10 WESTERN KENTUCKY
On the night of Dec. 23 Western Kentucky plays Jacksonville in Louisville's 18,000-seat Freedom Hall. Besides affording Coach Johnny Oldham an excellent chance to find out what his Hilltoppers are up to this season, the game also will give 7' Jim McDaniels and Western's four other returning starters a chance to get back at the team that embarrassed them in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament. Trailing by only six points at the half, the 'Toppers inexplicably fell apart early in the second period and the Dolphins won 109-96 in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final margin suggests. "We just went native," says Oldham, who talks Kentucky hillbilly but dresses like a regular city slicker. "I think somebody got to 'em at halftime and told 'em that they were on national television. You know, we did a pretty good job last year, but all anybody in the world remembers is that last horrible game."
Some 15,000 Western-Jacksonville tickets had been sold by early November, but none of the fans is awaiting the rematch more eagerly than McDaniels, the Hill-toppers' senior center who is challenging Jacksonville's Artis Gilmore as one of the best big men in the nation. In last season's game McDaniels scored 29 points to Gilmore's 30, but he also fouled out with 8:30 left, and thus had to sit on the bench while Western died. "The game with Jacksonville has been on my mind all year," says McDaniels, who led his team to one of its finest seasons (22-3 in all games, 14-0 in the tough little Ohio Valley Conference) before the Jacksonville debacle. Right after meeting the Dolphins, Western goes to New York to play in the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden, and Big Mac is also looking forward to that. "We went up there when I was a sophomore and stunk up the place against Toledo," he says. "We couldn't do anything right, we were so cold. We want to show people that we play basketball here."
No big man in the country shoots from outside any better than McDaniels, but this season he hopes to exert more influence in those areas traditionally reserved for tall centers—shot blocking, rebounding and scoring from underneath. McDaniels improved in all these phases of his game when he toured Europe last summer with 11 other college stars. Moreover, his weight is now up to 230—almost 20 pounds more than it was last season.
The other returning starters from the '69-'70 team are: Clarence Glover, 6'8", a fine rebounder; Jerome Perry, 6'4", and Jim Rose, 6'3", a couple of sure shooters; and Gary Sundmacker, 6'4", the playmaker and defensive ace. Although Sundmacker and Perry both were injured while working out this fall, they are expected to be ready for Jacksonville. "We're shooting for everything this season," says McDaniels, the team leader now. "I think we're together now."
When viewed from a certain perspective, Des Moines can seem a remarkably settled city, steeped in careful living and tenderly aware of its traditions. It is a city where more than 40 insurance companies have established offices and where the citizens, not surprisingly, stress traffic safety. The famous people who began here are well remembered, like Andy Williams, who started his career in a Des Moines Italian restaurant, and Jack Bailey, longtime host on Queen For a Day, who led the cheers for Drake University's football team during the late '20s. A decade later a young man everyone called "Dutch" came to town to broadcast Drake basketball. He left after two years for Hollywood and still lives in California—in the governor's residence. A student at Drake spent much of his time practicing the piano and writing a humor column, which he signed Steve Allen, for the student paper.
Today the big name in Des Moines is Maury John. During the winter he can be seen on two television shows every Sunday. Each afternoon some 50 businessmen drop by Drake's gym to watch him work and about 4,000 others have bought season tickets to catch his show at Veterans Auditorium. John has mellowed during his 12 years as Drake's basketball coach. He no longer runs laps between the bench and the scorer's table working off his spleen against officialdom, but he is still considered fun to watch, especially since his Drake Bulldogs should win their third consecutive Missouri Valley Conference title.
Two years ago at the NCAA national finals Drake barely lost to UCLA and Alcindor, 85-82, and John was named Coach of the Year. He could have been considered for the honor last year, too. With only one starter returning, Drake was picked at the bottom of the preseason conference standings. But John, who spent a dozen years as a junior-college coach, knew where to look for help. He brought in four transfers and Drake ended the year with a 22-7 record and a national ranking.
Now he has three starters back. One is Forward Jeff Halliburton, the leading scorer and team leader, who is considered to be one of the nation's best one-on-one players. Another is Tom Bush, a small center by Valley standards at 6'8", but strong, aggressive and what John calls "a sleight-of-hand artist—he has mastered the art of pushing." The third is Bobby Jones, a guard who turned into a 48% shooter. A fourth starter is certain to be Forward Leon Huff, who broke most of Halliburton's scoring records at San Jacinto Junior College in Texas a year ago. And there are talented candidates for the other guard.