"It used to be," says Dwight "Double D" Davis, "that Texas high school basketball was choked to death by football. Football is still very important in this state, but lately we've been growing some trees in Houston and people are taking an interest in us." People like Guy Lewis, whose goal at the University of Houston has always been to assemble a forest. "More than one year," Lewis recalls, "I started five boys from Illinois and Indiana. The biggest change in the college game today is that good basketball players can be found anywhere." But even Lewis never imagined that three of his Cougar starters would have learned their basketball at Houston's Pleasantville Recreation Center or Finnegan Park, both just across town from the Cougar campus.
Davis, a 6'7" leaper who should get clearance from NASA's Mission Control before he launches himself off the Tartan floor at Hofheinz Pavilion ("That guy can jump to the moon," Frank McGuire of South Carolina said last year) is one of the Houstonians. Dwight Jones, a member of the U.S. Pan Am team, is another. "He is a seasoned rookie," Lewis says, "and as fine a sophomore as I've had since Elvin Hayes." Davis, who adds verbal bounce to his talents, praises the 6'10" Jones, too. "I've seen Jim Chones of Marquette and he's a great player. But Dwight can play with him." This is the same Jones who as a 6'3" seventh-grader was cut from his junior-high team. He practiced six hours nightly at the playgrounds and two years later was averaging 40 points and 20 rebounds for the same team. " Dwight Jones," says Dwight Davis, "can be just as good as he wants to be. All he needs is a killer's instinct and we all help by pushing the lamb into the lion's den."
Jerry Bonney, a 6'4" guard who can rebound, is the third local starter. To maintain his recruiting touch, Lewis has Larry Brown of Brooklyn and sharpshooting Donnell Hayes of Camden, N.J., the leading freshman scorer, as other guards, and Steve Newsome of Columbia, Miss., and newcomer Sidney Edwards of Schenectady, N.Y. as forwards. "Hayes is as good an outside shooter as I've had here," Lewis says. "But I need someone to run the team, someone to make the fast break work and to get the ball inside when we slow down the pace." Brown, who averaged 7.1 points last season, has experience in these areas and will probably be a starter until Hayes proves he can move the ball.
For luck, the visitors' dressing room at Hofheinz Pavilion still has the number 13 on the door. "Just a coincidence," Lewis says. But the Cougars are unbeaten in two seasons at the new arena. And outside the trees of Houston keep growing.
Philadelphia is a lovely place to live, and you'd want your basketball team to visit there, too—if you were out of your scrapple-eating mind. It was bad enough when only three Philadelphia teams played national tournament-caliber ball, but in 1970-71 when Penn started operating like the UCLA of the East, that was too everloving much, brother. Coach Dick Harter pushed a different lever every night and out popped a new star. The second team was so frightening it was known as the Earthquakers. Now come the '71-72 Quakers. Harter has gone to Utah and three starters are missing, but opponents aren't fooled a bit.
Phil Hankinson, a 6'8" junior who led the scoring in five games without starting in any of them and made All-Ivy mention while sitting on the bench, settles in at the forward spot vacated by Corky Calhoun, the complete player, who moves to guard, where at 6'7�" he will be one of the country's tallest. The smallest Penn starter, 6'5" Alan Cotler, is aggressively quick and a fine shooter. He goes to the other guard, which will become a point position.
Bobby Morse is a Bill Bradley-type, but bigger (6'8"). He is a scorer and a premed student who spent his summer taking an organic chemistry course from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and working a full shift in a quarry before coming back at night for more courses. For the simple reason that Penn just does not need more shooters, 6'6" Craig Littlepage may become a defensive specialist at center. Again, all-staters from Ohio and Illinois—sophomore Whitey Varga and Jack Sonnenberg—are riding the bench, at least temporarily.
Last year, Penn had a highly patterned, intricate, guard-oriented offense. This year that turns into an overpowering inside attack that the team hopes will beat good opponents by 20 points. Bang the ball into the middle, that's the strategy—to Morse or Littlepage stacked on one side of the lane, to Calhoun on the other, to Hankinson thundering down the baseline. Forget the pass back to the point man; airmail the ball overhead.
Some people around Philadelphia think the Quakers have just one flaw, they are too perfect. They never exhibit emotion (Calhoun clapped his hands after a play in one game last year and sent the Palestra into an uproar). New Coach Chuck Daly, who has a talent for following difficult acts (he succeeded Bob Cousy at Boston College) says, "If we lose two or three, I ain't jumping off any bridges." But even he admits that Penn looks like the class of the East.