At last chance U, otherwise known as Fresno State, everyone starts off with a clean slate. It doesn't matter that 6'7" newcomer Terrance Roberson, a three-time Parade All-America, was kicked off his high school team right before the state tournament in Michigan. Or that 6'8" junior college transfer Daymond Forney was charged with assault during the off-season. (He contends that he never joined the fight in question, which he says started in response to a racial remark.) It's O.K. that 6'3" transfer Chris Herren partied too hard and studied too little during his freshman year at Boston College two seasons ago. And it's old news that last year an outgoing Bulldogs assistant warned new coach Jerry Tarkanian that his star point guard, Dominick Young, now a senior, "will destroy your team."
All that matters is this: "I like these kids, I really do," says Tark, his doleful eyes brightening. And the players, to a man. say they have learned from their mistakes.
"We're like the Bad News Bears," says 6'10" center Rahsaan Smith, who spent time at two junior colleges before coming to Fresno State two years ago. "When other people gave up on us, Coach Tark gave us a second, third or fourth chance. We play harder for him. He has the best winning percentage in college history, and we don't want to be the ones to mess up his record."
With the talent he adds to last year's 22-11 team, Tarkanian should not see a drop in his .829 winning percentage (a mark .003 points better than Clair Bee's). His latest version of Boys Town—where there's no such thing as a bad boy—welcomes Herren, a slashing guard who Tark says is a budding Jerry West; Roberson, a forward who spent the summer under the tutelage of his cousin, former Temple star Mark Macon; and Forney, a dominant low-post scorer and shot blocker.
Then there's Young, who was so irresponsible during his sophomore year, missing practices and classes, that former assistant Bobby Hoffman told Tarkanian, "You can't win with him." Then, last season. Young was suspended for the first four games when he failed to return money that was donated for a summer basketball trip he never took. But after that he became the team's most reliable player. Not only did he become the best defensive guard Tarkanian says he has ever coached, he also led the nation in three-pointers, making 4.1 per game. And he was clutch: Four times Young hit late treys to win games.
"We're players who would have fallen into the streets had the opportunity not been there again," says Young. "In the past we all had chances and let opportunities go by—but we won't again."