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This year's starters are all black; in fact there are only three white players on the team. State could easily be mistaken for cross-town Florida A&M. But this does not bother the Southern-born Durham at all. "We're not interested in their color," he says. "We want winners and when we win everybody will be happy."
From all indications, the city of Tallahassee is in for a taste of winning, however distasteful that may appear to people whose only appetite has been for football victories. The Seminoles return four of five starters from last year's 17-9 varsity. State should be a lot better.
Lawrence McCray, a 6'11" sophomore who averaged 18.6 points and 22.2 rebounds on the freshman team, replaces FSU's one loss, 6'4" Vernell Ellzy, at low post. McCray broke Cowens' freshman rebounding record with 510 and is as good a defensive player as there is in college ball. Wingman Ron King is back. Last year he made over 50% of his shots and had a team-leading 22.7 average. At the high post is aggressive Reggie Royals, who averaged 15 rebounds each game, 13th in the nation. Rowland Garrett, the best jumper on the squad, mans the other wing. Although averaging only 12.5 points on a team that scored 91.5 (seventh in the nation), Garrett should have a strong final year. The only position that has not been settled is at the point, where tiny 5'7" Otto Petty has the edge. He was one of three good sophomores last season and set a school record with 227 assists. But he is being pushed mightily by a new sophomore, Otis Cole, who is just as aggressive as Petty, seven inches taller and a better defensive player. On offense, Cole is a slick ball handler who can also be used at the wing. Senior Ron Harris, last year's sixth man and a sometime starter the year before, and Greg Samuel, a transfer, will see plenty of action.
"All I want to do is to get the players to perform up to their capabilities," says Durham. "The wins will take care of themselves." Perhaps, but the wins Durham speaks of will not take care of themselves if the team again gives up 80.2 points a game. State has a new lease on life because after three years it is off NCAA probation for recruiting infractions and is eligible for postseason tournament play. It could be a soulful year.
Now, as Coach Frank McGuire has it, South Carolina is ' "beginning a new era." Gone are Roche and the ACC—South Carolina will play as an independent—but not even McGuire knows for sure whether the new era will be entirely beneficial to his team. Sure, at last he is free of the tournament and the ACC, but now he picks up the problems of the independents, such as scheduling and longer trips into alien country. Clemson was the only ACC team willing to play South Carolina, for instance, so McGuire had to use all his charm and contacts to line up a representative slate of opponents. On second thought, representative might not be the precise word. The Gamecocks have scheduled themselves into the likes of Marquette, St. Bonaventure, Houston and Notre Dame and they will be seen in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, the Astrodome and, of course, New York. That's representative of something, all right. Like hara-kiri.
"We're playing much tougher teams that we were in the ACC," says McGuire, unable to resist winging a barb into his former colleagues. Happily, SC will be playing them with the help of two strong Long Islanders, 6'10" senior Tom Riker and 6'3" junior Kevin Joyce. Now that he is wearing contact lenses, Riker figures to improve his 14-point scoring average. Joyce, who will inherit much of Roche's leadership responsibilities, is noteworthy for his prodigious jumping and from-the-hip shooting. Helping Riker under the board will be 7-foot junior Danny Traylor, who should be more than adequate at center once he gains experience. If Traylor develops as rapidly as expected, the new day at South Carolina ought to be a winning one—perhaps a superlative one. This year's team will run more without Roche and have more offensive movement. Nobody seems "heartbroken," as Riker puts it, about being out of the ACC. "In fact, I'm sort of happy we're out," he says. "Now we can go and see what the country looks like." If all goes well, it should look like about 23-3, wins and losses, that is. And no Russian roulette.