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Glue Guys
Alexander Wolff
March 20, 2000
To survive in the NCAAs, teams need selfless heroes who hold them together so they can stick it to opponents
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March 20, 2000

Glue Guys

To survive in the NCAAs, teams need selfless heroes who hold them together so they can stick it to opponents

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The All-Glue-Guy Team
These Versatile players may not be household names yet, but that could soon change, because the NCAA tournament has a way of magnifying the contributions of guys like them.

PLAYER

SCHOOL

SKINNY

Brian Beshara

LSU

His treys open middle for Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith

Nate James

DUKE

Has remade muscular body into lean, mean perimeter machine

Alex Jensen

UTAH

6'7" forward leads Utes in assists and is second in scoring

Stevie Johnson

IOWA STATE

At 6'3�", can score, pass, rebound and Cyc out 7-footers

Lavor Postell

ST. JOHN'S

Big East scholar-athlete gets into the lane to dissect defenses

Twenty seconds remained to be played, St. John's led Rutgers by three, and the Red Storm's season lay in the balance. The problem was where the ball lay—in the hands of the Scarlet Knights' Joel Salvi, who was about to convert a layup. That's when Lavor Postell materialized to snuff Salvi's shot. "He came out of nowhere," teammate Erick Barkley marveled after the 61-57 victory on Jan. 25, the Storm's lone win in a stretch of five games. "But that's Lavor."

Postell has a knack for making such plays—the well-timed block, the apt pass, the felicitous basket. The Johnnies would come lately, finishing in a rush of 11 wins in 12 games, but had Postell failed to make that potentially game-saving rejection against Rutgers, the Storm might have come a cropper. He has made countless plays like it. That's why the senior Spanish major is un hombre de pegamento—a glue guy.

To determine exactly what we mean by a glue guy, you might want to pull out your copy of The Guide to the Guys. A glue guy isn't a blue-collar guy, though he may be the hardest worker on a team. Nor is he a go-to guy, though he may have the skills to become one. Rather he's a player who can sense what his team needs most and supply it without muss or fuss. He's rarely a point guard, for glue guys must perform such stand-tall duties as assaulting the offensive glass, shutting down the opposition's top scorer or, as Postell so fortuitously did, blocking shots. Nor can you identify a glue guy by watching his team play once; his polyvalence reveals itself only after four, five or six viewings—the number of victories, as it happens, that will take an NCAA tournament team to the Final Four and perhaps a championship.

Few NCAA titlists haven't had at least one player who could extract his team from a sticky wicket. The charter member of the Glue Guy Hall of Fame is Bobby Wilkerson, the 6'7" guard who jumped center for Indiana's 1976 championship team, was the Hoosiers' best on-the-ball defender and still contributed 7.8 points a game. Thomas Hill, the guard on Duke's '91 and '92 title teams, provided similar skills, as did Arkansas guard Clint McDaniel, who helped lead the Razorbacks to their 1994 championship. A year ago Connecticut won its title largely because guard Ricky Moore sublimated his ego for the good of the team, contributing whatever the Huskies needed, whether a solid screen, a timely steal or the defense that choked off Duke's Trajan Langdon in the final.

We could festoon this year's brackets with Post-Its, each representing a noteworthy glue guy. Forwards George Reese of Ohio State and David Shelton of Tulsa are both nonstarters who get first-team minutes off the bench. (Shelton, a beefy junior college transfer, leads the Golden Hurricane in scoring.) You're as likely to find Cincinnati forward Ryan Fletcher banging bodies as knocking down jumpers, while guard Charlie Bell provides whatever Michigan State needs, whether playing the point for the injured Mateen Cleaves or springing for 20 or more points on seven occasions. Out west, Arizona's Luke Walton is that rare species—a sweet-passing, press-breaking power forward. But as good as the aforementioned are, they're not the tackiest to the touch. Herewith our All-Glue-Guy Team, a quintet you'll be hearing about over the next two weeks if their schools are to make it to Indianapolis:

Lavor Postell, St. John's. Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien remained silent on Jan. 22 while an assistant coach delivered the scouting report to the Buckeyes before their game against the Red Storm. Only once was he moved to speak: when video of Postell flitted across the TV screen. "This guy is one of the most underrated players in the game," said O'Brien. "He can shoot it, rebound it and handle it. He's the guy who can beat us."

Though Postell didn't beat the Buckeyes that day, he did deliver a philippic at a team meeting a few days later that the St. John's players credit with turning around their tumultuous, suspension-marred season. Who better to calm the Storm than Postell, a 6'6" forward who has quietly rounded out his game under three head coaches—Brian Mahoney, Fran Fraschilla and Mike Jarvis? The most famous St. John's coach, Lou Carnesecca, said he wanted a team of Supreme Court justices, players who never gave anything away with their expressions, and that's Postell. He seems to lie back and then strike suddenly, like the panther tattooed on his upper right arm.

Brian Beshara, LSU. After Beshara dropped 23 points on Arkansas this season, Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson called him "one of those blue-collar guys who plays hard. But he has good skills for a blue-collar guy." Which elevates him from the proletariat to glue-guydom.

Those skills didn't get showcased a year ago, when coach John Brady needed the 6'8" Beshara to play out of position, at power forward, where he was in constant foul trouble from trying to guard bigger opponents. Still, he hinted at what he could do by shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc—better than the Tigers shot from the field as a team. He has blossomed with his move to small forward this season. Though he's Louisiana State's No. 3 scorer, rebounder, stealer and shot blocker, those figures only begin to describe the portfolio of contributions he makes. "LSU has better players, but Beshara does whatever needs to be done every night," says Georgia coach Jim Harrick. "If they don't need him to score, he shuts somebody down. If they need a big basket, he isn't afraid to take the shot. He's the ultimate glue guy." Here's a glue-guy stat: In the Tigers' 86-60 thrashing of Arizona on Jan. 29, he forced two held balls in the first three minutes.

Stevie Johnson, Iowa State. Like Beshara, Johnson benefited from a switch in positions, only in the opposite direction. A bricklaying bust at small forward last season, he's now at the four spot despite being only 6'3�", and he made 67.4% of his shots for the surprising Big 12 champs. "Basically we reeled him in—shortened his game," says Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy of Johnson, who scored 3,435 points in high school in Beaumont, Miss. "He can't create facing up off the dribble, but he can hit the short jumper, put back, lay up and dunk."

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