Mitt Wagner has been Louisville's top scorer for two seasons and is the Cards' team leader. No wonder he was embarrassed when he had to pay $94 to recover his 79 Buick Limited after it was towed away by campus police because he had neglected to buy a $37 parking sticker. His lesson was something of a corollary to coach Denny Crum's philosophy, which might best be described as pay me now or pay me later. The Cardinals, who were 24-11 last year, usually toughen up on a murderous schedule and then penetrate deeply into the NCAAs—they've been to the Final Four three of the last five years. This season's schedule is no different, with seven of SI's Top 20 teams. The Cards themselves look no different, either. For the third straight year, three veterans will be joined by a passel of gifted newcomers, including high school All-America guards Mike Abram and Kevin Walls, who becomes Louisville's third All-Everything from Camden (N.J.) High. Walls and Wagner played in the backcourt of the 1981 state semifinalist Camden Panthers, along with Louisville's 6'7" junior Billy Thompson. Says Crum, "You could see Kevin's potential then. I never looked at him as a big scorer that year." Wagner knew better. Walls scored 81 points in a game last season, when he averaged 44.8 points. He'll eventually move in as Louisville's third guard, behind Wagner and steady 6'4" junior Jeff Hall. Joining Thompson underneath are 6'6" senior Manuel Forrest and 6'11" center Barry Sumpter, who got pushed around a lot last year. Sumpter is now 25 pounds heavier at 240. Still, Crum expects to use 6'7" Mark McSwain in the middle, too. "I'm hoping Barry and Mark develop," Crum says. "If they do, we can be competitive."
The Jersey bouncers (from left): Walls, Thompson and Wagner.