Notre Dame is making a habit of ambushing good teams, some of which may simply have trouble maintaining their enthusiasm for nonconference games. The Irish's 79-70 defeat of St. John's in South Bend last Saturday appeared to be a case in point. But certainly the loss didn't erase the Redmen's impressive recovery in the Big East after a 4-5 start. Going into Monday night's game with Georgetown to break the two teams' tie for the conference lead, St. John's had won seven consecutive Big East games.
The Redmen have benefited from the improved play of senior guard Chucky Sproling and of 6'11" sophomore forward Shawnelle Scott, who has made sure the team doesn't miss injured center Robert Werdann too badly. However, the Redmen's pillar of strength has been 6'8" senior forward Malik Sealy, who has played like the first-round NBA draft choice he's likely to be.
If it's possible for a New York City athlete to be underpublicized, Sealy has been. That's ironic because Scaly, a graduate of Tolentine High in the Bronx, is the consummate New Yorker. As a child, his parents made sure that he and his sister and three brothers saw more of the city than just basketball courts. "They took us all over New York," Sealy says. "As a kid I went to all the museums, and I knew all the bridges and all the different neighborhoods. I saw a lot of things that kids my age didn't get to see, and I learned that you can get an education outside the classroom as well as inside it."
Another thing Scaly learned was how to sew, a skill his mother, Ann, taught him when he was in the fifth grade. In fact, Malik became a proficient enough seamster to make a blouse for one of his elementary school teachers. He hasn't tried anything so ambitious lately—unless you count the fact that he has helped piece St. John's season back together.
A Historic Mission
Even before Virginia Union's 66-63 win over Johnson C. Smith in the final of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament last Saturday in Richmond, it was obvious that both teams would be invited to the NCAA Division II tournament, which begins March 13. Virginia Union entered the CIAA tournament ranked third in the country, while Johnson C. Smith was No. 5.
But some people around the CIAA, a 14-team league of historically black colleges, are so dissatisfied with the tougher admissions standards passed by the NCAA in January that they are urging CIAA schools and other black universities to withdraw from the NCAA. The most controversial of the new rules replaces the 700 SAT score required by Proposition 48 with a sliding scale, so that a student with only, say, a 2.0 GPA must have a minimum of 900 on the SAT to qualify for an athletic scholarship.
"We're talking about schools that exist, at least in part, to provide higher education to students who haven't reached their academic potential," says Johnson C. Smith alumnus Joseph Faust, a former sports information director at North Carolina A&T, a black school in Division I. "To go along with the NCAA on this is to go against the principles on which these schools were founded. The NCAA is asking schools for African-Americans to exclude African-Americans by using a test that has been shown to be culturally biased against African-Americans."
Don't look for the CIAA to secede from the NCAA anytime soon, but some school officials in the conference are at least listening to Faust and his supporters. "If the scales tip too far in the wrong direction—and this is the wrong direction—then pulling out would be an option that we would have to consider," says Virginia Union athletic director James Battle.
Johnson C. Smith senior forward Mark Sherrill, who scored a game-high 24 points in the CIAA final, is an example of the kind of player who might not be in college had the new standards been in place four years ago. Sherrill, the Golden Bulls' alltime leading scorer, remembers a seventh-grade teacher telling him he was too stupid and undisciplined to succeed in school. Last spring, Sherrill made the dean's list with a 3.35 grade point average.