Over the summer UCLA players took their ease in Canada and Mexico while Coach John Wooden conducted clinics in Alaska and Spain. Though history's most successful coach spent time driving dogsleds through the Klondike and going barefoot in the Mediterranean rather than being chosen to coach the Olympic team (the USOC should again hang its head in shame), out-of-breath publishing types came running anyway. The result is a spate of Wooden books that will hit the market sometime between Christmas and Groundhog Day. Or right about the time UCLA should be roaring toward one of the most remarkable records in sport: 60 consecutive victories.
Having concluded That Championship Season for the sixth year in a row (and eight of the last nine), having gone undefeated (30-0) for the third time and won 32 straight NCAA tournament games and having invented the pompon girl, all that is left for the Bruins is to puff the magic 60. If all goes well they would do that on Jan. 27 at Notre Dame, which is back home in Indiana where it all started for Wooden ages ago.
As always, UCLA is well prepared. Though Henry Bibby's long-range bombing is gone, the Bruins are so deep and talented his departure will hardly be noticed. Formerly, opponents had to honor Bibby from outside and play an honest game inside. Now more deep zones will collapse on the big men and challenge somebody to fling the long ones. That somebody might be 6'11" Swen Nater, the rage of the Olympic team before he nearly starved to death in training camp and blew the joint for the nearest cheeseburger house. If Nater gets rag arm from too many shots or rag mouth from too few French fries, there is Ralph Drollinger, a skinny 7' freshman who has a nice touch but not enough muscle.
Wooden will continue his swarming "containment" defense and one-guard-with-wingmen offense. The rebounding wing is Dave Meyers, a local boy whom Wooden calls "my gangly colt—he's getting it together." Contesting the point position are Tommy Curtis, the bowlegged fireball who ignited the Bruins to their NCAA title victory over Florida State last March, and sophomore Andre McCarter. Curtis, "an inspirational, crazy guy" according to one teammate, never lets a team rest—his own or the opponents'; he is probably ahead of McCarter, who has as much physical equipment as any backcourt man in the land. At the shooting wing senior Larry Hollyfield has experience and 40 pounds on sophomore Pete Trgovich, whose floppy body, Serbian features and innovative moves are the image of another Pete named Maravich.
All are so good that two of them, probably Hollyfield and maybe Curtis, could even make the first team. Oh, you noticed that—a few names missing. Well, it is true. UCLA's second team could be ranked No. 1. As it is, the scrubs on this possibly best of all teams will have to watch Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Larry Farmer and Greg Lee run up the scores before they get in to mop up. It looks like another season to write a book about.
Yearly, Florida State has the only collegiate circus in the nation. Called Flying High, it is described by university publicists as a year-round extravaganza designed to delight folks from eight to 80, and apparently it does. In spring it plays at Tallahassee, home of the Seminoles, and in summer it moves up north to Callaway Gardens in Georgia.
The name of the show could just as well be applied to the FSU basketball team, which has been flying high and delighting its fans ever since it soared into last season's NCAA final. The team uses no trapezes, to be sure, but it has a cast that includes a King and a Cole and together they are making Coach Hugh Durham a merry old soul. King's first name is Ron and his high-arching shots last year were strictly out of the Karl Wallenda playbook. When Durham wants to expand on the act, he sends Otis Cole out on the wing, from which far-off vantage spot he provides his own occasional spectacular.
Four starters return from the cool and collected team that lost by only five points to UCLA. It was the closest any school had come to the Bruins in the national championship game in light years.
The Seminoles are strong up the middle with Lawrence McCray, one year older and 20 pounds heavier, at the low post and dependable Reggie Royals at the high post. That perpetrator of larceny, Otto Petty, who alternated at one guard with Greg Samuel last year, has moments when he runs the offense as well as anyone. Just a split-second slower than a hummingbird, he also has been known to throw perfect passes to infinity. Sophomore Dennis Burke, slightly more conservative, should provide consistency when Petty isn't humming.
Florida State lost three valuable men, Samuel, Rowland Garrett and the versatile Ron Harris. But as Petty says, "We lost three pretty good dudes and got ourselves four pretty good dudes in return." Burke and 6'9" freshman Greg Grady are both out of the New York area and will be eased in gradually. Two spectacular junior-college additions will complement King and Cole. Benny (Glide) Clyde, who has moves the dancers down at The Electric Eye, the town's soulful disco, would appreciate, is one. He moves smoothly upcourt and then suddenly takes off to drive on the basket or catapult himself to the top of Tully Gym for a one-handed rebound.
Showman Durham also has an O.J.—as anybody from orange-juice country should—Otis Johnson, to be more precise. O.J. is simply a stronger version of Clyde. Where Clyde will finesse opponents, O.J. will hit them like a glass of the stuff on the morning of a hangover. "The Man," which is what his players call Durham, has shown every indication of being pleased with either result. Clyde has a reputation for being belligerent, but King, his roommate, says, "He does not smile much and people think he's mean. But basically he's a pretty good guy." Well, it's not a rave review, but there will be plenty of those before next spring. On with the show and the high flyers.
Lefty Driesell, who has enjoyed neither luck nor success in tournament competition over the years, went out a winner for the first time last spring. Although the NIT championship was not exactly the one Maryland was after, it did relieve certain early aggravations and give the Terrapins precisely what they deserved. "I was emotionally worn out when it was over," says Lefty. "It was a very tough year. We started slowly and played badly. When we finally came on at the end we were playing great. I figured I deserved a rest so I took my family to Florida. But then I started worrying about next year and what all the other coaches were doing to get ready. I was home in four days."
Driesell, by his own admission, really does not have that much to fret over. After welcoming back the eight top players from a 27-5 team, he said, "This is the best situation I've ever been in. The only thing we have to worry about is overconfidence."
There seems little danger of that taking hold, especially with so many newcomers pushing veterans for playing time if not starting jobs. Big fellows like sophomores Owen Brown and Tom Roy. Little fellows like freshmen John Lucas and Maurice (Mo) Howard. From them should come the strong rebounding forward and the steady backcourt hand to help make a good team a better one. Game after game last season it was plain that if just one person could move the ball consistently the Terps would be terrors.
The most prominent returnees arc Tom McMillen, the 6'11" shooter who plays excellent defense, and Len Elmore, a superb rebounder and shot blocker. McMillen has survived what Driesell feels was the most pressure ever to face one of his players. "People have to realize that Tom is not a dominant-type player like a Jabbar or a Thurmond," says Lefty. With fewer responsibilities around the basket, the NIT's Most Valuable Player should be even more effective. Nobody ever has doubted that he can shoot. And nobody ever has doubted Elmore's abilities under the basket, although there is some question whether his knees, often hurt, can stand up to the pounding they get all season long.
Dependable Bob Bodell brings his long-range scoring eye to one guard position, and Jim O'Brien, the team's second-leading scorer behind McMillen, will again be effective coming off the bench. Because of knee trouble and general inconsistency, Howard White may lose out to Lucas, a Junior Davis Cup tennis player who would be happy to decide the position with a Ping-Pong match. "After all," asks Lucas, "you want to go with a winner, right?"
Maryland most likely will be less susceptible to the hazards of Atlantic Coast Conference road play where all of their losses came last year. But the ACC tournament presents another problem. For mental and physical agony, Lefty believes it is tougher than the final round of the NCAA. Of course, never having played there, he doesn't really know. But he'd like to find out—and possibly will.
Even if they did not have one of the best shooters, one of the best sophomores, one of the best junior-college transfers and seven, eight or maybe 78 other guys who arc among the best something or others, the Titans of Oral Roberts University would have a lot of the good things in life going for them. After all, the school's modernistic Prayer Tower sends out heavenly signals 24 hours a day. At Oral Roberts, whether the appeals are going skyward or toward the referees, winning is an around-the-clock proposition.
The Titans lost but two of 26 games last season, their first as a major college, when they set an NCAA record for scoring and led the nation in rebounding. A 100-point game at ORU, in fact, is just about as ho-hum as someone throwing away his crutches after a session with the school's founder, President Oral Roberts, the dynamic minister who believes that a winning basketball team can help spread the faith.
Located on 500 gently rolling acres at the southeastern fringe of Tulsa, Okla., ORU began sprouting its widely spaced blue, gold and white buildings of futuristic steel and glass in 1962. Now the young Davids are ready to venture forth to play the Goliaths of college basketball. Only this time their leader is a 7' sophomore, David Vaughn. He was the object of a vigorous recruiting tug-of-war between Memphis State and Oral Roberts. The Tennessee school thought it had tugged for most of the rope when Vaughn met and fell in love with star Memphis State Guard Larry Finch's sister (whom Vaughn later married), but David's father is a minister and the president showed up in person one day and...well, mortal love lasts only for a lifetime.
Vaughn will give the Titans something they lacked last winter, size inside to go with some divine outside shooting by Guard Richard Fuqua. Fuqua's long-range jump shots averaged 35.9 points per game last year, just half a point away from leading the nation, and a chart of his shots showed that those taken farther from the basket fell in more often than those closer. Fuqua, who has an odd, loose-jointed way about him in the court, was held under 25 points three times. On those nights the Titans won two games by a point and lost the other. Vaughn's addition allows high-jumping Eddie Woods to move to forward, where he will be joined by junior-college recruit Greg McDougald. The other guard spot will he tilled by Larry Baker, a 6'4" senior who played on the same high school team as Fuqua. By no means does the ability end there. On the bench there are plenty of reserves to spell the regulars when the pace becomes too fast.
The Titans play a more arduous schedule than before, but with their new and old talent, plus a little help from the Prayer Tower, winning the close ones should be no problem. "You know," mused Coach Ken Trickey one day, lifting his eyes skyward, "it just seems that when it comes down to that last-second shot, the one you must make, the ball always goes in for us."
As a basketball school Marquette represents a purgatorial stage for high schoolers wanting to turn pro. It is a place where a player's bad habits get corrected quickly—by the competition or the sympathetic coaching or, more likely, both. He learns to perform in a style popular with pro scouts, knowing that the NBA and ABA keep their eyes on Marquette and its iconoclastic coach, Al McGuire, who looks like a young priest, sounds like an Eastern dock worker but thinks and talks like a sociologist. There are no rabid strictures and very little rah-rah in McGuire's coaching liturgy. He is a free spirit who encourages his team to be every bit as adventurous.
On the first afternoon of practice, 15 hours after some coaches have already begun with a midnight scrimmage and others have sent their men huffing through a mile run or into an initiation pileup to retrieve a loose ball, McGuire is talking about the last time he saw Charlie Scott play and his choice (which he prefers to keep to himself) of the best referee in the NBA. "The playoffs are the only thing," he says, talking about the NBA but perhaps thinking about the NCAA tournament. "All the rest is garbage." So, to hear McGuire, is all that mystery surrounding coaching.
"Look," he says, "the kids I get should already be blue-chip thoroughbreds. All I have to do is teach them a little discipline and the rest is a jelling of the minds. I try to start my seniors; I feel I owe them that. And we try to showcase our black players for the pros, because making it is very important within their culture.
"You can't lecture these boys all the time, so occasionally I have medical, legal and business people advise them on how to run their lives. Last week a couple of FBI agents came in and told them there were maybe three bad places in town to stay out of—and two of them were my favorites."
To keep his players out of the kind of weekend mischief he sometimes cannot avoid himself, McGuire holds scrimmages from eight to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. "I'm surprised other teams don't do the same," he says. "By the time my boys get to the parties they have to really pour it on to catch up." McGuire is betting that they won't, but if they do he tells them to stay out of his part of town.
The beneficiaries of this liberal education are four starters from last year's 25-4 team—Forwards Larry McNeill and George (Sugar) Frazier and Guards Marcus Washington and Al's son, Allie—and 6'8" sophomore Maurice Lucas who, many believe, is already better than either Jim Chones or Bob Lackey. Throw in—should McGuire decide to play him—freshman Earl Tatum, who is only a step behind Lucas, reserve Guard Ed Daniels and backup Center Mike Mills and, voil√†! the ingredients for a stay-at-home stew, the reason why McGuire turned down two pro coaching offers, one for some $90,000 from the Philadelphia 76ers. No matter what town Marquette plays, the pros are always in the wings.
While all the Acadians down in Lafayette wait in terror that the big, bad NCAA will sentence Southwestern Louisiana to the electric chair, the man with the golden arm and the man with the plastic knuckle go on about their business. That means Dwight (Bo Pete) Lamar, firing those rockets from somewhere out in the bayous, and Roy Ebron, waiting for a miss so he can jam it back in. While leading his team to a 25-4 record, Lamar took 949 shots last season, made 36 points a game and became the first man ever to lead the university division in scoring a year after he had led the college division. The 6'9" Ebron averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds despite playing with a fractured finger the second half of the year after taking one mighty leap and jamming it on a backboard. The big fellow finally had a pink plastic knuckle reinforcement inserted during the off-season, so he should be well again. As for Lamar, he is always in the pink. "From 35 feet I'm 50-50 to make the shot," says the handsome point champion. "If I miss a couple, the coach says, 'Scoot in a little.' "
Coach Beryl Shipley's team came so far so fast that a lot of people scooted in a little and started enough investigations to make old Blackham Coliseum look like a Creole Watergate. The results were that Shipley was put on a two-year probation period by the school administration and warnings were heard of further penalties from the NCAA. "I'm just sittin' and hopin'," says Shipley with as fine a country 'n' Western drawl as anyone this side of Ferlin Husky.
The coach faces other questions: how to fire up Ebron, who sometimes squanders his considerable talent by pouting and getting into foul trouble; who to blame for a monstrous road schedule that includes away games with Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Houston, Oral Roberts and Hawaii twice; and where he can find a court big enough to hold both Lamar and the excellent freshman, Larry Fogle.
The Cajuns will not be as physical as last year but they should be quicker and more versatile. Tall Guard Jerry Bisbano is a solid, active veteran who complements Lamar well (meaning he passes to him) while junior Fred Saunders and 6'6" redshirt Robert (Turkey) Wilson are big and quick enough to play either inside or out. Another freshman, 6'8" André Brown, is a sleeper behind Ebron.
To correct the team's bad habit of gaping when Lamar is groping, Saunders, who has the touch but not the thirst, is being ordered to shoot more. The leaping Fogle, who has the thirst and the touch, needs no such encouragement. The youngster gives up the ball only on alternate Tuesdays and already in practice Lamar looks frustrated, a Bo Pete who has lost his sheep. The Cajuns raged all the way to the Midwest Regional last season and they are capable of carrying on a lot further. Ebron has to stay in the games, of course, and the NCAA wolf has to stay away from the door.
Neither Ohio State nor Minnesota is fully recovered from the infamous brawl of last January. The bloodied Buckeyes, who won the game but lost the rumble, never regained their nerve and missed out on a second straight conference championship. Minnesota won but is still concerned.
"Much has been made of our 6-4 collapse following that game," an OSU official said. "But Minnesota, having lost a starter and a sixth man and what with all that was said about them, could easily have been the ones who cracked under the pressure. They didn't, though, and we played like zombies the rest of the way." Which is one good reason why the Gophers arc expected to win the conference again, if at last they do not succumb to the pressure of all that bad publicity.
To recapitulate, after the imbroglio Ron Behagen and Corky Taylor were suspended and Coach Bill Musselman, who won his players', if not his country's, lasting respect by supporting them strongly, was left with only four starters, four substitute guards and a baseball player to finish out the season. Miraculously, they won. Now Behagen and Taylor arc back and there are three new faces around to reinforce the Iron Five that Musselman went with after the Ohio State game.
Heading the team is Olympian Jim Brewer, the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. Taylor is behind him along with 7' freshman Tommy Barker. Clyde Turner, who scored 19 of the Gophers' 64 points per game, is a fixture at one forward. Bruiser Dave Winfield may go to the bench now that sleek Behagen and his 17 points per game are off suspension. Bob Nix and Keith Young man the guard positions, but sophomore Greg Olson could shoot his way into prominence and junior-college All-America Bob Larsen will back up Young. Going into practice Minnesota was impressive and nothing it has done since offers much in the way of aid and comfort to opponents.
But what of the trouble? Musselman is willing to make a personal apology to Ohio State's Fred Taylor, but Taylor says he can never bring himself to respond. "I'm just country enough," he said not long ago, "to think it all comes home to roost someday." The players, on the other hand, appear to have settled, if not forgotten, their differences. Brewer and OSU's Luke Witte, the stomped-on victim of the Minnesota-Ohio State nongame, played on the same Olympic Trials team, and Turner and Ohio's Dan Gerhard toured Australia as Big Ten all-stars. In both instances the players talked over their differences privately, then refused to answer any questions put to them by the press. They proceeded to play like teammates from the same school.
Yet the tension refuses to go away. Already scheduled for national television—surely because of anticipated public interest—is the first rematch on Feb. 10 at Ohio State. If the atmosphere becomes recharged, Minnesota may well feel fortunate that it led the nation in defense last year. Defense could come in handy.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Before they start writing songs about him, putting his face on the front of cereal boxes, spreading his exploits from campfire to campfire and negotiating professional contracts with more zeroes in them than the Japanese air force had during World War II, here are the simple facts about the 6'4" basketball phenomenon known as David (Doctor D.) Thompson. He is quiet, shy, cooperative and friendly, which is to say, in some respects a normal sophomore. That North Carolina State's fervor to recruit him two years ago put the school on probation this season is not his fault—and neither he nor his coach is worried all that much about the stigma anyway. What is a rule or two when you have a player aboard who has already been called by Purdue Coach Fred Schaus one of the 10 best, pro or college, in the country today?
Now to more basic information. Doctor D. Thompson is a player with a 42-inch vertical jump, which means he gets that high off the floor without benefit of a run. He is a player who is being called the best ever in the Atlantic Coast Conference even before opponents' first curses have sounded. A player, furthermore, who will hereafter be known around Reynolds Coliseum as The Franchise.
"David is the heart of our plans," says Coach Norman Sloan. "We're going to keep him around the basket and work awfully hard to get the ball to him. If he is stopped we'll be hurt, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. He is the best I have ever seen. There is something about the way he moves and acts that says great. Because of him it is justifiable to say we'll have one of the best teams in the country this year."
As for David Thompson, 18, the youngest of 11 children from a poor black family in Shelby, N.C., he only hopes people aren't expecting too much. "I'm not sure what they want," he says, preferring to play his game unobtrusively, listen to soul music and go to school. It was not so long ago that the big kids in his neighborhood came to his house, took his ball, used his goal and refused to let him play. "I would go off and hide so they wouldn't see me cry," he says.
These, then, are a few of the truths concerning David Thompson. They will be obscured and enlarged upon if he is the player people believe him to be or forgotten if he is something less, which is not very likely.
Should there be even slight slippage in the Thompson image, Sloan and the Wolfpack will not cancel the schedule. There is 7'4" Tommy Burleson, the top rebounder and second-leading scorer in the ACC last year who is doing everything better. There is Joe Cafferky, an excellent shooter who has gladly changed positions to let in 5'7" Monte Towe, a "playmaking buzz saw" according to Sloan. And there are enough forward candidates to fill two lineups. Returnee Rick Holdt may start early but Tim Stoddard or Steve Nuce could fit Sloan's plans better. Those plans will include running, shooting and pressure defense, but mostly David Thompson.
LONG BEACH STATE
To the surprise of many, including themselves. Coach Jerry Tarkanian and his star, Ed Ratleff, have returned for another year at the sprawling campus on the banks of the California oil slicks. After their team won 25 games and a third straight Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship, the friendly Armenian received another flock of coaching bids while Ratleff was a first-round draft of the Indiana Pacers. Fortunately their loyalty to school and each other plus the usual pleasing prospects at Long Beach made it easy enough to turn down all the offers. In gratitude the school gave Tarkanian a full professorship and his own office while Ratleff was guaranteed another winterful of joy watching 7' teammate Nate Stephens go one-on-one with Rip Van Winkle.
The 49ers for sure need a wide-awake big man because much of their inside depth (namely Chuck Terry, Eric McWilliams and Bob Lynn) has graduated. Last year Tarkanian could withstand the uncoordinated defense and shooting lapses of Stephens and mammoth (6'8", 240-pound) Leonard Gray because he had so many other people. Now the two are the ones. Tarkanian says Stephens "has changed his life pattern" and is working hard (Big Nate hits the sack early these days since the coach convinced him "inhaling midnight air is poisonous") but his concentration span still is suspect, say, after it passes the 15-second mark.
Long Beach will run more, play its scratchy 1-2-2 zone and try to get the ball anywhere on the floor to the marvelous Ratleff. The rest of the 49er backcourt previously looked more like old Oscar Mayer (heh, heh—weiners) but that may be remedied by the arrival of Ernie Douse from Boys High in New York and the change in attitude of Lamont King. Douse is a sleek 6'6" sophomore who can fly, score and deliver an exciting array of shots. Moreover, he is cooperative and coachable, which is an upset of sorts at Long Beach. King was to be last year's playmaker before he flopped, was surly and created dissension with sniping criticism of Ratleff; now he is a changed man, sacrificing his shooting, smiling at everybody and quietly becoming the finest defensive player on the team. "I'm not letting anyone down this year," he says. King is backed up by JC transfer Rick Aberegg, who passes with flair, and veteran Tom Motley, while Douse will alternate at one wing with Glenn McDonald.
Up front Gray, who has lost 10 pounds (he actually played at 250 before) and Stephens should scare enough people to enable blond Phil Hicks (late of Loyola of New Orleans) to get in some hot licks. Also expected to help the cause is walk-on Kyle Jackson, who lacks experience but may be the best shooter-jumper the 49ers have. Long Beach has toughened the schedule, moved its home games from a tin