Above all, the Bruins are human. They have a good time.
Keith Wilkes is a baby-faced, excruciatingly quiet, Baptist minister's son from Santa Barbara. He is a smooth, graceful junior forward, an intelligent man who does everything with eminent style. His teammates josh him about his age (he is only 19) and call him "Young Keith" or "Jackson," which is his first name. Nobody ever knows he is around except the ladies. The ladies dig Young Keith. Next to Bill Walton he may be UCLA's most valuable man and he certainly is one of the most underrated players on any campus. But Keith Wilkes will never receive the individual attention he deserves while playing at UCLA.
Pete Trgovich is a lank, bony, ugly duckling of a 6'5" sophomore who comes from East Chicago, Ind. His attitudes and outlook reflect that part of the country and his eyes are still being opened wide by what goes on in Los Angeles. "The Dan Ryan Expressway was never like this," he says. "There are so many good-looking skirts around." And he just found out last week that if he goes into Hollis Johnson's drugstore there in Westwood from the back instead of from the front he can get his cheeseburgers and shakes free while sitting on a wooden crate by the delivery entrance. He found out that Hollis takes care of UCLA basketball players. At most any other school he already would have made the starting team and become famous. In recent weeks at UCLA Pete Trgovich has averaged about seven minutes a game.
Andre McCarter averages zero minutes. He is from Philadelphia, another sophomore. When he saw he would have to share playing time this season with Lee and Curtis at the point, he decided to sit out the year. McCarter is confident enough to believe he could have made All-America at some other place right away. He knows he is better than Lee or Curtis. So does Lee. So does Curtis. So does John Wooden. But because McCarter does not as yet fit well into the UCLA system, he redshirts.
McCarter is perceptive about this arrangement. He says it is better for the team that he stay out. He says he has purposely taken some of the values off basketball so that he can cope. Yet he is the first man out to practice every day and he works on his moves for half an hour in solitude. When he went home for Christmas where everybody knows how good he is, all his friends and the journalists in the East asked McCarter what was wrong and why he didn't leave UCLA. That made him feel better; somebody cared. Tom Hawkins, the former pro player and now an announcer, had McCarter on TV in L.A. the day after he made the painful decision to sit out. Beforehand Hawkins asked him if he wanted to criticize the coach and the system, or pass it over. McCarter, who is not unhappy but not particularly ecstatic either, passed it over. He said it was worth it to wait and play at UCLA.
"The way everything runs the course here, it is worth it," The Seniors were saying. The Seniors had been through the mill themselves. Two years ago they played behind Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and hardly got in the games. One of them accepted it with equanimity. The other one continued to grumble. Now Larry Farmer, the former, and Larry Hollyfield are the wizened veterans at UCLA. Both start the games and play most of the way.
The Seniors were eating bagels on a Sunday morning in the living room of Sam Gilbert, a wealthy contractor and UCLA alumnus who lives in Pacific Palisades in a storybook house that overlooks the ocean and is occupied by antiques from all over the world. Gilbert advises the players on professional contracts, and he and his wife Rose have twin Mercedes parked outside with license plates "Papa G" and "Mama G." For Christmas The Seniors gave Gilbert a Rolls-Royce. It was only a transistor radio, but the first Rolls Papa G ever had.
Sam Gilbert's home is where the players come to wash their cars on Sundays, to swim, to eat Thanksgiving dinner, to get away from it all. Last Thanksgiving Bill Walton and Andre McCarter bet on which one could eat a whole pumpkin pie covered with ice cream after the turkey dinner. Walton could. McCarter tried and took a walk on the beach. This morning Farmer and Hollyfield were going easy on the food.
As contributors to the UCLA program, both have come a long way. Farmer came from Denver and had to write a letter selling himself to Westwood. It is said he was a "panic pick" by the school's recruiters in a weak year when high school players such as Allan Hornyak (later of Ohio State) and Mike Edwards (of Tennessee) had turned down UCLA. Farmer was an ROTC corps commander at Manual High in Denver, the vice-president of the Honor Society, an upstanding citizen and the world's nicest fellow. When John Wooden met Farmer for the first time he asked the youngster if he thought he was good enough to play at UCLA. Farmer said he was; the school granted him a scholarship.
Farmer is called "Moose" by the UCLA student body because he watches Bullwinkle the Moose cartoons. He is given to elegant clothes—suedes, leathers, plaid capes, multi-toned shoes and wide-brimmed hats. Since his outfits appear only on game nights, however, there is jocular speculation that Farmer rents them solely for special occasions. During the school day he wears old T shirts and his UCLA letter jacket.