While loyal Texans weren't looking, another sport was threatening to catch on in the state's high schools. A lot of those young, strong, lithe, quick and good ole football players were starting to play basketball. In fact, some were dribbling even more than they were z-outing. These good ole boys were thereafter known as traitors. Something had to be done—and was. The Texas high school athletic association didn't go around drilling all basketball coaches full of lead or setting fire to all the gyms; it just, in the words of one coach, "sort of prohibited" basketball except during the months of the season, October to March. All organized practices at other times were outlawed, players could not participate in any out-of-state practices and summer clinics were discontinued. It was a pretty effective way to handle those round-ball revolutionaries, and high school basketball in Texas, always poor, quickly slid all the way down there to miserable.
Despite all this, interest in Southwest Conference basketball is increasing. Attendance has risen 17,000 over the past two years and coaches are seeking good players outside of Texas. In Dallas enthusiasm for the game has proceeded from nothing to, well, something, as a result of SMU's success. This is a league of basketball have-nots, but SMU is annually a sort of have because of E.O. (Doc) Hayes ("What else are you going to call a guy named Elmore Onslow?"), the bespectacled, bald and thoroughly entertaining gentleman who has coached the Mustangs for 19 years. "It is a fact that God made all heads," says Doc, defending his dome. "He just covered up the ones he was ashamed of." Doc says a lot of things like that, partly because it is natural with him and partly to foster a little more interest in his sport.
Out of habit by now, preseason forecasters pick Doc's teams to win the SWC, because he always has a well-drilled group that has listened to and absorbed his savvy. Seven times in the past 12 years the forecasters have been right, and since there are four returning starters from SMU's championship team of last season, they should be right again. Doc's opinion is, "The only reliable prophets I know of were in the Old Testament."
Baylor has the best big man in the league, 6-7 Darrell Hardy, but no back-court. TCU has nearly everyone back and adds the first Negroes to play basketball in the SWC—sophomore James Cash and JC transfer John Ed White, from that old cattle town of Passaic, N.J. These two schools are the challengers, and Rice will make some noise with new Coach Don Knodel (from Vanderbilt), but SMU still appears to be best.
Doc will miss 6-7 Carroll Hooser, a brilliant shooter who averaged more than 20 points a game from his low-post position last year, but the other Mustangs have played together for three years and have traveled to two NCAA regional tournaments; they are used to the pressure and they know each other's moves. This last is especially important when you play the free-lance, help-out offense Hayes teaches. Charles Beasley, 6-5, the Mustangs' second leading scorer with a 19-point average, is very quick and one of the best one-on-one men in the area. "Beasley may be the finest pro prospect out of this league since Jim Krebs went up in 1957," says Doc. Bob Begart will be the other forward, with Denny Holman and Bob Jones at guards. John Higginbotham, 6-6, takes over the post position, which Hayes prefers to use for making points rather than for feeding. Two sophomores figure to play a lot—6-7 Lynn Phillips and 6-3 Bill Voight, who is the best backcourt prospect SMU has had for some time. Last year the Mustangs lost three of their first four league games, then took 10 straight and won the title on the last day of the season. Five of the victories were by a total of 10 points, and Doc the gentleman says they all could have gone the other way. But the better-coached team usually wins those close games. And it will again this season.