THE CHOICE...SOUTHERN CAL
The West Coast may have a bad attack of the inferiors about its football this year, but its basketball is going to be as good as anybody's. Forrest Twogood has a pat hand in the Big Five. The entire starting lineup of the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA team that won last season's championship returns, and it is the best of all the good ones on the Coast. At center is John Rudometkin, who is harder to hold than mercury when within 15 feet of the basket. His 23.9 average led conference scorers last season. Neil Edwards, whose set shot is dainty and damaging (and who was on crutches last month, thanks to a 26-stitch foot cut), and driving Chris Appel are a pair of unusually big (6 feet 3) and fast guards. Verne Ashby or Gordon Martin join Ken Stanley to make up a solid forecourt. Excellent shooting and team speed should offset persistent defensive weaknesses.
The least bit of faltering, however, and the Trojans would be threatened by WASHINGTON, another team with a fine, high-scoring center, Bill Hanson. Injured early last year, he ended the season with nearly 30 points a game, and Coach John Grayson's team closed strong. It will stay strong with three veterans, Lyle Bakken, Roger Niva and Ed Corell (the last two are 6-foot-6 forwards) joining the 6-foot-8 Hanson. Better depth, balanced scoring, improved rebounding and a healthy Hanson add up to an impressive team.
Gary Cunningham, a jump-shooting wizard with a .448 average is again at forward for UCLA, and his backcourt counterpart, John Green (.445), returns, too. But there is once again a problem at center, where a 6-foot-5 junior, Dave Waxman, must come through. Another sophomore, Walt Hazzard, will start at guard. Coach John Wooden will blend a very fast-breaking offense with an aggressive man-to-man defense. Insufficient muscle up front will hurt the rebounding.
With 10 of his 12-man squad back, Howie Dallmar has an improving team with some frightening height at STANFORD. The twin-brother guards, Don and Doug Clemetson, are a mere 6 feet 1, but Center Mike Ledgerwood is 6 feet 7, Forward John Windsor is 6 feet 8 and Tom Dose, a sophomore with a good shot and a potential that alarms the whole Coast, is 6 feet 7.
California, like Stanford, will be playing a tight, ball-control style with a man-to-man defense that once more will make it the lowest-scoring and least-scored-upon team in the conference. Guard Dick Smith leads a squad that will depend on at least three sophomores. The best is Forward Bill Wilson. Center is a critical problem as 6-foot-9 Camden Wall is ineligible.
There are four independents who used to be members of the now-defunct Pacific Coast Conference, and one of them, OREGON STATE, has a future that looks straight up. Most of it is in the 7-foot frame of a fir-tree-tall sophomore, Mel Counts, who was wanted by half the country. Football All-Coast Back Terry Baker doubles again as a basketball guard, and Jay Carty, a 6-foot-7 forward who can shoot, will let Coach Slats Gill vary his offense by sometimes using a rugged double-post.
The IDAHO Vandals have had a year to learn the fast break and pressing defense of Joe Cipriano. Ken Maren, a 6-foot-8 center, Guard Rich Porter, and last year's best scorer, Chuck White, are the nucleus of a proven team. It should be Idaho's best in years, in spite of a lack of overall size.
With more depth and improved scoring, WASHINGTON STATE is better too. Terry Ball is as good a backcourt man as the area has, and a sophomore, Byron Vadset, will likely move in at the other guard. The pair give punch to Marv Harshman's high- and low-post offense that rotates around slick 6-foot-6 Forward Charlie Sells and Center Neil Dirom.
With no formidable big man and only two experienced starters, OREGON is a team abuilding. Offense leader Charlie Warren and Bill Simmons are solid forwards, but they will miss Center Glenn Moore. The most promising of eight sophomores is another forward, 6-foot-5 Steve Jones.
THE WONDROUS RUSSIAN, Southern Cal's John Rudometkin, uses shots like this jumping hook from the foul line to earn his rating as one of the West's best centers in years.