He is called Baby Jordan because of his close-cropped hairstyle, his acrobatic dunks and his incessant tongue-lapping on the court. A better tag for USC guard Harold Miner might be Baby Bizarro. "He has a lot of unusual idiosyncrasies," says Trojan coach George Raveling.
"Idiosyncrasies?" says Miner's mother, Marilyn. "For my life, I don't know how I raised such a strange child. He is just plain weird."
Miner, the 1989-90 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, is certainly unique. For starters, he likes to touch things with his nose—arms of teammates, the ball, coaches' jackets. He often rubs his forefinger and his thumb near his ear because, he says, "I like the sound it makes." During pregame introductions, his fellow Trojans don't high five Miner—they salute him by touching the floor with their own index finger. And he wears his practice sweats inside out.
"I go out and spend all kinds of money on shiny new sweats [this year]," says Raveling. "And Harold turns his...well, I've learned to look beyond his individual tendencies and look at Harold Miner as the talent he is."
Good call, George. The 6'5" Miner may have saved Raveling's job last season. He broke the Pac-10 freshman scoring record with 578 points in 28 games, was named All-Conference and breathed enough hope into the deflated Trojan basketball program for school officials to accept Raveling's 38-78 record over four years.
The Trojans will struggle to keep pace with Arizona and UCLA, not to mention Stanford and Cal. The Cardinal has all its starters back from an 18-12 NIT team, and the Bears lost only two starters from last season's 22-10 squad, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by upsetting Indiana. According to those who follow these things, Arizona State coach Bill Frieder has recruited one of the best crops of freshmen in the nation. The Sun Devils may be young, but Frieder has a way of surprising big powers. Oregon State will sorely miss Gary Payton, who took his moxie to Seattle after becoming the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. The race for last place could depend upon whether coach Kelvin Sampson gets any help for sophomore guard Bennie Seltzer at Washington State, which is on an 18-game losing streak. If he does, then Washington will probably wind up in the cellar. Last season the highly successful Lady Huskies received more media attention in Seattle than their male counterparts did, and with good reason. It will happen again.