Riney Lochmann and Walt Wesley showed up at Lawrence as freshmen three years ago. Lochmann, a husky 6 feet 5 from downstate in Wichita, was all the rave. A two-time high school All-America, he cannot even estimate the number of colleges that fought over him. It is so silly, the way things have worked out, that Riney blushes when he admits they called him "Superman" then. This kid was going to put Kansas basketball back on top.
Wesley, 6 feet 11 worth of legs and dreams, came from a segregated high school in Fort Myers, Fla. He had had maybe five colleges interested in him. After all, he had averaged hardly a dozen points a game. He often tumbled over his own legs on court. For laughs, at Kansas they like to bring out films of his freshman play. "You can't believe the improvement," Lochmann says. "I mean, it is incredible."
Wesley averaged 23 points last year, Lochmann 7. These things happen to high school All-Americas. They particularly happen to All-Americas like Lochmann, a kid who matured early and could overpower his prep opposition. At Kansas he found out soon enough that he was not quite fast enough or quick enough, not quite that good a shooter or that powerful a re-bounder. The thing about Lochmann, however, is that he could adjust. "I have never seen a boy put out like this one," Coach Ted Owens says. "We've got a lot of forwards fighting to start, but none of them can ever begrudge Riney anything he accomplishes." Last year Lochmann managed to piece together such an all-round performance in the Big Eight tournament that, although he was not picked on the all-star team, he was voted the co-MVP of the tournament. "I've never heard of that before," Owens says.
Wesley represents the other extreme—the long-legged kid who grew up and gained coordination late. "Yes, I guess I did shoot up," he says, straight-faced. "Why, I was only 6 feet 6 in my freshman year in high school, and I was 6 feet 10 when I graduated." Wesley, unlike Lochmann, must be pushed all the time, and Owens keeps at him. "I just want him to be great," Owens says with feeling.
The Jayhawkers start off as much the best in the Big Eight. On the freshman team they have a terrific 6-foot-2 guard named Jo Jo White who will be eligible for the varsity at midyear. Next to UCLA, and with or without White, Kansas has the best freshman team in the country, so White is almost sure to be called up to replace one of the starting guards—Al Lopes or Del Lewis. Wesley, of course, is set in a very low post—almost begging the opposition to play in front of him. The Jayhawkers work hard at special lob drills. At the forwards Rod Franz, a junior, Rod Bohnenstiehl, a sophomore, and Bob Wilson, a transfer, are all better than Lochmann. "O.K.," says Lochmann. "If they beat me out, it's going to mean we'll have an awfully good team, and that's all right with me."
Connected to the phone in Vic Bubas' office is an efficient-looking gadget on which two rows of lights flash silently, not interfering at all with the soft music piped into the speaker above the desk. If you know Vic Bubas you know the lights represent calls—long-distance calls—and that they are all being efficiently channeled to various assistant coaches by a battery of blonde secretaries. And you know that none of the calls are frivolous. No, sir. Vic Bubas does not work that way. Trivia is not tolerated in the wood-paneled offices at the northeast end of Duke's Indoor Stadium; if a call gets as far as an assistant coach, you know it concerns a tall, agile lad in Albuquerque, or the character flaw in the hotshot guard from California that Duke may meet in a tournament later this year. All such information will be brought to the attention of Bubas later in the board of directors room, recorded in triplicate and carefully filed. And that is one way to run a basketball team.
So what, you ask? So Duke has won more games (115) than any other major-college team in the country over the last five years, and when you figure who is going to be the best you always consider Duke. Ask any outstanding white player in the country ( Duke has not recruited Negro athletes) what colleges he seriously considered attending and the odds are he will tell you they were Duke and the college he is attending—which may be Duke also. Once a player gets to Duke he is fed, counseled and prepared to play basketball as few students are fed, counseled and prepared to do anything anywhere. Practice sessions are preceded by staff meetings that would make a Cabinet session appear spontaneous. When the sweep-second hand hits 4:30, the whistle blows. There are no last shots at the basket, no banter, no horseplay—just an immediate dash to assigned places. If the initial drill calls for hopping up and down the length of the floor, that is exactly what happens. Not before the whistle, of course.
Most of Duke's assets return this year, meaning Jack Marin, a 6-foot-6 senior who scored 19 points a game; 6-foot-1 Steve Vacendak (16), who, once in motion at practice, has to be tackled by his teammates to be brought to rest; and Bob Verga, a shortish, frail-looking boy who is short (6 feet) but is not frail and who can score 21 points a game with an amazing variety of shots. Duke gets the points all right, though last season the shooters hardly ever had more than one crack at the basket. This season Bubas has 6-foot-7 Mike Lewis from Montana, and if that isn't enough, there is Warren Chapman, an inch taller, from Texas. They should get the rebounds.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference 29 of the top 40 scorers are back. Duke will win anyway, but not without bleeding a few times.