Do classroom smarts translate into on-court smarts? Is the relationship between backboards and college boards direct or inverse? "The other guy doesn't care what your IQ is," says Angelus. "But sure, when I tell my players to go out to 22 feet on a guy and play him to his left, I don't have to tell them twice. There's no cerebral fallout."
"We do have the type of player that lets me experiment," says Washington coach Mark Edwards. "We can do a lot of things on court."
The problem, each UAA coach agrees, is getting bodies on the floor at the same time. "Right now I'm looking at Jedan Phillips's schedule," says Hopkins coach Bill Nelson, "I honestly don't know what we're going to do." Phillips, a forward, is a third-year natural sciences major. "There are three days a week when we don't expect to see him at practice for more than 30 minutes—if at all," moans Nelson. To avoid conflicts with classes and labs, conference coaches hold morning practices, evening practices, sometimes no practices. For nine years Neer gave his players Wednesday off and told them to schedule labs for that day.
"You try to keep a time slot free," says Zachem, "but if that's the period a course is offered and you need it to complete your major, something's got to give." In the UAA the extracurricular bows to the curricular. The key, everyone agrees, is managing one's time.
Perhaps the best in the conference at doing that is business major Kevin Suiter, a senior guard at Washington U, a Division III All-America and the most dangerous player in the UAA. Suiter made 75 of 156 three-pointers last season. Here was how a recent Thursday went for Suiter: classes, 9:30-12:30 and 1:00-2:30; job preparation seminar, 2:30-4:00; conditioning, 4:00-6:00; class, 6:00-8:00—"Wait, I'm not done yet," he says—work-study, 8:00-11:00; studying, 11:00 to well into Friday.
"There's already a bond between the players in this conference," says Suiter. "Playing hard to win a game, showering up afterwards, then coming back and staring down two or three hours of homework, that's what college basketball is all about."
It's also about a recent afternoon in Chicago. Angelus is leafing through his binder of prospects—"I got 10, 12 valedictorians in here, easy," he says—when graduate assistant Tom Lepp pokes his head into the office to report on that day's informal practice, which had just ended. Everything had gone well, especially during warmups. Freshman Valentin Gheorghe had begun counting off calisthenics in his native Romanian. Sophomore center Bert Vaux, who scored a 34 (of a possible 35) on his ACTs, chimed in in Japanese. Igal Litovsky, a trilingual, Israeli-born sophomore guard who wants to play pro ball in his homeland after college, sounded off in Hebrew.
Angelus smiles and says, "I think it's going to be an interesting year."