To make the optimum use of Williamson, Robinson and Forward Harry S. Truman Ward (call him Truman, please, because he's not wild about Harry), Henson will shift to his passing offense. Ward led last year's varsity (19-8) in scoring and rebounding and caught passes from Alex Scott, the team playmaker and a lifelong friend of Williamson's from New Haven, Conn. Lehmann, who has shown signs of not wanting to play this season, is being groomed to run the club when the Aggies join the Missouri Valley Conference next year. Against zones he fires 25-footers the way his brother George does for the Carolina Cougars. He spent 14 hours a few months ago shooting 11,181 consecutive free throws in quest of a world record. Before a shoulder cramp stopped him, he netted 87% of his attempts. Henson has deadpanned, "I'll change his style if he ever misses a shot."
Missing—in games—will be the toothpick so often seen in Williamson's mouth. He practices with one and claims he was always chomping on toothpicks when he was averaging 33.4 points a game in his senior year at Wilbur Cross High School. A teacher there once called the toothpick " Williamson's tranquilizer" and Henson does nothing in practice to spoil the 6'2" guard's frame of mind.
The Aggie bench is one of the strongest in the nation, with three experienced hands. Roy Neal, 6'6", was a member of the NCAA third-place club two years ago, and El Green and Bill Moore have proved they can run, shoot and rebound. But ( Henson said it, not Joyce Kilmer) there is no bench as lovely as a Tree—or a toothpick. At the least, the Aggies from just north of the border should receive their sixth straight NCAA bid.
Head Coach Denny Crum brings a fresh point of view to the senior-dominated University of Louisville team that has seen disastrous finishes undo early success the last two years. As assistant coach for John Wooden at UCLA the previous three seasons, his major concern was what to do with his NCAA championship watches. He kept one, gave another to his father and is saving the third for his young son. But he wouldn't at all mind winning new watches.
"Here in Kentucky we like to judge by bloodlines," says Athletic Director Peck Hickman, "and with Denny's background you've got to say his is a good one." The players, too, are excited about the 34-year-old Crum, who succeeds the retired John Dromo. "I can't do nothing but listen to the man," says multitalented Guard Jim Price, the best of five double-figure scorers returning from a 20-9 team. "He started pointing out my errors as soon as practice started. That's a man to listen to."
Price and his teammates had best listen closely. An exceptionally confident individual upon whom Wooden depended greatly for in-the-game analysis, Crum is rattling the Cardinal cage. His major move involves 6'3" Henry Bacon, an undersized forward last year, who joins Price in the backcourt. That opens the way for 6'8" sophomore Bill Bunton on a front line that includes Ron Thomas, a 6'5" rebounder, and 6'9" Al Vilcheck, who moves out to a high post. "I like the offense," says Vilcheck, who possibly is the tallest game-bird hunter in Kentucky. "It will force me to shoot from outside and give me the chance to drive. And I think that by crashing the boards I can improve my shooting."
Larry Carter, a two-year regular at guard, is not being overlooked. His 14-point average was third best on the team last year behind Price (16.5) and Vilcheck (15.9) and his outside shooting will still be counted on. So will the reserve talents of swingman Mike Lawhon, who will be playing under a different coach for the eighth straight year. (Since Lawhon is a senior, Crum can relax.)
Defensively, the UCLA influence will be seen in one of several different pressure formations. The Cardinals pressed last year under Dromo but after his midseason heart attack they played man-to-man under interim Coach Howard Stacey.
"I feel a little bit like the bird who has left the nest," says Crum. "All my family ties are in Southern California. But I felt the time had finally come for me to set out on my own and I thought this was the best of three head-coaching opportunities available. I think I know what it takes to build a national championship contender. Now I'm going to try to do it."