Without Bedford—he drew his fifth foul with 3:45 left against Louisville and Memphis State holding a 68-67 lead—the Tigers have an NAIA team's height. But against the Cards they got a game-high 12 rebounds from—Holy Moses!—Batman, who's 6'7". And a 6'7", 235-pound freshman named Marvin Alexander, who earned the nickname Shamu from someone who swore he had seen a look-alike lurking ominously in a tank at Sea World, played a solid seven minutes. On consecutive possessions in the second half, Alexander passed to Boyd for a basket and then scored himself on a pass from Askew, after which the Tigers never trailed again.
The team's turned-around attitude is most apparent in the taciturn 'Skew, who, as one of those unhappy about their relationship with Kirk, had threatened to transfer to Indiana State over the summer. He thought again, and has hardly seemed the malcontent since. In any 10-minute stretch the 6'6" Askew may play small forward, big guard or even the point. Two weeks ago, late in Memphis State's 83-80 overtime defeat of Kansas, he conjured up the game clincher, a 6-foot, running banked fall-away from the baseline over 7'1" Jayhawk Greg Dreiling. And he's so unselfish that he has pulled up short on breakaways, foregoing an easy layup to pass back to a trailing teammate. "Even in practice, we have to tell him to shoot," says Bedford. Askew's line against Louisville included five assists, 11 rebounds (six of them offensive) and 10 of 10 from the foul line, where he scored the Tigers' final four points. Afterward, Crum questioned the strength of Memphis State's schedule, pointing out that the Tigers' games with Top 20 and conference opponents (three to date) have all come at home. "I'm not going to answer that," scoffs Holmes. "We go to Hawaii, we take care of business. We go to San Diego, we take care of business. We go to Texas, we take care of business."
A lingering question is what business the NCAA, the IRS and the grand jury will yet take care of. Kirk, for one, is perennially upbeat. Asked on one occasion by The Commercial Appeal of Memphis about his supposed participation in high-stakes gin rummy games, Kirk said, "I don't play for big money. Golly, I don't even call it gambling, because I know I'm going to win."
By that standard, the game 'Dre and 'Skew and Bat and Bed are playing right now certainly isn't gambling, either. They know they're going to win. Or, as they would phrase it in the school gyms and community centers around town, where most of the team came up: They're just runnin' with their homeboys and doin' it right fine.