THE CHOICE...TEXAS A&M
They were a long time getting around to playing first-rate basketball in this football-happy area, but there is no quibbling with the quality any more. TEXAS A&M finished second in the league last season and now has an excellent chance to be a rather surprising winner, thanks largely to that fancy 6-foot-5 Frenchman, Carroll Broussard, the best in this area. Ronnie Durbon is the other forward, and experienced but short (6 feet 5) Jerry Windham is at center. Two newcomers, sophomore Bennie Lenox and junior-college transfer Bennie Johnson, are a pair of fast, accurate guards, giving Coach Bob Rogers so much over-all speed and shooting ability that he has decided to quicken the pace of his usual deliberate offense. By the time conference play begins, an intriguing shift may well find improving 7-foot Lewis Quails at center, Windham at forward and Broussard at guard with Lenox. If this combination functions it should win.
New Coach Gene Gibson inherits a wealth of material from last year's winner at TEXAS TECH. Four starters return, two of whom are that big-little pair of All-Conference offensive standouts, Harold Hudgens (6 feet 9) and Del Ray Mounts (5 feet 10). They averaged 22 and 19.9 points a game, respectively, last season. Roger Hennig, 6 feet 5, 160 pounds and thin as a backboard, can play either forward or guard, as can the fourth returnee, Mac Percival, a solid rebounder though only 6 feet 3. A sophomore guard, 6-foot-3 Sidney Wall, may be the fifth man. The Red Raiders will have better outside shooting but a little less speed than last year, and this may cost a championship.
Texas Christian is a well-tested team that not only has improved but has the added advantage of moving into an air-conditioned, $9 million field house which ought to give the opposition inferiority complexes. "It's about time we had a homecourt advantage," says happy Coach Buster Brannon. Onto the new court will go Phil Reynolds, an able shot, and Tommy Pennick at guard, 6-foot-9 Alton Adams at center and Johnny Fowler and David Warnell at forward. The problem is still defense. These same players gave up more than 80 points a game last season.
"We need height," says Coach E.O. (Doc) Hayes of SOUTHERN METHODIST. "Six-six, six-seven and six-eight are no longer considered big men in basketball." True, but the not-so-small Mustangs are yet another of this league's veteran teams that has improved. Jump-shooting Jan Loudermilk, a burly 6 feet 6, is an All-Conference star and the best of four returning starters. Jon Larson and James Thompson are sound guards, and Captain Jim Hammond is at forward again. Mike Marsh, a 6-foot-8 center, is among the sophs that give SMU good depth.
Rice must have help from its sophomores, and big help from the biggest one, 6-foot-9 Kendall Rhine. An unsteady 18-year-old with a vast arm span, he gained 15 pounds over the summer and will make his considerable presence felt. Two of his classmates, 6-foot-5 Larry Phillips and 6-foot Herbert Steinkamp, also may start. Returning starters are Jim Fox, a playmaking guard, 6-foot-7 Mike Maroney, a center, and 6-foot-6 Olle Shipley. The Owls are tall and promising. Coach Glen Rose at ARKANSAS lost three of the best scorers he ever had and is strapped for good shooting and a big center. Jerry Carlton, who drives and shoots well from the outside, will anchor the backcourt, while 6-foot-6 Tommy Boyer will lead the offense up front. Jim Wilson, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Mississippi State may help, along with such tall subs from a year ago as 5-foot-7 Robert Anderson and 6-foot-6 Alan Morrison. The fear is that none of them can stop a big pivot man.
Graduations left TEXAS Coach Hal Bradley with only one starter from last season, so he understandably feels "the difference between a mature player and a sophomore is mistakes. Cut down on mistakes and we'll have a good team." He may start two sophomore forwards, 6-foot-8 Mike Humphrey and 6-foot-7 Joe Fisher, and a guard, Jimmy Puryear, who will team with the only returning first-stringer, Butch Skeete.
Baylor has a new head coach in Bill Menefee, but the future looks sadly familiar. Harold Henson, a guard, is the sole returning starter. Tom Garrison, a 6-foot-8 senior, will step in at center, and some aid is expected from sophomore Ronny Phelps, a guard, and a good-sized forward, 6-foot-6 Herbert Barritt.
THE SIZES VARY, but high scorers Del Ray Mounts (left) and Harold Hudgens contributed equally to Texas Tech's success.