Other players, academic predictors out of high school, may go straight to a juco to take their games up a notch. Ricky (Amazin') Grace used two seasons at Midland to add an inch and 15 pounds, and now directs Oklahoma's offense. Coming out of high school in Lubbock, Todd Duncan wasn't given a second glance by the Texas Tech staff up the street. But a two-year apprenticeship at Midland, in one of the nation's toughest juco leagues, launched Duncan from being a Division III maybe to a sharp-shooting point guard—and the Red Raiders had to fight off Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri to get him.
More extraordinary is the case of Tony Dawson, a 6'7" newcomer at Florida State, who, while growing up, had the same leg run over three separate times in three freak accidents. He was just beginning to figure out how to go to the basket when he graduated from high school. If not for his two seasons at Gulf Coast ( Fla.) C.C., Dawson might never have played major college ball.
"People who aren't associated with juco players think of them as misfits,' says Texas- Arlington's Stone. "It's not good for anyone to make a blanket judgment." There are enough examples of self-described academic goof-offs—Tarkanian, Oklahoma's Billy Tubbs and Morehead State's Tommy Gaither, for three—who, via junior college, became productive members of society. Or, at least, basketball coaches.
In fact, some coaches think the juco transfer may even be the better kid. "He's just happy to be here when he comes in," says Tubbs. "He knows he has only two years. And he hasn't been around long enough to bitch and gripe."
When juco gunner Kenny Drummond nearly sank North Carolina State last season with his selfish play, Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano vowed never to recruit in Jucoland again. It seemed an irrational pledge, particularly because Valvano had dipped into the jucos for Nate McMillan and Anthony (Spud) Webb, fine citizens both and NBA guards today. "If Valvano sticks by that," says Eastern Kentucky coach Max Good, "he'll be out of business."
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