Dr. Drayton Miller was coaching the Jacksonville University freshmen last year when he was approached by a member of the school's Century Club. The Super Six, as the freshman team was called—on it were six high school All-Americas—was on its way to the lockers after scoring 93 points and the man was upset that he had missed seeing them play. "Why did you start early?" he asked Miller. "We began on time," was the reply. "Stick around and watch the second half." The Baby Dolphins finished with 153 points and by the time the season was over had broken every school record for a 25-game schedule. The team received so much publicity that a 10-minute film clip was shown on a major television network. "No matter where I go," says Don Beasley, another assistant coach and recruiter, "people tell me they saw that film and they want to know if we really are going to be that good this year."
Head Coach Tom Wasdin also wonders. "I know we are young and strong and quick," he says, "but how do we gain experience? There is only one way and that is under the gun." And against the sternest schedule the school has yet attempted. "Our goal each year is a postseason tournament and I don't want people saying, 'How good can they be? They don't play anyone,' " Wasdin says. And then the awfulness of that statement strikes him. Doing a double take, he adds: "I am afraid of that schedule. We are in three tournaments in December. We'll know our fate by the New Year."
For starters, Wasdin has Henry Williams, one of the better sophomores in the country. The brother of Jim Williams, who played at Temple and in Italy, he is a 6'6" 220-pounder who handles the ball like Walt Frazier. "He will take a 30-footer at the end of a close game and tip in the rebound if he misses," says Miller. Williams and sophomores Ricky Coleman and Shawn Leftwich all played on a Pennsylvania All-Star team that beat the best from the rest of the country in Pittsburgh's annual Dapper Dan tournament two years ago.
Jimmie Clark, Dave Stowers and Mike Denney were the other members of the Super Six. Coleman, who was expected to start at one guard, has been slow in recovering from a knee operation, so Clark will share the position with the experienced George Scholz. Leftwich and junior-college addition Butch Taylor will share the low-post spot. Both are quick, love to reject opponents' shots and score well themselves.
But these are only the new men. It is not as though the team that rose to national prominence several years ago suddenly found itself fresh out of able bodies. Indeed, Leon Benbow and Abe Steward, starters on last year's 23-8 varsity, return, Benbow at wing and Steward at the high post, which he shares with Bob Nylin. Steward led the team in rebounding. "We're hungry, fast and we want to play," he says. So what do you feed a young, hungry Dolphin? Why, all those Cougars and Owls and Friars on that schedule—and then hope like mad that he has an iron constitution.
When Frank McGuire greeted his team for the first time in Carolina Coliseum last month he intended nothing more exciting than a round of handshakes and a rudimentary drill or two. But also awaiting McGuire on a Sunday afternoon that should have belonged to the World Series telecast were 4,000 Gamecock loyalists. "I thought they'd be pretty disappointed if we did nothing more than shoot layups," said McGuire. "With that kind of turnout, I felt the least we could do was hold a scrimmage." That was the very least that they did. McGuire and his players had the crowd hungrily awaiting the opening game by the time they finished.
That the freshmen played the veterans to a standoff was the big news since South Carolina, having lost some of its finest players, is counting on newcomers this year. Although there are enough quality returnees to breed optimism, too, 7' Danny Traylor frankly wishes Tom Riker was still around. "If things don't go well I can expect a lot of criticism," says Traylor. "Comments like 'Traylor's not hustling enough.' I just hope people realize how tough it's going to be without Riker here. This is the first time in several years we haven't had two real big guys."
Fortunately, Traylor's abilities are not as modest as his outlook. He led South Carolina in rebounding and blocked shots while averaging 14.3 points per game. The greater emphasis on guard play is sound strategy since South Carolina will have one of the best backcourts in the country. Olympian Kevin Joyce, who led the U.S. team's refusal to accept the silver medal following the controversial loss to Russia, will be joined by his former New York City high school teammate, Brian Winters. Both outstanding athletes, they can also serve on the front line. "The great thing about Brian," says Joyce, who expects to improve on his 18.3 scoring average, "is that he doesn't mind giving up a little bit of his game to help me." The fact is, however, both Joyce and Winters can and will produce points and leadership.
The forwards will be inexperienced Rick Mousa, who looks promising despite the fact that he scarcely played last year—McGuire-coached teams tend to rely on their five starters, treating substitutes as though they were the flu—and a pair of sophomores, smooth Tommy Cox and powerful Clyde Agnew. McGuire believes he must also find room for freshman Alex English, a member of the largest and possibly best class he's ever recruited. English, a slender 6'8", is not one of the New York imports who always make their way to McGuire but, for a rare change, a local product from Columbia. "He's a young Bill Russell," says Frank.