Publish date:

Sore back and a hot hand

Before the dribbling and cheering and probations began, before the games of the century started showing up every week, Bill Walton was a player no one could forget and Larry Fogle was one very few remembered. Now, halfway through the season, what everybody wants to know is: just how bad is West Coast Bill, and how good is East Coast Larry?

Walton hurt his back last week, an occurrence comparable to an attack of the whispers for Glen Campbell, but even without him UCLA continued singing its tune. The injury took place in a game against Washington State when the Bruin center collided with Rich Steele and came crashing to the court. Walton missed UCLA's subsequent weekend victories over California and Stanford, games that raised the team's winning streak (87) to the proximity of Perry Mason's.

When Walton injured his back, first reports were as conflicting as forecasts on the energy crisis. At best, the big center has a deep bruise. At worst, he has torn rib cartilage. His brother Bruce explained the result of the injury, affecting a gimp and tilting his body to the left. "He's like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just shuffling along," said Bruce.

With Walton shuffling, the Bruins might not have a full deck when they play Notre Dame Saturday in the latest of the series of High Noon dates on each team's schedule. Said Coach John Wooden, "If Bill can't practice Monday and Tuesday, then he will not make the trip to the Midwest. There is no way that I will jeopardize him."

Walton returned to the practice floor last Thursday, but could barely move around and spent Friday in bed. He is undergoing twice-a-day therapy that includes whirlpool, steam, massage, ultrasound and hot-pack treatments, plus rest.

Even without Walton, the Bruins are formidable. Their weekend victories caused Cal Coach Dick Edwards to remark, "There are more good players on their team than at any time in the last 10 years."

The Bruins, though, were talking about the adjustments they have to make when their center is missing. "We must play defense more heads-up," said Tommy Curtis. "We just can't turn a guy loose and let Bill get him. He's too far away when he's in bed."

For Wooden, the adjustment is not all that drastic. "Before each game this year I've told our team to play as though Bill were not there," he said. "Now that he is not there, they have to play that much harder."

Larry Fogle, meanwhile, was doing a little backbreaking of his own. The nation's leading scorer at 38.2 points per game, he got off to a slow start against Niagara, but once he found his timing he scored 41 points and led Canisius to an 88-84 overtime victory. Fogle started as a freshman last year for the Southwestern Louisiana team that went to the semifinals of the Midwest regional before losing to Kansas State. A 6'5" forward, he averaged only 15 points a game on a team that had the nation's sixth leading scorer, Dwight Lamar, but he hit 56% of his shots, and over Southwestern's last half a dozen regular-season games he made 75% of his field-goal tries and averaged close to 20 points.

When SWL was put on probation for various violations by the NCAA and subsequently dropped basketball, its players were given the option of transferring to another school. Fogle, from New York City, chose Canisius in Buffalo where Charles Jordan, a friend from high school, was a member of the team. "Houston, Tennessee, Austin Peay and UCLA called me," recalls Fogle. "I was all set to go to Houston, but the day before I went to sign there Jordan called and told me what I'd be missing. I like it here, even if Buffalo isn't the warmest place in the world."

The Canisius-Niagara game was delayed 20 minutes for dedication ceremonies of the city of Niagara Falls' $35 million International Convention Center. Perhaps bothered by the stall, Fogle did not score a point during the first six minutes and picked up three fouls, but in the second half he funneled in 31 points, including 12 of his team's last 16, sending the game into overtime with a layup in the final half minute. "I was a little tight the first half," he said. "I felt I was getting out of hand and so was the team."

Two Niagara players fouled out trying to keep up with Fogle. "He didn't dominate until we had our top guys on the bench," said losing Coach Frank Layden. "The refs protect the nation's leading scorer."

Back in California, the nation's leading player might have rubbed his sore back—in sympathy.