If you peek into the equipment manager's trunk at West Virginia and spot a pair of basketball shorts trimmed in lace, don't get any ideas. The lace-pantie award is ready for any Mountaineer player who appears the least bit reluctant to dive headlong after a loose ball or shies away from flying elbows. Nobody has had to wear the panties yet, but the award is an effective reminder of what Coach Bucky Waters demands of his players. Forward Dave Reaser split the backside of his regular pants in practice one day and Waters discovered that the lace shorts were the only replacement available. Reaser turned red and chose to remain air conditioned the rest of the session.
"From 4 to 6 every afternoon, out on the practice floor, I'm the DI," says Waters. "We have a little drill. I throw the ball on the floor and send two boys after it. They bruise a lot and skin some knees, but they go get that ball. They've got to learn what it's like to be in the pit. Nothing is important except 'go for the other guy, don't let him have a thing, beat him.' I don't intend for my kids to be losers." In the Southern Conference this season, Waters' second as DI, they do not figure to be losers.
West Virginia has four starters back, the best of them being 6-3 Guard Ron (Fritz) Williams, who averaged 20 points and six assists a game and made first-team all-conference as a sophomore though his eyes were so weak he depended on teammates to tell him what the scoreboard said. Now he wears contact lenses and should shoot better than 50% from the floor. The two-man front court, three-man backcourt used by Waters is meant to capitalize on speed, of which Williams has plenty. Ron will be the star of the show. As Waters puts it, "Our horse is going to have the ball."
The Mountaineers also have an interesting trio from around Washington, D.C.—Carl Head, Jim Lewis and Norman Holmes. Head, a 6-4 senior forward, is clever under the basket, leaps well and was second to Williams in scoring last season with a 14-point average. He scorched his left shoulder recently when he leaned against a hot pipe in the dressing room, but the injury should not hamper him for long. Head was shooting only 56.3% from the free-throw line after nine games last season when Assistant Coach Sonny Moran noticed a tiny flaw—Carl was dipping a little too far. He dipped less and shot 78.5% the rest of the way. Lewis is a 6-2 toughie who missed last season because of bad knees. He seems fit for the pit now. Forward Holmes, also 6-2, is a karate devotee and ex-marine and is unlikely ever to wear lace panties.
To go with all this speed, West Virginia needs height. Hopefully, it will be supplied by 6-8 Bob Benfield, who is not exactly swanlike in his movements but is tough on defense. Unfortunately, Benfield, a journalism major from Louisiana, tore a ligament in his right ankle and may not be much help for a while.
The Mountaineers finished with a good 19-9 record last season and put together upsets over St. John's, Davidson and Duke. They came from behind in 16 of their 19 wins and were not defeated at either of their home bases, Morgantown or Charleston. But Davidson won the league playoffs and the right to enter the NCAA tournament, and Waters still steams about that. It also was Davidson, led by Dick Snyder, that beat West Virginia 105-79 in Charlotte as the Wildcat manager scored the last basket. And it is Davidson that has the only chance to beat the Mountaineers for the title this time. Snyder is gone to the pros, but Davidson Coach Lefty Driesell still has a few assets, including an $1,800 videotape machine from Japan, complete with camera, tripod, eight-inch TV set and microphone. "We can study the pictures, show them to the boys, then erase them and use the tape over again," says Driesell. "That cuts out the expense of buying a lot of movie film. We will use the videotape replays and stop-action at half time of games, and if we really get into a situation where we're not getting the job done we can call time-out and show the tape then."
Even more valuable are a couple of tall and tried juniors, 6-9 Rodney Knowles from Greenville, N.C who averaged 19 points a game, and 6-10 Tom Youngdale from Peru, Ill. (10 points), who probably won't fit on that little screen. Knowles is the better of the two, especially at scoring and blocking shots. Bobby Lane of New Orleans, a starter last season as a sophomore, quit the team to concentrate on keening his high grade average, but the Wildcats seem to have two excellent replacements. Driesell says that Wayne Huckel, a 6-3 sophomore, is the best competitor he has ever coached and that David Moser, same class and size, is potentially the best guard he has had at Davidson. There are no seniors on the team, but Driesell does not feel too handicapped, especially after watching Huckel lead the scoring in scrimmages (he averaged 21 points a game on the freshman team). In a preseason poll of the nine Southern Conference coaches, seven voted for West Virginia and two voted for Davidson. That seems about right.
WM. & MARY