SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
November 27, 1972
The season greets two new classes, sophomore and freshman. In a year of radical change, they could turn the old power structure inside out
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 27, 1972

A Time To Bless The Beasts And Freshmen

The season greets two new classes, sophomore and freshman. In a year of radical change, they could turn the old power structure inside out

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

Just as quickly as Washington and other large rebounders can return for 1972-73, however, they will be outglamoured by an astonishing number of talented backcourt men. For if this is a year of anything, it is a year of the guard. Besides Lamar and Collins, there are Johnny Neumann of Mississippi and Brian Taylor of Princeton. Whoops, scratch them; they don't live here anymore. Pros got 'em. There are Ed Ratleff of Long Beach, Kevin Joyce of South Carolina and Richard Fuqua of Oral Roberts. Virginia has Barry Parkhill, UCLA has Larry Hollyfield, Providence has Ernie DiGregorio, Marshall has Mike D'Antoni. Michigan's Henry Wilmore, Memphis State's Larry Finch, Ohio State's Allan Hornyak and North Carolina's George Karl are others—and those are just the seniors.

Coaching is sure to rear its heterogeneous head anew this winter as a vanguard of well-groomed, double-knitted and personable young fellows continue to assert themselves in what has turned into one of the most personally vicious businesses extant. What will college basketball do without Adolph Rupp? Miss him, above all. But the new Kentucky coach, Joe Hall, moves into a promising situation. As do Gale Catlett ( Cincinnati), Glenn Potter ( Brigham Young) and, at New Mexico, Norm Ellenberger, who has movie-star looks, a beautiful wife and a new school color, turquoise. Another color will be prominent when John Thompson, Fred Snowden, Ron Smalls and Lefty Driesell's former assistant, George Raveling, join Will Robinson of Illinois State as black coaches of major college teams—at Georgetown, Arizona, LIU and Washington State, respectively. Thompson and Snowden will rely on freshmen right away, Smalls is just 26 years old and Raveling may win some games on his charisma alone. Nobody will be surprised if Raveling's first proclamation out of Pullman is accompanied by Hail to the Chief chimes, V-signs and the words "We want to be the Maryland of the West."

What all of this means is that even while college basketball stumbles its way through the trauma of having its outstanding players raped away by that old devil greed, and at the same time the sport suffers the recurring embarrassment of total domination by a single team, it is undergoing a vast metamorphosis. Hopefully, this will insure that a UCLA-type tyranny never recurs. Right in the middle of this transformation are the freshmen. And right in the middle of them is a 6'4" native of Bridgeport, Conn. named Walter Luckett (see cover).

One of the things the freshman-eligible rule has accomplished right away—and should continue to accomplish in the future—is a scatter-shot equalization of talent across the map. A young man goes to school where he can play—right now and a lot—and sometimes there is no room for him on a big-name campus. Any coach would make room for a Luckett or some others of this year's tall rookies—Major Jones, Robert Parish, Edmond Lawerence or Eugene Short. Yet these players selected relatively unknown schools. Jones joined his approximately 37 or so brothers at Albany (Ga.) State while Parish is at Centenary, Lawerence at McNeese State and Short at Jackson State. Three other fine big men chose to do their thing on football campuses, Leon Douglas at Alabama, Ira Terrell at SMU and Alvan Adams at Oklahoma. How quickly this latter trio blossoms will go a long way toward determining their teams' conference races. But give any one of the seven men to, say, Providence, and the Friars would be that much closer to a national championship.

Luckett, a smooth, uncommonly mature swingman who broke just about every state scoring record while at Kolbe High School and is acclaimed for his unselfish, complete game rather than for his points, turned down many offers from more famous colleges to attend Ohio University. This is the same Ohio U. of the pleasantly different Mid-American Conference that upsets all those Big Ten teams early each season before being rudely slammed back to Athens by some NCAA tournament opponent in March. The team plays in an attractive, 13,000-seat Convocation Center, green all around. It wins some, then loses some. And Luckett loved it.

"I'll be frank," he says. "My father discussed with me where I should go. We thought about what many great players do—they go to be big fish in small ponds and I liked that. I didn't want to be a number. I wanted to be recognized. Look here, I had surgery on my knee this summer. I was behind everybody. But they waited for me here. They waited to work me in. You think the big names would have done that? Man, UCLA and Maryland have so many stars they'd forget me or send me home.

"Last year this team stunk on ice," he says, "but I swear, we'll be tough now. They get the ball to me in our two-guard front and I will positively freak. I mean, I will drive those rascals wild."

Coach Jim Snyder, whose team shared the MAC championship last season, says he will open the offense for Luckett; he is very aware of his star's value. "What Walter can do for us is raise the program to a point where other blue chip players will want to come here. I'm not going to hold him back."

"Forty points a game is unrealistic," says the young celebrity, who averaged 39 last season. "But I'll tell you this. I'm shooting it. I'll get 15 just hanging around, but I'm shooting it. The people be raisin' hell in the stands and lovin' it. I know Ohio gets second-best in publicity around here because of Ohio State. But we've beaten them two straight and we can do it four more straight. I'll be followed here. I'll be known. I hope I can take the school with me."

Here is an obvious situation where a freshman refused fitting-in at a big place for the chance to turn a small place around (albeit Ohio didn't have far to turn). Other examples abound, including a rejection of UCLA by Steve Copp, a San Diego lad whom the Bruins wanted badly but who opted for his hometown school, San Diego State.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4