?Immediate help. Just as every coach wants to fill that gap in his lineup quickly, every juco transfer wants to play right away. "It's been a route for coaches who felt they had to win immediately," says Temple coach John Chaney. "Those pressures have increased because of the money involved in the NCAA tournament."
?More refined players. Free of the NCAA's rinky-dink rules governing practice periods and off-season rec leagues, the jucos play serious ball virtually year-round. "I'm out at Garden City [Community College in Kansas] in September and they've already got their whole offense in," UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian says enviously. Adds Craig Impelman, an assistant at Weber State, "Jucos traditionally have the great 6'3" athlete who played center in high school. He plays forward in junior college so he can be a Division I guard." A classic example: K-State's 6'5" Mitch (the Bitch) Richmond, late of Moberly (Mo.) J.C.
?More mature people. If indeed the best thing about a freshman is that he'll become a sophomore, the best thing about a juco transfer is that he has already been both. Only 20% of all junior colleges offer scholarships, and even fewer attract doting media coverage, so a juco kid is in little danger of being coddled. "There's nothing in town but books and basketball," says Ball. "A lot of these kids are eating three meals a day for the first time in their lives. They miss a class, the dorm's across the street, and someone's knocking on their door before that class is over."
?A way around Proposition 48. Many Division I coaches would rather sign a juco graduate for two seasons than take a chance on using up a scholarship on a high school senior who might not score the requisite 700 on his college boards, as the NCAA rule properly known as Bylaw 5-1-(j) requires. When a player doesn't "predict"—a word now common in the coaching vernacular, meaning "to break 700"—the coach gets burned. "It's tough," says Lee Hunt, coach at upstart Missouri- Kansas City, which begins its program this season with nine juco transfers. "If you sign two players who don't predict, you're short two. It becomes a game of Russian roulette."
Indeed, nothing has so altered the face of Jucoland as Prop. 48. Ball guesses that half of the high school seniors who come up short on 5-1-(j) are choosing jucos, where they can play right away, instead of a major college, where they can't even practice and will have only three years of eligibility left after that first nonplaying season. "A lot of players were confused last year," says Wake Forest coach Bob Staak. "They went to their Division I first choices, then had frustrating experiences not being able to practice and not feeling part of the team."
High school seniors are starting to wise up—to see how depressing not playing can be and how their options can open up two years later, provided they excel on the juco court and get their associate of arts degree at the same time. Meanwhile the major colleges are more and more loath to wait on students whose board scores might, as Pepperdine coach Jim Harrick says, "embarrass the university."
On the other hand, if a Division I coach is terrified by the possibility that he won't get a player back after his juco stint—that the kid might listen to the whisperings of another recruiter and jump to a different school—he won't take the chance of placing him in a junior college. He'll want the player on campus as a freshman, even if it means the youngster will get depressed and fat and sloppy from playing intramurals. Hutchinson ( Kans.) C.C. sorely wanted Nick Anderson and Ervin Small, two of Illinois's 5-1-(j) casualties last year. But Illini coach Lou Henson had gone through so much to get them in the first place that he put the kibosh on the idea.
If the NCAA doesn't change the no-practice rule for 5-1-(j) victims, working agreements between jucos and major college "parent clubs" will proliferate beyond those that already exist. Not that the star at Allegheny (Pa.) C.C. is indentured to Pitt, or the best player at Mt. San Antonio ( Calif.) J.C. is fated to become a UNLV Runnin' Rebel. But, as Southern Cal coach George Raveling says, "If you don't get your guy back, you're probably not going to send that juco coach any more players."
Inevitably, Bylaw 5-1-(j) is stocking the Jucoland pond with more studfish. "Every day I pick up USA Today and read where some guy didn't qualify and is going to junior college," says Miami coach Bill Foster. " Georgia lost three. Before Prop. 48, those guys would have all gone to Georgia." Compare the 1983 All-Juco Team, led by such forgettables as Ed Smith, Alton Gipson and Dexter Shouse, with the best of the juco transfers who turned up last season: Indiana's Smart and Dean Garrett, Kansas State's Richmond, New Orleans's Ledell Eackles, UNLV's Gerald (Furniture) Paddio and Oklahoma's Harvey (the General) Grant. Indeed, both Ronnie Arrow, who left San Jacinto to take the head job at Division I South Alabama, and Jerry Stone, late of Midland J.C. and now the new coach at Division I Texas- Arlington, have said that the teams they left behind could whup the putative big-time teams they have inherited.
Juco players aren't ipso facto bad kids. In fact, many high school seniors who predict academically choose junior college purely for basketball reasons. Oklahoma's Grant, Arizona's Tom Tolbert and UNLV's Mark Wade, the Rebels' floor leader last season, all had uneven first experiences in the major college wilderness, then returned as more mature players after polishing their games at jucos.