Tech Stock Is Up
The motion offense he used at Indiana is making Bob Knight a
winner at Texas Tech
How has Bob Knight reversed Texas Tech's fortunes in his first
season with the Red Raiders? Let's count the ways: Texas Tech
equaled last season's win total (nine) on Dec. 22. After
finishing tied for last in the Big 12 with a 3-13 record last
season, it was tied for fourth place in the league as of Sunday
with a 4-2 record (15-3 overall). On Jan. 19 it vanquished then
No. 6 Oklahoma State after having failed to defeat the Cowboys in
eight previous tries. Last Saturday it beat Oklahoma, sixth in
last week's poll, for its second victory over a Top 10 team in
eight days and the Red Raiders' first-ever back-to-back wins over
Top 10 opponents.
The defeat of the Sooners was in itself a remarkable
turnaround--from the teams' meeting in Norman two weeks earlier.
In that game Oklahoma took a 22-point halftime lead and won by
26; on Saturday, Texas Tech led by as many as 16 points in the
second half and won, 92-79. The Red Raiders committed only 12
turnovers, after having coughed up 20 in the previous meeting,
and also made 56.7% of their shots, compared with 35.5% the
"Coach Knight has done a phenomenal job with this team," Oklahoma
coach Kelvin Sampson said. "In the second half we couldn't stop
them. We didn't score baskets in transition because we were
taking the ball out of the net and walking it up the court."
Indeed, for all of Knight's renown as a teacher of tenacious
man-to-man defense, it's on offense that he has made the biggest
difference in Lubbock. Whereas his predecessor, James Dickey, ran
a structured system, Knight has liberated his players by
implementing the motion offense used by his teams at Indiana.
The change has had an especially positive effect on 6'5"
sophomore guard Andre Emmett and 6'11" senior Andy Ellis, who at
week's end were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring
in the Big 12. Baylor coach Dave Bliss describes Ellis, who had
raised his field goal percentage to 51.5% from 44.4% a year ago,
as "the perfect center for the motion offense." Likewise, Emmett,
who had 26 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday, had improved his
shooting to 52.4% from 39.5%.
"The motion isn't really an offense," Ellis says. "Coach Knight
put down a set of guidelines, and it's up to us to make the read.
I don't know how a defense can prepare for it, because we don't
know what we're going to do."
Knight's arrival has, to say the least, generated a lot of buzz
in Lubbock. Announced attendance at home games was up from 9,557
per game last season to 13,473 through Sunday. A winner at Texas
Tech not only means better crowds, but it also bolsters the
league's claim to being the nation's best conference. "His
presence has done a ton for our league," Texas coach Rick Barnes
says of Knight. "Anybody who thought Texas Tech wasn't going to
win games this season isn't very smart."
UConn Grows Up
Huskies on a Hot Streak
Moments after Connecticut's 100-98 overtime win over then No. 10
Arizona last Saturday in Tucson, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun
congratulated freshman Emeka Okafor, his starting center, on a
sterling 19-point, 15-rebound, nine-block performance. Instead of
basking in the praise, however, Okafor fretted that he'd missed a
layup that might have sealed the win at the end of regulation. "I
don't like knowing I could have done something better," Okafor
The idea that Okafor can do better will no doubt send shudders
through the rest of the Big East. As of Sunday, UConn had raced
to a 6-0 start in the conference (14-3 overall) despite a callow
eight-man rotation that features three freshmen and two
sophomores. The 6'9" Okafor, a native of Houston and the son of
Nigerian immigrants, was leading the league in blocks (3.7 per
game) while also averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds. "Emeka is
one of the most unusual kids I've ever coached," Calhoun says.
"He's highly motivated, and he's meticulous in his approach to
That motivation extends to the classroom. Because Okafor loaded
up on advanced-placement courses in high school and took 18
credit hours during his first semester at Connecticut (earning a
3.8 grade-point average), he's academically a sophomore. He's so
intense about his schoolwork that he remembers crying when he got
his first B, in fourth grade. When the Huskies' academic adviser
learned that Okafor was late turning in a paper because he didn't
think it was good enough, he told Okafor that he was sweating
over small details that his professor probably wouldn't notice.
"I'll notice," replied Okafor, who plans to major in business
He takes a cerebral approach to his defense as well. "It's all
about body angles and getting to the right spot," he says.
"Sometimes I feel as if I know what my man is going to do before
he does." Okafor honed his instincts playing against NBA and
college players in Houston for the last six years, thanks to his
friendship with Bellaire High teammate John Lucas III, son of the
Cleveland Cavaliers' coach.
Okafor's teammates are making strides, too. Fellow freshman Ben
Gordon, a 6'2" reserve guard whom Calhoun describes as "a
miniature version of Ray Allen," also had a breakout performance
against Arizona, going for 23 points, along with nine assists and
only one turnover. "This team is starting to peak," says
sophomore swingman Caron Butler, the team's leading scorer (18.9
points per game). "It's only a matter of time before we reach our
The sooner the Huskies do, the better it will be for the Big
East, which badly needed a good nonconference road win. Even with
UConn's victory, the conference was 4-13 against Top 25 teams and
appeared to be headed for another desultory performance in the
NCAA tournament. The Big East has sent five teams to the NCAAs in
each of the last two years, and none have advanced beyond the
Sweet 16. The Huskies' victory could presage a better showing for
the league in March.
Big MAC Attacker
Having a Ball At Bowling Green
As Keith McLeod walked around the Bowling Green campus last
summer, he was constantly accompanied by his significant other.
McLeod's companion was with him while he took notes in his ethnic
studies class. They played hours of basketball together, just the
two of them, under the stars at a playground. They even snuggled
in McLeod's off-campus apartment as he watched his favorite TV
shows. Yes, the love of McLeod's life, a scuffed Baden
basketball, is one reason he has emerged as the top scorer in the
Mid-American Conference, averaging 23.5 points a game through
Sunday, fifth best in the nation.
"Other guys practice all the time, so I decided to dribble my
basketball constantly," says McLeod, a senior guard from Canton,
Ohio. "I'd dribble to and from class, in my apartment,
everywhere. Dribbling on cracks in the sidewalk helps you learn
how to control the ball."
Even before last summer, there were hints that McLeod was poised
for a breakout season. Falcons coach Dan Dakich believes that the
6'2", 188-pound McLeod, who wasn't named to the MAC's preseason
all-conference squad, was transformed during a single practice,
on Jan. 29, 2001. At the time Bowling Green had dropped four
straight games, and the frustrated McLeod erupted. He screamed at
teammate Len Matela, berating him for not working hard enough.
Dakich thought about intervening but, because this was the first
time McLeod had spoken up, let him rant.
"It was the damnedest thing I've ever seen, but Keith became a
different player after that," says Dakich, whose Falcons were in
fourth place in the MAC's East division with a 4-3 record (14-4
overall). "Now he scores, plays defense and gets other guys
involved." After that practice McLeod's scoring average for the
rest of the season rose to 20.9, from 15.7.
McLeod also worked to improve his jumping last summer, wearing
specially designed shoes that forced him to walk on tiptoe,
strengthening his calves and Achilles. His vertical jump
increased from 34 inches to 37 inches.
When Bowling Green played at Buffalo three weeks ago, a Bulls
fan loudly proclaimed during the first half that McLeod was
destined to play in the CBA. In the second half, around the time
McLeod scored his 30th point, the student stood and screamed
that maybe McLeod could make some money playing in Europe. At
the end of the game, after McLeod had scored his career-high
42nd and final point in Bowling Green's 85-73 win, the dejected
student declared, "O.K., McLeod, you're going to the NBA
developmental league." --Lars Anderson
Fresno's Ely Bounces Back
Scrutiny Finally Turns Positive
For someone who's arguably the most dominant college center,
Melvin Ely has gone largely unnoticed--or at least his
contributions have. The 6'10", 260-pound Ely returned for his
senior year at Fresno State and led the Bulldogs to a 7-1 start
and a No. 21 ranking. However, the NCAA suspended him for six
games between Nov. 30 and Dec. 27 for having received an improper
benefit from an agent. The Bulldogs went 3-3 without Ely and
dropped out of the polls. Since his return on Dec. 29, Ely has
put up eye-popping statistics--through Sunday he was averaging
24.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks--but because he'd played
in less than 75% of his team's games, he wasn't included in the
NCAA's statistical rankings.
Regardless, the Bulldogs were 6-2 since Ely's return and had
moved into a third-place tie in the WAC (with a 6-3 record, 14-7
overall). Moreover, his days of toiling in obscurity appeared to
be numbered. At his current pace, on Feb. 11 he'll be ranked in
the top 10 nationally in scoring and blocks. (His averages
through Sunday would have placed him fourth and fifth,
Ely has thrived while playing with a chip on his shoulder. "I'm
still bitter about the situation with the NCAA," he says. "I play
my hardest to get back at everyone who's trying to hurt this
The NCAA suspended Ely after Nate Cebrun--a representative of the
Las Vegas-based Franchise Sports agency during parts of 2000 and
2001--claimed that last spring Ely had stayed in a Vegas hotel
room paid for by Cebrun. (Ely denied the allegation, saying it
was his Fresno State roommate Cody Castleman who had used the
room.) Cebrun says he came forward with the information about Ely
after agreeing to cooperate with the NCAA as part of a plea
bargain in an unrelated case. (Last April, after being charged
with violating Alabama's sports-agent law, Cebrun pleaded guilty
to reduced charges of interfering with a lawful business in 2000,
when his activities cost Auburn the services of star forward
In his first game back after completing the suspension, Ely
equaled his career high, scoring 29 points in an 80-68 defeat of
San Jose State. In each of his next two outings he set personal
bests, scoring 31 against Rice and 35 against Tulsa. He has
always been a superb defender--he broke the Bulldogs'
career-blocks record as a sophomore and last season was named WAC
player of the year--and his scoring average has increased each
season, from 11.2 as a freshman to 13.3 as a sophomore to 15.8
last year. His improvement this season is attributable in part to
his busy summer, spent working out with his older brother, Louis,
a former Wisconsin forward; playing pickup games in his native
Chicago against NBA stars like Michael Finley, Juwan Howard and
Michael Jordan; and playing for the U.S. bronze medal team at the
World University Games in China.
As he sat out his suspension, Ely grew so frustrated that he
contemplated leaving school. By staying, he has significantly
improved his pro prospects. "I'd be shocked if he didn't go in
the first round," says one NBA scout."
For complete scores and stats, plus more from Seth Davis and
Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE DON BUCKNER/LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL Kasib Powell broke loose for 19 points in the Red Raiders' win over the Sooners.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK UConn's Okafor, who was one block shy of a triple double, put the clamps on Arizona's Luke Walton.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN A six-game NCAA suspension did what few of Fresno State's opponents have been able to do this season--stop Ely from scoring.
Player of the Week
SENIOR, GUARD, ARKANSAS
The week: The 6'2" Pargo connected on 10 of 16 shots, including
seven of eight from three-point range, as he scored a career-high
35 points in Arkansas's 94-92 overtime win over No. 5-ranked
Florida in Fayetteville last Saturday. Pargo's three-pointer with
26 seconds left in regulation sent the game into OT, and his
14-footer with 2.7 seconds left in overtime was the game-winner.
Earlier in the week Pargo had 18 points in an 81-67 loss to No.
15 Georgia. Here's his dossier.
Major: Sociology, which I'd love to teach in high school
Favorite book: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Favorite pastime: Teammates Teddy Gipson, J.J. Sullinger and I
hang out at the mall in Fayetteville just about every day
First phone call after a game: From my high school freshman
coach, Dan Brown, in Chicago
In the CD changer: R. Kelly, Brian McKnight, Kirk Franklin, Jay-Z
Favorite author: Stephen King
Favorite television show: The Jamie Foxx Show
Video game most addicted to: PlayStation 2's NBA Live 2002
Last movie seen (and rating): Men of Honor (five stars out of