Fred Taylor cut his first practice session short this fall and took the Ohio State team out to dinner. Perhaps Taylor, who is accustomed to holding victory banquets at season's end, had the uneasy feeling any coach would have after losing a Jerry Lucas. Banquets, doubters said, had better come early.
But, warned one Big Ten coach: "Let me tell you one team the experts are kissing off too early—Ohio State." And Taylor is of a like mind, regardless of the fact that Lucas was now helping coach the freshman team instead of playing on the varsity. "Every club in the Big Ten will be improved but ours," he says, "but we've got talent." They do, some of it unknown only because it has been impatiently waiting on the bench.
Two players that are already proved performers are the senior regulars, Doug McDonald (6 feet 5) at forward and the good-shooting guard, Dick Reasbeck. They will be the steadying influence on a young team. The real key to Ohio State hopes, however, is Gary (Tex) Bradds, a churning swirl of elbows who was measured at 6 feet 8 the only time he ever stood still. He hurtles around the court like a leaky balloon, knocking away passes, grabbing loose basketballs and driving desperately to score. They don't give any points for gracefulness in basketball, and Bradds, to quote Taylor, "knows where the basket is hung."
The Buckeyes are well fixed in the backcourt, where Reasbeck will be joined by a 6-foot-4 junior, Dick Taylor, the player Coach Taylor (no relation) says has the most natural ability on the team. Like Bradds, Taylor has looked his best in recent practices. Because of back-court depth, slow but strong Don Flatt, a guard last season, has been switched to forward, where he will play behind spring-legged but erratic Jim Doughty. The move hints at OSU's real weakness, the forward spots. Lack of size and depth there is forcing Taylor to change his team's strategy slightly. He will stress a slower, more-patterned offense, use less fast breaks. "Lots of teams would like to cram it down our throats this season," he notes, "but they better bring their lunch. We'll take some lumps, but we are going to be giving some too."
West Virginia, at Ohio State, Dec. 8
Wichita, at Wichita, Dec. 29
Illinois, at Illinois, Jan. 7