11 ARIZONA Forgive 1987-88 Pac-10 Player of the Year Sean Elliott
if he occasionally gets confused this season. At times he will be a
shooting guard, at times a small forward, at times a playmaker. At
times he will be paired with Matt Muehlebach, who closely resembles
Steve Kerr, the unflappable point guard who directed the Wildcats to
the Final Four last year. At times he will play alongside 5 ft. 11
in. Ken Lofton, a pesky defender and a minor league centerfielder in
the Houston Astros' chain. At times he will dish off to Harvey Mason,
who plays piano and drums when he's not banging them in from
three-point range. And that's just when Elliott is playing in the
backcourt. When he swings to forward, he'll have to adjust to a host
of redshirts and former Gumbies, those camera-conscious bench warmers
of a season ago who will now try to take their act to center stage.
Rest assured, Elliott can handle these varied roles. ''I don't
think I've seen a guy who can do all the things Sean can since Magic
Johnson,'' says Arizona coach Lute Olson. ''The two areas I think he
can improve in are defense and rebounding. But he can do it.'' And
why not -- he seems able to do anything else Olson asks of him.
12 GEORGIA TECH Tom Hammonds, a 6 ft. 9 in. power forward,
developed his shooting touch in the 10th grade after breaking his
left wrist in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Crestview,
Fla. The injury forced him to rely more on his right wrist to put
spin on the ball, and that smoothed out his release. No longer a
motorcyclist, Hammonds now owns a souped-up 1985 Mustang to go along
with his pickup (''Girls don't like to be seen getting out of a big
truck with a big engine,'' he says), and he savors the car's
acceleration. Hammonds's basketball skills are no less eclectic than
his taste in motor vehicles. After finishing in the ACC's top 8 in
scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and free throw percentage
as a junior, he already has one of the most complete games in the
For the past three seasons, though, the Yellow Jackets haven't
possessed much horsepower in the frontcourt to help Hammonds. This
year Mo Brittian, a 6 ft. 9 in., 225-pound transfer from last
season's national junior college champ, Hutchinson (Kans.) J.C.,
returns to his hometown of Atlanta and will shoulder the load at
The backcourt of mad-bombing Dennis Scott and strong-rebounding
Brian Oliver will get help from yet another juco transfer, Karl
Brown, who came to the States from Leicester, England. The infusion
of talent may make Tech a volatile mix. Says coach Bobby Cremins,
''Their adjustment period will make or break us.''
13 MISSOURI O.K., so maybe coach Norm Stewart is right. Maybe
junior Lee Coward, the Tigers' top playmaker, has some work to do.
''He does well in the last three minutes of the ball game,'' says
Stewart. ''If he could play ((the rest of the game)) as he does the
last three minutes, we may not be involved in so many slugouts.'' And
maybe senior guard Byron Irvin, the top scorer back from last
year's team, could be working harder at recovering from an off-
season injury to his left knee. ''He's obviously in touch with
somebody I don't have the privilege of being in touch with,'' Stewart
grumbles, ''because the only way you can be healed is to go and
rehabilitate yourself.'' And maybe freshman Anthony Peeler, Mizzou's
best recruit, really did need to miss the Tigers' opening practice
for a tutoring session. ''We want to make sure he gets himself off as
a student,'' says the coach.
But can't Stewart find anything comforting to say about his team?
Well, there are, he allows, a few freshmen who ''can move in and help
us,'' especially guard P.J. Mays. And there's 6 ft. 10 in. Doug
Smith, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game as a freshman
last season. And as Stewart well knows, Coward, Irvin and Peeler are
all players who will have a big hand in Missouri's success. The
Tigers' biggest shortcoming is more general than particular:
improving the team defense, which surrendered 78 points per game
(fifth in the Big Eight) in 1987-88.
14 OHIO STATE Every day last season Treg Lee and Eli Brewster
would make a reassuring pass through Gary Williams's office.
Casualties of Bylaw 5-1-(j), Lee and Brewster wanted to let their
coach know they were taking care of business so they would be
eligible this fall. ''They showed a tremendous amount of
discipline,'' Williams says. ''It will just be a question of how
quickly they can play again.'' If the answer to that question is
''soon,'' the Buckeyes can look forward to their best season since
Lee is a 6 ft. 7 in. forward who is relentlessly compared to
another graduate of St. Joseph High in Cleveland, former Buckeye
Clark Kellogg. He will probably back up senior Jerry Francis, while
Brewster should start at the point. Williams envisions this as
Brewster's role: ''Protect the ball, handle the pressure, distribute
the ball, run the club and play defense.'' Alongside him will be 6
ft. 1 in., 156-pound, baby-faced Jay Burson, whose surprising
toughness makes him a treat to watch. ''It bothers me when people say
I'm not big,'' Burson says. ''When I go out there, I feel as big as
everybody else.'' With Brewster playmaking, Burson, who averaged 18.9
points a game, shifts to shooting guard. ''Jay has a scorer's
mentality,'' says Williams. ''You knock him down, and he'll just
smile, get up, stick both free throws and dare you to knock him down
! 15 FLORIDA STATE In Tallahassee, coach Pat Kennedy is enduring
a greenhouse effect of sorts. Each year the heat goes up a few
degrees on his program. This fall, 5,000 people came to the Leon
County Civic Center for the opening practice, as opposed to 2,500
last year and 500 in 1986. But after back-to- back 19-11 seasons, the
Seminoles should be able to beat the heat, as well as most of the
competition in the resurgent Metro Conference. Florida State
sustained five defeats last season by three points or fewer, and it
fell to Iowa by only four in the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles lost
only 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds to graduation. ''Right now the
challenge is there for us to prove we can take that next big step,''
George McCloud, a 6 ft. 6 in. senior guard, will point the way. He
has shed his reputation for spotty shooting; he made 45.3% of his
shots from three- point range and averaged 18.2 points a game last
season. He has also shed 15 pounds since 1986. ''He's got outstanding
discipline on the court,'' says Kennedy, ''and in the food line.''
Most of the time, McCloud will be feeding center Tat Hunter and
forward Tony Dawson, the Seminoles' dominant inside player, who
averaged 17.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. One new arrival will
be no stranger to great expectations: Irving Thomas, Joe B. Hall's
final recruit at Kentucky. Kennedy told Thomas, ''You can't prove
everything to everybody in the world in one day.'' No, but you can
prove a lot in a season.
16 FLORIDA Dwayne Schintzius spent his summer vacation confessing
last season's sins: ''I just kind of cracked under the pressure. . .
. I couldn't do anything right. My mind wasn't into it. . . . I just
took myself out of it mentally. I didn't care about the rest of the
team. I just cared about myself and my stats.'' To those who saw the
Gators' game against Pitt, in which Charles Smith outscored the 7 ft.
2 in. Schintzius 30-2, or to those who watched the SEC tournament, in
which Schintzius refused to report back into the game with one second
left in a 72-70 loss to Georgia, his statements revealed little that
they didn't already know. But Florida fans, as well as pro scouts and
coach Norm Sloan, will forgive Schintzius if he hews strictly to his
promise of repentance. In flashes, he has displayed the skills of the
best big men alive.
Schintzius's selfishness was merely one of many trespasses by the
Gators last year. There were a bench-clearing brawl, allegations by
former players of payoffs from two assistant coaches and a federal
investigation into drug trafficking on campus, which prompted Sloan
and three players to testify before a grand jury. This season,
Florida loses the talented but troubled backcourt of Vernon Maxwell
and Ronnie Montgomery, which may be just the facelift it needs.
Forwards Livingston Chatman and Dwayne Davis, along with a dedicated
Schintzius, could carry even an inexperienced backcourt all the way
to the SEC title. This will be a revealing year for Sloan. Can he
harness his talent, or does he need to use a leash instead?
17 VILLANOVA In their NCAA championship season of 1984-85, the
Wildcats had rugged twin towers in 7 ft. 1 in. Chuck Everson and 6
ft. 11 in. Wyatt Maker. They looked terrific together on the bench,
which is where they stayed most of the time. In '88-89, coach Rollie
Massimino again has a brace of behemoths -- but there's a difference.
Tom Greis, a 7 ft. 2 in. junior, looked terrific on the court last
year, and he should look even better this season with 7- footer Paul
Vrind, a redshirt freshman from the Netherlands, pushing him.
Greis, who has a tasty little hook shot, conditioned himself
rigorously for the first time before last season and became one of
the most improved players in the country. More important, his
development has given the Wildcats a third dimension to supplement
the shooting of swingman Doug West and the penetration of guard Kenny
18 NORTH CAROLINA STATE All too often last season, the Wolfpack
attack that was geared around big man Charles Shackleford would
sputter when the ball went his way. If he caught it, he would have a
hard time keeping it; if he held it, he would put up a shot more
fanciful than accurate. While Shackleford was a unanimous, if not all
that deserving, all-ACC pick, 6 ft. 8 in. forward Chucky Brown
quietly held N.C. State together. Brown shot 57.2% from the floor,
recycling Shackleford's garbage from in close, and his 16.6 points
and six rebounds a game led the team. Coach Jim Valvano says he
regrets Shackleford's exit to the New Jersey Nets as an NBA hardship
case -- ''I thought we'd be a Final Four contender if Shack came
back,'' he says -- but he knows he'll be saving himself some mental
hardship with the talented Shack packed off to the pros.
Brown, a senior, will be the mainstay, with Coach V choosing his
mates up front seemingly from a cast of thousands. A continuing
source of comfort in Raleigh will be the backcourt, composed of a
highly complementary pair of sophomores. Point guard Chris Corchiani
refined his dump passes as his freshman season progressed, and he
finished second in the ACC in assists, first in steals and numero uno
in the eyes of his paesano of a coach. Rodney Monroe, a thinner,
more radical version of Earl the Pearl, averaged 11.1 points per game
off the bench last season; he bombed from the outside, whirled
through the lane and usually put on quite a show.
Last season's Wolfpack had an unusual year under Valvano: 24 wins
in the regular season, but none in the NCAA tournament. This team
should reverse that trend, getting better, not worse, as the weather
19 GEORGIA When Marshall Wilson learned that he hadn't qualified
under Bylaw 5-1-(j) two springs ago, he went to his bedroom in
Carnesville, Ga., and cried. Georgia, his hoops Camelot, doesn't take
nonqualifiers. ''I didn't know what to tell my parents,'' he says.
''I was embarrassed.'' Wilson had a hard choice: Go to another school
and sit out a year, or go to a junior college in the hopes of
becoming a Bulldog this fall. ''I asked the people at Georgia if
they'd still want me,'' he says. ''They said they would.'' Yes, sir.
Especially after Wilson averaged 22.7 points a game at Connors State
(Junior) College in Warner, Okla.
Wilson, who will start at small forward, could make the team of
his dreams a dream team. Coach Hugh Durham has backcourt range: From
Pat Hamilton, a silky defender, to Jody Patton, a shooter, to
Litterial Green, a freshman playmaker whom Georgia recruited with a
vengeance. Durham has flexibility up front, too, with the improvement
of Alec Kessler and the return of 6 ft. 11 in. Elmore Spencer, who
sat out last season with emotional problems.
20 CONNECTICUT It is known as the Horde. Those who run arenas
around the country quail at the thought of its arrival. It requires
feeding, nurturing and lots of room, and it can get testy if not
given proper care. The Horde is the press corps that covers U Conn,
14 daily papers from the Willimantic Chronicle to the Meriden Record,
the largest full-time media following of any school in the country.
There is loads of talent for the Horde to scrutinize this season,
including all five starters from 1988's NIT championship club. Cliff
Robinson, a 6 ft. 11 in. senior, is a favorite for Big East Player of
the Year. The Huskies' backcourt, with Phil Gamble, the MVP of the
NIT, and ; playmaker Tate George, rivals Georgetown's. ''You always
have to be concerned about a letdown,'' says coach Jim Calhoun. ''I'm
getting like Carl Lewis -- I care more about performance than where
we place.'' The Horde cares about both. And it may be ravaging arenas
into the late days of March.