As a freshman, Campy Russell averaged a point for every minute he played on a 12-0 team that beat the varsity late in the season. That varsity finished 14-10, quite a record considering that Coach Johnny Orr had to do without 6'10" Center Ken Brady for the first dozen games and without Wilmore for four.
Brady, the conference's leading percentage shooter as a sophomore, and Wilmore, its highest scorer over the last two years, are the senior co-captains and both are anxious to take something of value with them when they leave, like a championship. So are Forwards John Lockard and Ernie Johnson, who combined for 26 points and 19 rebounds a game in 1971. They are joined by sophomore Joe Johnson, a superfly who will play guard alongside Wilmore in a first-six alignment that rivals the brothers from Minnesota in size and ability.
An excellent fellow to talk to, Orr has never been accused by his peers of being an excellent coach, and he will have to prove that he can guide all this sophomore-senior talent through a Big Ten that promises to be strongest overall in years. Michigan averaged more than 17 turnovers a game last season and Orr's idea of defense is to score a lot of points and hope for a wide victory margin. The Wolverines won big and lost big.
There is a feeling around the league that this team has so much talent it is impossible to squander. If true, Wilmore will have been smart waiting around one more year instead of signing a pro contract, and Russell in selecting Michigan over hundreds of other schools. In a way, Campy had to go to Michigan. He has been trying to live up to Cazzie's reputation since junior high. Anyway, "R-r-russell" has kind of a ring to it.
In the Astrodome and in their own stately pleasure dome, Hofheinz Pavilion, the Houston Cougars have won 26 games while losing only one over the last two seasons. On the road, perhaps troubled by jet lag, lumpy hotel mattresses or highwaymen disguised as referees, their record is a lackluster 16-12. The obvious solution—to be a constant stay-at-home and receive callers in the manner of a trap-door spider—is, by luck or design, at hand this year. Coach Guy V. Lewis' team plays 13 of its last 16 games at Hofheinz Pavilion and seems almost a certainty to be picked for the NCAA Tournament (its 10th in 14 years). If they get by one qualifying game on a neutral court, then the Cougars move to the semifinals of the Midwest Regional in—that's correct—Hofheinz Pavilion.
Chances are that even with a Harlem Globetrotters traveling schedule, this Houston team would finish among the nation's best. The Cougars lost All-America Forward Dwight Davis, a first-round draft pick by both pro leagues, but they get back and add enough frontcourt muscle and height to make people at Hofheinz forget Dwight in a hurry. The most impressive of the big men is Dwight No. 2, the homegrown Dwight Jones, a 6'10" junior who started for the U.S. Olympic team. Jones appears too slender to hold his own under the backboards, but he is deceptively strong and is tougher and more aggressive for having battled his way through Munich. He gets good practice competition from sophomore Maurice Presley, also listed at 6'10" but perhaps a full inch taller than that even without his Afro. Lewis has installed double-low post plays so he can use both stingers at the same time.
The Cougars also have two-year starting Forward Steve Newsome, one of the few top major-college basketball players to come out of the state of Mississippi, and a tall, talented freshman, David Mans, plus Sidney Edwards, who played little last year but looked good when he did. In fact, Lewis is so loaded with forwards and centers that he may move 6'9" sophomore Louis Dunbar to guard, which under ordinary circumstances could damage Houston's useful full-court press and perhaps leave it vulnerable to other teams' presses were not Dunbar so good. The son of a deputy sheriff in Minden, La., he grew up not far from Bernice, hometown of Willis Reed, and Rayville, which produced Elvin Hayes. Dunbar had impressive scoring and rebounding averages as a freshman (27.5, a school record, and 15.3) and Lewis claims, "He can handle the ball well enough to bring it downcourt on a press."
Houston pleads poverty when it comes to playmaking guards, but both starters, Jerry Bonney and Donnell Hayes, are back and they will be pushed by, among others, Ed Riska, who transferred in when Loyola of New Orleans dropped basketball, and sophomore Vinnie Caruso of Puerto Rican and Italian descent from New York City, who broke John Roche's records at LaSalle Academy. California, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Southwestern Louisiana et al., welcome to Mr. Hofheinz' friendly parlor.