"No," he said.
" Swen Nater," said Walton. "It really helps me to play against him every day in practice."
The Bruins' new superstar comes from a supersized clan. His father, a director in the San Diego Department of Public Welfare, is 6'4". Older brother Bruce, a starting offensive tackle for UCLA's football team, is 6'6" and 250 pounds (Bill weighs only 210). Younger brother Andy, a high school junior and a promising basketball player, is 6'5" and 200. "Bill loves to eat," says his mother, who at 5'10" is a midget next to her menfolk, "but then we all do."
Bill began playing several sports as a fourth-grader at Blessed Sacrament elementary school in La Mesa, a suburb of San Diego. He liked to high-jump and play football, but by the time he got to be a freshman in high school he was concentrating almost exclusively on basketball. As a senior he led Helix High to a 33-0 record, averaged 29 points a game and made 78% of his shots from the floor. After getting a load of Walton's act, Pete Newell of the Houston Rockets said, "He may be the most dominant center ever to play basketball." Walton led the Bruin freshmen to a 20-0 record and, more important, established a solid rapport with his teammates that has carried over into this season.
The other sophomore starters are special, too. Lee, a coach's son, was the Los Angeles city high school player of the year for two straight seasons. He is the all-American boy—handsome, muscular, a straight A student. That he would attend UCLA was almost a foregone conclusion. As a youngster, he helped his father usher at Bruin home games and, says Greg, "I guess I grew up hating USC."
The youngest member of the squad is Wilkes, who will not turn 19 until next May. A minister's son, he is shy and quiet off the floor. Even during games he is so unobtrusive that people often are shocked to learn at the end that he scored 20 points. With only 167 pounds on his 6'6" frame, Wilkes is the one Bruin who is thinner than Walton. "I eat three meals a day," he says, "but I just can't seem to get my weight up." Says Wooden, in his best church-deacon manner, "When I'm inclined to wish that he were older and heavier, it is a failure on my part to count my blessings because he has so many fine qualities just as he is." Amen.
This season's UCLA team began to take shape during the summer, when Wooden spent countless hours and "about 20 or 30 notebooks" devising an offense tailored to his new team's specifications. "It's not completely different," Wooden says. "It's something I borrowed from our Alcindor teams, plus what we did when we didn't have him, plus a few wrinkles." Generally, it is a modified 1-2-2 setup with Lee playing the point, Bibby and Farmer spread out on the wings and Wilkes and Walton setting up under the basket on opposite sides of the foul lane. Often it quickly becomes a 1-3-1 arrangement with Wilkes breaking out to set up a high post at the foul line.
"The idea is to put each player where he can work to maximum efficiency," says Wooden. "I knew Walton would accept it because the principal feed is to him. We needed a quick kid who is a good shooter for the high post, and that was Wilkes. Lee has strong hands and he is an unselfish passer, so he was our point man. And it suits Bibby to a T because he does not have to bring the ball up the floor, as he did last year; he is getting his shots from the side, where he hits best." The other wingman, Farmer, was not pulling his weight in the early season, but against Texas he began to find himself, working inside or hitting short jumpers for 16 points.
Wooden revived an old friend—the fast break—to take advantage of this team's overall quickness and, mainly, Walton's extraordinary ability to dominate the defensive boards and throw the quickest outlet pass this side of Wes Unseld. After leaping high to grab a rebound, Walton likes to spin in the air and fire off a bazooka shot to a teammate dashing madly up the floor. Says Bibby, who often is on the receiving end of Walton's heaves, "I think Bill enjoys that more than any other part of the game." Adds Wooden, "He could be the best I've ever seen at throwing the outlet pass."