Wizard of Wake Forest
The inspired play of Josh Howard has the Demon Deacons bedeviling
Wake Forest's leafy campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., is only a few
miles from where Josh Howard, the Demon Deacons' 6'6" senior
swingman, grew up, but to Howard it used to feel like a different
world. Though he started all but two games in his first season,
1999--2000, Howard was painfully shy and spent most of his free
time back home. "I didn't know how to act at first, but in the 3
1/2 years I've been at Wake, I've become more comfortable and a
lot less quiet," Howard says. "I feel like I have the best of
both worlds now."
It helps that Howard is playing so well that he's emerged as a
favorite for ACC player of the year, while also giving No. 10
Wake Forest (17--4, 7--3 in the ACC at week's end) a shot at its
first outright league title since 1962. After scoring 20 points
in a 90--67 loss to Maryland on Monday, Howard led the ACC in
scoring (18.9 points per game) and was third in rebounding (8.0),
blocks (1.62) and steals (2.10). He's also Wake's most reliable
stopper on defense. "Josh is the best player in our league," says
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "He's a beautiful player to watch on
both ends of the court."
Lightly recruited despite averaging 26 points a game as a senior
at Winston-Salem's Glenn High, Howard spent a year at Hargrave
Military Academy in Chatham, Va., to improve his academic
performance. His play and personality were so understated,
however, that Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser has no recollection
of ever having seen him there, even though Prosser, who
previously coached Xavier, attended several Hargrave Academy
games while recruiting Howard's Hargrave teammate David West.
Having coached Howard for a season, Prosser last spring
challenged him to work harder and pleaded with him to become a
more vocal leader. Howard then spent countless hours working on
his shooting over the summer. The work has paid off, as Howard's
three-point and free throw shooting percentages have risen
significantly since last season. He's also providing the
leadership Prosser requested, through both his words and deeds;
for instance on Feb. 2 he sank the game-winning basket with 21.4
seconds remaining and finished with a career-high 32 points in a
79--75 win at North Carolina. "Josh really imbues our other
players with a high level of courage," Prosser says. "He's never
afraid or intimidated out there."
The Man at Manhattan
Jaspers' Flores Is Flourishing
In April 1999 Luis Flores was walking through the gym at
Manhattan College, on his way to sign a letter of intent to play
for the Jaspers, when his cellphone rang. Flores, then a senior
at Norman Thomas High, where he had led all New York City scorers
with 35.6 points a game, stopped to take the call from his good
friend Jeff Greer, who was a sophomore at Rutgers. Greer told
Flores that the Scarlet Knights were about to offer Flores a
scholarship. Upon hearing the news, Flores, who had dreamed of
playing in the Big East, decided not to sign with Manhattan and a
few days later accepted Rutgers's offer.
Flores quickly became frustrated with his lack of playing time
with the Scarlet Knights (he averaged 3.9 points in 10.5 minutes
per game as a freshman), and after the season he wondered if he
might be happier as a Jasper after all. "In my heart I knew I
should be at Manhattan," says Flores.
Flores, a 6'2" shooting guard, has flourished with the Jaspers.
Now a junior, he was averaging 25 points a game through Sunday.
Manhattan (19--5), which has beaten St. John's and Seton Hall
this year, had won 15 straight until last Thursday's 70--68 loss
to Fairfield. The Jaspers had a half-game lead over Fairfield and
were looking to win their first Metro Atlantic Athletic
Conference title since 1995. "Luis is the best player in this
league since Lionel Simmons was a senior at La Salle [in 1990],"
says Marist coach Dave Magarity. "If Manhattan gets into the NCAA
tournament, they'll be dangerous because Flores is so hard to
Flores was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the
Washington Heights section of New York City when he was eight.
Throughout his teens Flores and Francisco Garcia, who is now an
outstanding freshman at Louisville, played one-on-one at the
playground on 185th Street and Broadway, sometimes until four in
"Luis has a natural feel for the game that comes from the time he
spent on the playground," says Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez.
"He's a pure scorer. He can drive, hit the mid-range jumper and
hit the three. Really, he can do it all." --Lars Anderson
Brown Busts Streak
Dangerous Bears Are Climbing Ivy
One of the most ignominious streaks in college basketball came to
an end last Friday night when Brown won at Princeton for the
first time ever, ending the nation's longest active road losing
streak to one team at 52 games. The following night Brown fell to
Penn 73--66, leaving the Bears (12--10, 7--1 in the Ivy League
through Sunday) a half-game behind the Quakers in the Ivy League.
Brown hasn't won an Ivy title since 1986, and no team outside of
Penn and Princeton has represented the league in the NCAA
tournament for the last 14 seasons.
"Our kids went to Princeton expecting they could win," says
fourth-year Brown coach Glen Miller, who has turned the program
around by implementing a fast-breaking, un-Ivylike style. Brown
has led the league in scoring every year under Miller and is on
pace to do so again, with a 72.4-points-per-game average at
week's end. Miller's system has been especially beneficial to
6'4" senior guard Earl Hunt, who is the school's alltime leading
scorer (1,905 points through Sunday) and is fifth alltime in the
league. Going up-tempo has also made it easier for Miller to
recruit other dynamic players, such as Jason Forte, a 6-foot
sophomore point guard whose older brother Joseph starred at North
Carolina. "I think most kids coming out of high school want to
play at a fast pace," says Miller.
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK BURTON/AP (HOWARD) Howard has come out of his shell to become a leader and the top player in the ACC.
COLOR PHOTO: ERROL ANDERSON/AP (FLORES) The high-scoring Flores had to leave home to learn he'd be happier at Manhattan College.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE GIBLIN/AP Forte, whose brother Joseph starred at North Carolina, has brought excitement to Brown.
1. The Big Ten is having a terrible year. The league has claimed
six of the last 16 Final Four berths, but thanks to subpar
seasons by Indiana and Michigan State, the Big Ten has just two
ranked teams--No. 20 Illinois and No. 24 Purdue.
2. Troy Bell has rediscovered his game. Boston College's 6'1"
senior guard was widely criticized when the Eagles lost six of
eight games in December and January. But through Sunday the
Eagles had won five of their last six, improving their Big East
record to 6--5 (13--9 overall), and Bell's 25.1 points a game led
the league and was fourth in the nation.
3. Watch out for Tennessee. The Vols have the SEC's leading
scorer in Ron Slay (21.8 points a game) and have been
giant-slayers of late. The Vols' 66--59 upset of No. 4 Florida
last Saturday was their sixth straight win, putting them in third
place in the SEC's East Division with a 7--3 record (15--6
Weekly Seed Report
With selection Sunday less than a month away, SI's own selection
committee is back to examine which teams will get the top seeds.
If the NCAA tournament were starting this week, here's how our
panel would bracket the top four seeds in each region. (All
records are as of Sunday.) Remember, the NCAA will continue a
policy it instituted last year of trying to keep higher-seeded
teams closer to home by moving them in so-called pods of four
teams, regardless of region. For example Texas, our top seed in
the East, would play its first-and second-round games in Oklahoma
City, while Notre Dame, the No. 2 team in the West, would open
tournament play in Indianapolis.
2. Wake Forest....(17--3)
3. Notre Dame.....(19--5)
4. Oklahoma State (19--4)
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