precisely 86% of its scoring. The rebuilding project centers around Guard Ken Doughty, Center Howard Garrett and Forward Walter Grebing, all of whom played some last season, plus 6-foot-6 sophomore Ray Bob Carey, who can be either a guard or forward, and a transfer student, Bruce Mills. Young and fast, the team will improve. It should not have the league's worst defense or the country's worst record for fouling, both of which it had last year. Coaching his last season—he moves up to assistant athletic director—Stalcup deserves a winner but has only the slightest chance of having one.
BASKETBALL ARTISTS Roger Suttner (left), who is a slim 7-footer, and teammate Mike Wroblewski talk over textbook in the art lounge of Kansas State's student union building.