Basketball players hovering at or near 7 feet were very much in the news in Southern California during the last week or two. Bill Walton. UCLA's 6'11" sophomore genius, received a flood of press and electronic attention after he was arrested during an antiwar protest in front of a college building. A campus official said, "The only person we could sec from inside was Walton. The rest were all too small to be seen over the chairs, trash cans and benches piled against the doors." Los Angeles police ordered the demonstrators to disperse, and then moved in and made arrests. Walton, one of the first taken into police custody, was held for several hours until his brother Bruce, a UCLA football player, bailed him out.
Whether the arrest will affect Walton's basketball career is not yet known. University officials said the incident would be investigated and appropriate decisions made. In the past such procedures have taken months, but eventually some students have been disciplined. Basketball Coach John Wooden, asked what might happen to Walton, replied, "That's not in my bailiwick. It's out of season, and a student's conduct is out of my hands." He also said, "I was not surprised Bill was involved in the demonstration. He is an emotional youngster, and you know where he stands all the time. He is very much against the war."
Some of those who saw the showdown between police and students say Walton was heeding the order to disperse but did not move fast enough. "It was like a three-second violation," one said. "He got caught in the key."
Farther south, in San Diego, a 7-foot high school senior named Ralph Drollinger, who had been eagerly sought by more than 200 colleges, held a press conference to announce that he was going to follow Walton, who is also from the San Diego area, to UCLA. An assistant coach from San Diego State, who had been trying to recruit Drollinger, emotionally attacked the boy's decision (and later called reporters to apologize for the scene he created). Asked if there had been illegal offers or under-the-table suggestions, the 19-year-old Drollinger said, candidly, "Oh, yes. But it was kind of like breaking rules and not breaking them because the illegal stuff, the gifts and things, were offered by booster clubs and not the schools."
Had he ruled these schools out of consideration because of such offers?
His mother said, "Actually, I think UCLA followed the rules as close as anybody."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," the youngster smilingly commented.