ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
"ALL THE YOUNG DUDES"
It was Tolstoy, says Jim Valvano, an English major while at Rutgers, who noted that the two strongest warriors are Time and Patience. That's assuming, of course, that you don't have Returning Starters. Valvano's Wolfpack has seven new faces and only three players with much experience back from last season's final eight team. But those fresh faces, along with virtually new sophomore center Chris Washburn, have such credentials that in time—certainly by March—and with patience, this team figures to be very good. But who can tell? "Every day is Monty Hall," Valvano says. "We don't know what's behind door number two."
There was a hint of future prosperity in the preseason Red-White intra-squad game when 6'8" freshman forward Chucky Brown, North Carolina's Mr. Basketball last year, scored 20 points and got seven rebounds. He and classmate Walker Lambiotte, a 6'7", 203-pound swingman from Woodstock (Va.) Central High who was Most Valuable Player at the McDonald's Dallas all-star game last spring, will begin getting their minutes early in the season, and Brown could get dibs on a starting spot alongside Washburn.
Valvano insists that Washburn, too, should be considered a freshman because he played in only seven games last season before he was suspended from the team after being arrested for being involved in the theft of a fellow student's stereo. Washburn pleaded guilty and has completed more than 300 hours of community service.
"It all starts with Wash," Valvano says. "As his development goes, so will our team's. He didn't get into any tough games last year."
Having said his mea culpa, the 6'11", 254-pound Washburn has already reminded everyone what all the excitement was about when he was being recruited. He scored 34 points in 32 minutes in the Red-White intrasquad game. Among the ACC's big men, only Georgia Tech's John Salley may be faster running the court, and Washburn has 20 pounds on Salley. If Washburn overcomes his penchant for committing dumb fouls and can withstand the heat he'll get in rival arenas about last season's troubles, this team will jell about the time it starts meeting conference rivals.
Valvano has two juniors, Bennie Bolton and Teviin Binns, to help out underneath. Bolton is likely to start early in the year and share time with Brown. Binns, a juco transfer who's a mere wisp of a forward at 6'10", 191, can hit the jumper and collect garbage points. He'll probably be an offensive sixth man.
The Wolfpack's only real experience is where it is needed most—in the back-court. Maybe. Senior Nate McMillan is so versatile that Valvano is at a loss as to where to deploy him. Before practice began, Valvano was undecided on whether the 6'5" McMillan would play point guard. Then he watched McMillan hand out 13 assists in one scrimmage. "I'll just wind him up and put him out there. But I need him in too many places," he complained. "Nate follows the shot, he chases the loose ball and he gets back on defense."
McMillan will surely spend time quarterbacking the offense, especially if sophomore Quentin Jackson can't handle the job. "I'm pretty sure that as the season goes on, I'll do other things," McMillan says. "They're looking for me to score this year. It really doesn't make a difference where I play." Ernie Myers, the lone remaining member of the 1983 NCAA championship team, will probably start at second guard, if only because he doesn't get ruffled. "He's the only one who knows what it takes," Valvano says. "Forget that. He knows what it feels like."
The safest bet is that the starting five in the opener against Western Carolina won't be the same five who start in the first round of the ACC tournament. If there are no freshmen playing 25 minutes come March, then something went wrong.
McMillan does so much so well, Valvano can't pin him to one spot.