Wake Forest coach Dave Odom hadn't traveled all the way to St.
Croix to be ignored. So he got up off the floor where he had
been sitting next to the tight-lipped, gangly recruit and
planted himself in a chair next to the television. That way,
Odom reasoned, the kid would at least have to glance at him once
in a while.
"I said to myself, He's not taking in anything I'm saying," Odom
recalls. "Then at the end of the visit, he began to ask me these
questions that only someone who was totally focused could ask. I
knew then this was a different kind of person."
Tim Duncan, now a 6'10", 240-pound junior, has had a way of
sneaking up like that--on Odom, on the ACC and on college
basketball. Last season, as the Demon Deacons nabbed their first
conference title in 33 years and their first No. 1 NCAA
tournament seed ever, Duncan continued to blossom from an
underdeveloped prodigy to a devastating inside presence. He led
the ACC in rebounding (12.5 per game) and blocked shots (4.2)
and was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches'
Defensive Player of the Year. His total of 259 career blocks
makes him only the second player in ACC history to amass 100 or
more in each of his first two seasons (Virginia's Ralph Sampson
was the other). And although he wasn't nearly as polished on
offense, his 16.8-points-per-game average--up from 9.8 his
freshman season--was the 10th highest in the league. This
despite the fact that he won't turn 20 until April--"Barely
older than our freshmen," Odom notes.
But as the new season approaches, Duncan is starting to realize
just how much his life has changed in the last three years.
There is no more Caribbean Sea to obscure him from recruiters.
No more league superstars to lure away the spotlight. No more
Randolph Childress to shoulder responsibility for wins and
losses. And most of all, as someone with the potential to be
player of the year and the top pick in the 1996 NBA draft, there
will be no more sneaking up on anybody. Now everyone knows this
is a different kind of person.
"I know a lot more pressure's going to be put on me this year,"
Duncan says. "I guess I kind of like having that, but at the
same time, I could do without it."
Duncan's ability to bear this burden will depend on how much
help he gets from his largely unproven supporting cast. The
specter of replacing point guard Childress, now a member of the
Portland Trail Blazers, might not be so daunting if it were just
a matter of making up for his 20.1 points and 5.2 assists per
game. The larger question is how to replace his leadership.
Remember how he took every critical shot during the Deacons' ACC
championship run last season? Or, in the case of the overtime
victory over North Carolina in the ACC final, every shot period?
"He had as much of himself sunk into this program as any player
can have," Odom says. "You appreciate that when you have it, but
you appreciate it even more when it's gone."
Well it's gone, and it appears Odom is going to have to replace
Childress with a committee. Duncan is the best player, but even
he can't imagine himself passionately exhorting his teammates
the way Childress did. "I'm not even going to try to be like
Randolph was," he says. Sophomore Tony Rutland, who averaged 1.6
assists per game last season, will have to prove he can run an
offense at the point spot vacated by Childress. And 6'2" senior
Rusty LaRue, 6'4" sophomore Steven Goolsby and 6'1" sophomore
Jerry Braswell will each have to shoot effectively to counter
the sagging zone defenses Duncan is bound to see. Ricky Peral, a
6'10" junior forward who started all 32 games last year, is most
effective on the perimeter, which means that junior Sean Allen
and sophomore Antonio Jackson--with 23 games' experience between
them--will need to lend inside muscle. Since the four-man
freshman class is one of the weakest in the ACC, the Deacons
can't expect much help there.
It would be reasonable, then, to expect Wake to take a step back
this season, if only because it had never taken so prodigious a
step forward as it did a year ago. But given the state of
affairs throughout the ACC, what with graduations and early
defections depleting every roster in sight, things could be a
lot worse. Unfortunately for the Deacons, things probably will
get worse before long. Many NBA executives have said Duncan
would have been one of the first players drafted had he been
eligible after last season. Duncan never really considered
leaving last season, but it's only logical to assume the program
won't be so fortunate this time. "We're not going to worry about
that," Odom says. "I want him for four years, but more than
that, I want him to do what's right for him."
And right now, what's right for Wake Forest fans is to
appreciate Tim Duncan while they still have him. Because they
can be sure they'll appreciate him after he's gone.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Duncan's extraordinary talents ensure that he'll never again be lost in the crowd. [Tim Duncan shooting basketball over opponent]
Coach: Dave Odom
Career record: 154-108 (9 seasons)
Record at Wake Forest: 116-66 (6 seasons)
1994-95 record: 26-6 (final ranking: ninth)
ACC record: 12-4 (first)
SF *Ricky Peral, 6'10", Jr.
Height belies his outside touch
PF Antonio Jackson, 6'8", Soph.
Defense yet to catch up to his offense
C *Tim Duncan, 6'10", Jr.
12.5 rpg was best in ACC in 21 years
SG *Jerry Braswell, 6'1", Soph.
Started 21 games as a freshman
PG Tony Rutland, 6'2", Soph.
32% on 3's but only 31.9% overall
Nov. 29 vs. Oklahoma State
Chance to avenge loss to Cowboys in NCAAs
Dec. 6 at UMass
Blockbuster matchup on blocks: Duncan vs. Camby
Dec. 21 vs. Utah
Keith Van Horn & Co. are last test before ACC
Jan. 13 vs. Maryland
Terps are tough even without Joe Smith
Feb. 27 vs. North Carolina
Heels beat Deacons by 1 at Wake in '94-95
NEWCOMER TO WATCH
This time last year, Sean Allen thought his wait was over. He
had traveled from East Wake High in Wendell, N.C., to the
University of South Florida to Anderson Junior College and
finally to Wake Forest, the type of big-time basketball school
he had yearned for all along. Then, after playing in just four
games, he came down with mononucleosis. He missed the rest of
the season and lost 30 pounds. "I looked like a refugee or
something," says Allen.
With 6'6", 232-pound Travis (Scooter) Banks having graduated,
the Demon Deacons are in need of inside muscle, and the 6'8"
Allen, who is up to 228 pounds, provides that. The waiting now
behind him, he is more than ready to play. "I've prepared for
this a long time," he says. "It feels like the day before