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Scouting Reports 3 LOUISVILLE The look in Denny Crum's eyes says the Cards are back

WHEN YOU'RE HOT, YOU'RE HOT. WHEN you're hot, you bag the bear and
hole out the eight-iron. When you're hot, you hit just about
everything you aim for, including enough baskets to qualify for yet
another NCAA tournament. Denny Crum, the Louisville coach, is hot. On
his summer vacation he shot an 8 ft. 8 in. Alaskan brown bear. ''I
tried to sign him, but I couldn't get close enough to get the pen in
his hand,'' he says. Then he made an ace on the 155-yard 8th hole at
Louisville's Valhalla Golf Club. ''I'm on a roll. That's the game
In the 1980s, nobody else has been on a roll to match Crum's. In
the last nine seasons, the Cardinals have made four NCAA Final Four
appearances -- nobody else has been there more than three times in
that span -- and won two national championships. Louisville also has
had 44 consecutive winning seasons (17 under Crum), and no other
school has done that, either.
But things haven't been perfect. Crum's laid-back style and
reliance on his teams' superior athleticism seemed to have caught up
with him when the Cards struggled to an 18-14 record two seasons ago,
and when Louisville was humiliated by a mediocre Notre Dame club last
December on national TV, rivals may have sensed a collapse. But don't
let Crum's Kewpie doll features fool you. Folks around Louisville
call his look the Glint, and following a 24- victory, NCAA final 16
season, Crum has the Glint once more. ''He thinks we can win it
all,'' says junior guard Craig Hawley. ''We know because of that
The Cards' game begins once again with Pervis Ellison, who has not
been Louisville's star center since 1955 -- it only seems that way.
As a freshman, Never Nervous Pervis led the 'Ville to the 1986
national title; though his stats have improved every year, his
notices since then have been mixed. Maybe it has been his lack of
support. Or inconsistency. Or tendinitis-plagued knees. But the tepid
reviews are probably more attributable to Ellison's smooth style and
emotionless attitude. Impervious Perv. But check the numbers: He
blocked 102 shots last season -- 40 more than Louisville's opponents
combined -- and also averaged 3.1 assists a game.
Forwards Kenny Payne and Tony Kimbro, who returns from a year of
academic probation, should be more than enough to replace the
departed Herb Crook. But the genuine excitement is over 7-foot,
265-pound Beltin' Felton Spencer. Crum yearned for an
Ellison-Spencer twin-tower show last season, but Spencer struggled
early with two scoreless, helpless games. Still, Chief, as his
teammates call him, came on to lead Louisville in points and rebounds
per minute. ''Felton made the most improvement in one year of any
player I've ever seen,'' says Crum.
If gifted sophomore guard LaBradford Smith were to progress at a
similar rate, he would be knocking at the gates of Jordania. Last
season, Smith went from the nickname of L.A. to a mocking T.O. (for
''turnover'' -- 152 of them). ''I was a wild dude, using instinct to
try to prove myself,'' he says. Smith did learn; but is he a real
point guard? ''We don't play with a point guard,'' answers Crum.
While waiting for Smith to become the most exciting player in the
land, Crum hardly seems concerned. ''Coaches don't lie to
themselves,'' he says. ''We're going to be very, very good.'' --