"OLD MAN RIVERS"
THE FIGHTING IRISH
(COACH: DIGGER PHELPS)
As goes David Rivers, so goes Notre Dame. That maxim was never truer than in the Irish's final-second 60-58 loss to North Carolina in the NCAAs last year. For David Rivers to have played so well for so long and then to dribble the ball off his own leg—what can you say? Then again, the NCAAs are often like Wheel of Fortune.
When asked to name an area in which he wouldn't give Rivers free rein last season, coach Digger Phelps answered, "I wouldn't let him pick my suits." With Rivers flowing, Phelps junked his traditional setup offense for run-and-gun as Notre Dame scored points in dramatic bursts. But to fulfill Phelps's goal of getting past the second round of the NCAAs, the Irish must also get strong performances from forward Ken Barlow and dunkmaster Donald Royal. They will also need improvement from bruising 6'9" senior center Tim Kempton, a perennial disappointment. Maybe now that Kempton and Phelps's daughter Karen are no longer an item, some of last season's pressure will be relieved. If not, the Irish boosters will be on his case again. "Tim Kempton will have a great season because I say he'll have a great season," says Phelps.
The team's top recruit is 6'5" Mark Stevenson, who will start at off guard. But Notre Dame would be up the creek without the virtuoso skills of Rivers, who led the team in scoring (15.8), assists (127) and steals (61) last season. "Sometimes I'll get in a position where I have to be creative," says Rivers, "and I have a rather good knack for doing that. Sometimes I even amaze myself." Says Phelps, "Call this season David II, as in Jaws II or Rocky II." With a little help Rivers's rerun could be a hit.
Barlow's big, but the Irish would be up a creek sans Rivers.