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Jay Jennings
January 08, 1990
An innovative coach has made little David Lipscomb a powerhouse in the NAIA
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January 08, 1990

Making It Big In The Smalls

An innovative coach has made little David Lipscomb a powerhouse in the NAIA

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Coach Don Meyer is looking at a picture on the brochure for his summer basketball camp at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. The caption reads "A Camper goes one on one with the Pro" and shows Mike Gminski, now of the 76ers, executing a reverse slam over a wobbly-kneed adolescent. Meyer points to the kid and says, "This little guy is Philip Hutcheson. He couldn't have been in junior high, I don't think."

Now 6'8" and 220 pounds, Hutcheson is no longer a little guy, and he would fare much better today against Gminski. Last season, as a junior, he averaged 28.0 points a game as the Bisons' center to finish 10th in the NAIA in scoring, and he led his team to 38 victories, one shy of the NAIA record. This season Hutcheson is scoring at a 24.2 clip, and Lipscomb, the consensus preseason No. 1 pick in the NAIA, was 16-3 and rated No. 5 through Sunday.

Dramatic growth is typical of Meyer's handiwork. Before he went to Lipscomb, in 1975, the Bisons had won 20 games only once in their 39 seasons of playing basketball; in Meyer's 14 years, they have won 30 games or more five times. And they won the NAIA national championship in '86. Meyer's first basketball camp, in 1976, had 188 players; last summer there were nearly 4,000 participants, making it the largest in the country. Three years ago, Meyer and his staff started selling instructional videotapes; they have since sold more than 8,000 to high schools and to colleges with prominent basketball programs.

Meyer has done all this at a school that rarely recruits outside Tennessee and Alabama; one that has rigid rules of conduct (it is affiliated with the Church of Christ, which doesn't cotton to things like drinking and dancing); and one whose players are "a little goofy," as guard Wade Tomlinson says. Last season these goofy guys scored 111.78 points a game, second only to Loyola Marymount in college basketball. At week's end, they were averaging 111.53 points in 1989-90.

The most public display of the Bisons' goofiness comes during pregame warm-ups. They begin with ordinary layup lines. Then they form rows for a drill in which a group of players shuffles back and forth in a defensive stance, following a ball being passed around by student assistants. When the ball goes to a wing, the players close in on it with their hands in the air, yelling, "Dead! Dead! Dead!" This call alerts teammates that an opponent has picked up his dribble.

Opposing crowds often taunt and mimic the Bisons during this drill. Says Tomlinson, "They love to rip us on that, but it kind of shows respect, that they're going to give you that much attention during your warmups."

In another drill, the Bisons pair up for "taking hits" as they practice drawing the charge on defense. "Taking hits" consists of one player simply running headlong into another and knocking him down. This exercise usually draws a few looks from the officials as well as from the opposing team.

Next the Bisons don red or green mesh jerseys and begin a half-court scrimmage, full speed. If the opposing team returns to the locker room for a pregame talk, the players' faces light up. Then they run full-court fast breaks.

Standing on the sideline, pacing and watching this planned mayhem, is Meyer. He resembles a taller, healthier Jerry Tarkanian. He chews on his fingernails instead of a towel.

By the time the Bisons finish their warmups, they are winded and dripping with sweat. "Pregame warmup," says Tomlinson, "is harder than any practice I had in high school."

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