With Issel gone, Rupp has not one but three young giants eager to take his place. This guarantees the Baron the tallest team of his career. Junior Mark Soderberg (6'10") and sophomore Jim Andrews (6'11") could start for almost anybody, but at Kentucky they will mainly back up Payne. Says a Kentucky assistant, "Payne will be the next dominant player in college ball—perhaps by the end of this season." The forward positions are set with 6'5" junior Tom Parker and 6'6" Larry Steele, and Rupp has more good guards than he will be able to use. One spot apparently will go to Casey, who also can swing to forward, and the other is being contested for by four experienced troupers—seniors Terry Mills and Jim Dinwiddie and juniors Stan Key and Kent Hollenbeck. Kentucky, in so many words, has thoroughbreds.
All this talent enables Rupp to toy with several combinations, the most interesting of which has Payne and Andrews in the game simultaneously, Payne at center and Andrews at forward. One thing is certain: this season nobody will call Kentucky "Rupp's Runts."
7 NOTRE DAME
Last season, down in New Orleans, Austin Carr of Notre Dame had one of his finest games. It came in the finals of the Sugar Bowl Classic against No. 3-ranked South Carolina. The Irish lost by one point in overtime and Carr played the full 45 minutes without a turnover, made 19 of 24 shots (14 in a row in one stretch), five of five free throws and had six rebounds and eight assists. At the other end of the court he held the Gamecocks' John Roche to 14 points, though, to be completely fair, Roche was playing with a cracked rib.
"Carr is as good as any player I've seen," said South Carolina Coach Frank McGuire. Easily the best player out of Washington, D.C. since Dave Bing—maybe since Elgin Baylor—Carr averaged 38.1 points a game last season. He was second only to Pete Maravich in total scoring and he was far more accurate than the Louisianian (.556 to .447).
The Irish again will operate out of the double-stack offense, the special formation of Coach Johnny Dee's chief assistant, Gene Sullivan. It has one man at the top of the key (a clever passer, Jackie Meehan) and two men lined up, or stacked, on either side. Carr, who moves constantly without the ball, starts out under the basket on the right side and then uses picks set by 6'7" Collis Jones and 6'8" John Pleick. The result is something like having a jackrabbit dodge about in a grove of redwoods. The middle third of the court gets congested and a defender would have to be a Mexico City taxi driver to get through the stacked-up traffic.
Other than Carr's moves and shooting, the important aspects of the double stack are the picks by Pleick (pronounced "plake"), which would slow up a truck, and the ball handling by Meehan, who has not been noticeably slowed by two knee operations in the last two years. With his knack for getting the ball to Carr and Carr's ability to get the ball in the basket, Meehan would be the favorite to lead the nation in assists—except that the colleges do not officially keep track of assists. Too bad for Meehan. Too bad for opponents.
Another D.C. product, Collis Jones, has not received much attention because he plays alongside Carr, but he is a good scorer (18.6 average) and is especially effective with his turnaround jump shot from the left side. He is also the best rebounder on the team. A third senior from Washington, 6'8" Sid Catlett, has not fulfilled his promise. He tends to hold the ball too long and lopes too leisurely down the court. Probably he will be a substitute again behind Pleick, Jones and Doug Gemmell.
Dee, a personable lawyer who tends to overstate everything, claims he has the country's best basketball program, and he is anything but coy about his star. "Austin Carr," he says, "is the finest basketball player who ever lived." That covers it, John.
8 LONG BEACH STATE