Darryl Dawkins once said, "I'd say I gave it the old college
try, but I never went to college." Indeed, these are trying
times in the world of college basketball. Cases of high
schoolers like Dawkins leaping straight into the NBA were once
anomalies. Now they are annual events.
And for those who do give it the old college try for even a year
or two, the postponement feels interminable. After the Milwaukee
Bucks made Georgia Tech freshman Stephon Marbury the fourth
overall selection in June's draft, Marbury choked back tears and
said, "I've waited 20 long years for this."
Fans may have to wait even longer for the trend to recede, if it
ever does. In the meantime, for those willing to stick around
and watch the best of the rest, here are a few things worth
1. This will be the year of the senior.
November 15, 1996
It has become something of a backhanded compliment to tab a
player as one of the nation's best seniors. After all, if he is
really that good, why is he still playing college basketball?
But despite reports that the senior All-America is an endangered
species, as many as four of them could be on the first team this
year: Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, Utah's Keith Van Horn, Kansas's
Jacque Vaughn and Tulsa's Shea Seals (page 48).
Thanks in part to the exodus of the top underclassmen over the
last three years, many other seniors will also figure
prominently nationwide--players such as Boston College's Danya
Abrams, Stanford's Brevin Knight, Tulane's Jerald Honeycutt,
UCLA's Charles O'Bannon, Villanova's Jason Lawson and Texas's
2. UConn vs. UMass heads the list of compelling games.
Slated for Dec. 27 in Hartford, this matchup--though it arrives
a year late, considering that both teams were higher-ranked last
season--is a welcome development for the denizens of New
England, who haven't seen the two schools square off since 1990.
Elsewhere, Jerry Tarkanian, whose Rebels were 285-24 at home in
his 19 years in Vegas, will return to UNLV's Thomas and Mack
Center on Dec. 21 when Fresno State meets Texas Tech in the Las
Vegas Shootout. (Tark returns to face his erstwhile employer on
Feb. 17.) The Bibbys--USC coach Henry and Arizona freshman point
guard Mike--have the first of what should be many father-son
matchups on Jan. 16 in L.A.
But the spiciest game of all might be the one played on Nov. 22
in Chicago. Illinois-Chicago first-year coach Jimmy Collins, who
spent the previous 13 years as an assistant at Illinois, will
open his season at home against the Illini and their new coach,
Lon Kruger, the man who beat out Collins for the job of
succeeding the retired Lou Henson.
3. Lorenzo Romar of Pepperdine is one of several coaches on the
In his four years as an assistant at UCLA, Romar proved to be
highly adept at player procurement, and that skill has served
him well since he was handed the Pepperdine job on Feb. 19.
Within three months Romar had secured the services of transfers
omm'A Givens (from UCLA) and Jelani Gardner (Cal) and is poised
to reap the benefits of the bountiful crop of players currently
lighting up high school gyms in Southern California. UNLV
second-year coach Billy Bayno, Michigan State second-year man
Tom Izzo and Romar have also demonstrated that they can attract
top talent. But unlike Iowa State's Tim Floyd, who guided a
bunch of no-names to the Big Eight tournament title in his
second year, they are still unproven floor generals. All four
will see their stock rise.
As these coaches rise, so others must fall. The likeliest pink
slip candidates by next spring: Ohio State's Randy Ayers,
Northwestern's Ricky Byrdsong, Florida State's Pat Kennedy and
Notre Dame's John MacLeod.
4. Fresno State's Chris Herren will have the most impact of any
Herren may still be a household name in New England, but he
hasn't played basketball before a national audience in two
years. "It's been tough being cooped up, not being able to
play," says Herren, "but it's been a good two years. I needed
time to get my things together."
A former All-America at Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass.,
Herren suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the opening game
of his freshman year at Boston College in November 1994. He
transferred to Fresno State the following spring after his
grades bottomed out, and sat out last year under NCAA transfer
guidelines. He now becomes the latest great talent with a
hard-luck story to find redemption under Father Tarkanian.
"We're a team of second chances," Herren says.
Roshown McLeod (formerly of St. John's) and Makhtar Ndiaye
(Michigan, and before that Wake Forest) will also be getting
second (or third) chances this season at Duke and North
Carolina, respectively. And Rodrick Rhodes (whom Rick Pitino
once touted as "the next Jamal Mashburn" before squeezing him
out at Kentucky when Rhodes proved otherwise) will play out his
final season of eligibility at USC.
5. There has been a power shift atop the Big East.
Georgetown and Connecticut lost a combined six players to the
NBA draft, including four first-rounders, and some heretofore
mediocre programs are ready to ascend in their stead. Though
Villanova, the '95 Big East tournament champion, is the clear
favorite this year and perennial contender Syracuse will be in
the hunt, Providence, with its inside-outside tandem of senior
forward Austin Croshere (page 92) and sophomore point guard God
Shammgod, and Boston College, which features the likely Big East
player of the year in Abrams and the league's '95-96 rookie of
the year in James (Scoonie) Penn, will be close behind. St.
John's and Pitt--a combined 34-74 in the league the last three
years--will both be factors in the conference race, as will West
Virginia, which went 7-11 in its first season in the Big East
6. If Cinderella makes it to the ball, she'll probably be doing
After the College of Charleston posted a 25-4 record last
season--with two of those losses coming in respectable efforts
against Syracuse and Connecticut--there was some sentiment for
awarding the Cougars an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament
(they moved up from Division II eight years ago and were
therefore not eligible for the Trans America Athletic
Conference's automatic bid). Alas, it didn't happen. But
starting this season, Charleston can go to the big dance by
winning the TAAC tournament, and if it does, some high-seeded
outfit will surely be nervous when the tournament draw is
announced. The Cougars have all five starters returning,
including 6'8" senior center Thaddeous Delaney, last year's TAAC
player of the year.
7. The WAC is bigger and better.
The Western Athletic Conference has expanded from 10 to 16
teams, and the change has come at a time when many of the
league's programs are unusually strong. Fresno State, Utah and
New Mexico are all capable of making Final Four runs, and Tulsa,
Wyoming, UNLV, Rice and TCU all have a chance of being in the
Top 25 by season's end. The league has its share of All-America
candidates in players such as Utah's Van Horn, Fresno State's
Dominick Young, New Mexico's Kenny Thomas (page 102) and TCU's
Damion Walker. And peopled by characters like Fresno's
Tarkanian, Utah's Rick Majerus and TCU's Billy Tubbs, the WAC
has charismatic coaches who will bolster its national profile.
8. There's trouble in Fayetteville.
Last season, just two years after winning the national
championship at Arkansas, Nolan Richardson brought 11 new
players into the program, a haul that was supposed to lay the
foundation for future greatness. Academic failings, however,
have forced all but four of those players out of Fayetteville,
leaving point guard Kareem Reid, a member of the All-SEC
freshman team last year, as the Razorbacks' only star-caliber
player. The NCAA gumshoes have been sniffing around since
February, and they have discovered, among other things, that
three junior college transfers were improperly certified.
As of mid-October, Richardson had little to say about the matter
except to insist that he does not "cheat." But Marlon Towns, one
of the jucos who transferred out, was probably right when he
said of the program, "As many times as [the NCAA] has been here,
they're probably going to get hit with something."
9. Baylor's Brian Skinner is the best player in America you've
never heard of.
But not for long. A 6'10", 245-pound junior, Skinner would be
the favorite for Big 12 player of the year if he didn't play on
the league's worst team. He averaged 17.6 points and 9.3
rebounds per game as a sophomore and was a commanding presence
for the U.S. this summer at the world championships in Puerto
There's another great player in the Big 12 you've probably never
heard of: Chauncey Billups, a sophomore at Colorado. And
remember the names Tunji Awojobi (Boston University), Peter
Aluma (Liberty) and Tyson Wheeler (Rhode Island). You heard 'em
10. There's life after Pete Carril in Princeton.
And it begins under coach Bill Carmody, Carril's adjutant for 14
years. Four starters, including first-team All-Ivy League guard
Sydney Johnson, return from the team that gave Carril his first
NCAA tournament victory since 1984, the 43-41 first-round win
over UCLA last March. The Tigers are favored to repeat as Ivy
League champs, and while Carmody will force the tempo a bit more
than Carril, little will change stylistically.
Carril, incidentally, didn't stay retired long. He is currently
serving as an assistant coach with the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
The college game will certainly miss him. It's not easy these
days to find a guy who will wait 29 years before bolting to the