Here it is the middle of the football season and fans are already beating down the doors to buy basketball tickets," complains Oregon State's excitable athletic business manager, Jim Barrett. "They are driving me nuts." It is understandable. Winning teams are not unique at Corvallis, but this season the town may have a big winner. In fact, Amory T. (Slats) Gill, in his 35th year of coaching Oregon State, could have the best team of his career.
It will all depend on a gigantic center with the swift, agile moves of a much smaller man, and a sophomore guard who does things with a basketball that no sophomore has a right to do. Seven-foot Mel Counts is as persistent as he is tall. The junior center has the ability to scoot—if you can conceive of a 7-footer scooting—outside when the opposition jams him under the basket and score from there with a soft and accurate jump shot. "Cut Counts in half and Gill wouldn't have a bad pair of guards," a rival coach has said. Now helping Counts is a new guard, 6-foot Jim Jarvis. Most coaches are careful about saying "another Cousy," yet those who see Jarvis have talked that way. A young man of great quickness, he shoots brilliantly from outside and is a sure and willing driver. Yet for all his scoring talents, it is Jarvis' ball handling and passing that leaves both observers and opponents gasping. "Call him a fancy Dan if you want [behind-the-back passes and dribbling are his specialties] but notice he only does it when necessary," says Gill.
State, 24-5 last year, badly needed an outside shot to take pressure off Counts. Jarvis is it. At the other guard, soon, will be football All-America Terry Baker, an adequate floor general who can handle a fast break and drive well but is relatively harmless from outside. Height is a problem at forward, where one starter is a converted guard—quite a decathlon man—6-foot-4 Steve Pauly. A good rebounder, he sometimes has trouble when pressed closely. He will be helped by 6-foot-6 Tim Campbell, a hook-shooting senior, with Ray Torgerson, 6 feet 4, giving some needed depth. There has not been a better team in the Northwest since Seattle had Elgin Baylor.
West Virginia, at Lexington, Ky., Dec. 21
Stanford, at Stanford, Jan. 11
Stanford, at Stanford, Jan. 12