Gone from that bunch is playmaking Guard Ray Odums, whose misfortune it was to miss a wide-open layup that would have beaten Vandy early in the season. Otherwise, everything is the same, except that corn rows have taken the place of Afros as the semiofficial team hair style. Newton will replace Odums with the best player in the conference, 6'5½" senior Charles Cleveland, who has played guard off and on and will now team full time with 6'4" sophomore Theodore Roosevelt Dunn, who carries a big stick on defense and played more minutes than anybody on the team as a freshman. Newton did not recruit the big rebounding forward of his dreams, but he is happy with 6'4" Charles (Boonie) Russell and skinny 6'8" Rickey Brown. In the middle of this all-Alabama-born-and-bred lineup is the hulk, 6'10", 230-pound Leon Douglas. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last year with a .602 shooting percentage and 78 blocked shots.
Newton's bench is loaded with more Alabama folks like Johnny Dill, Anthony Murray and Leroy Russell. His opponents are going to find C. M. taking them for his special treatment at the cleaners.
Now is the time for all good Ivy Leaguers to come to the aid of their conference. For too long the critics have gone unchallenged. How, they ask, can a league play winning basketball when it does not grant athletic scholarships and tells its freshmen to go play with their friends? There are several answers, but the easiest is Pennsylvania. Competing in Philadelphia's prestigious Big Five as well as the Ivies, the Quakers attract honest-to-goodness scholar/athletes. Over the past five years they have won the titles in both groups every season and have had the country's fourth-best overall record (129-19). Only a critic-squashing big win in the NCAA tournament is missing from the Quakers' list of accomplishments. This could be the year.
For one thing, the opening round of the NCAA playoffs will be held in Penn's own gym, the Palestra. Then the action shifts to Providence for the Eastern Regional, which are being held outside the South for the first time in 18 years. But it's not just fortunate scheduling that gives Penn high hopes of becoming the first Ivy representative since Princeton in 1965 to make the NCAA's final four. Everyone important is back from last year's 21-6 team, and they should cut the losses in half, despite the possibility of playing Indiana and Hawaii in the Rainbow Classic.
The best reason for the Quakers' lofty aspirations is 6'8" senior Ron Haigler, who last year became only the sixth underclassman to be named Big Five Player of the Year. The others were Ken Durrett, John Jones, Howard Porter, Wally Jones and Guy Rodgers. Haigler averaged 17 points in a subdued patterned offense. With Coach Chuck Daly looking to a more freewheeling, run-and-gun attack this season, Haigler's neat, sweet jumpers will be showing up all over shot charts. He scores points off the court, too, where he already has rolled up enough credits to qualify as a high school English teacher.
Six-foot-eight, 215-pound junior John Engles was last season's Rookie of the Year in the East and he bulldozes his way around the basket, plowing up opponents and scooping up rebounds. Penn's most improved player, 6'11" Henry Johnson, and 6'7" Bob Bigelow, who has played every position, will compete for the other frontcourt spot, possibly with 6'6" Larry Lewis, a returning starter who has been slowed by knee injuries.
So far, so good, but the Quakers' problem rarely has been the frontcourt. Last year not even John Beecroft's outstanding free-throw shooting (87.3%) and Ed Stefanski's ball-hawking could prevent defenders from concentrating on the big men. Now joining these 6'1" holdovers is a Penn rarity, a big guard. Six-foot-four Mark Lonetto, a high school All-America who averaged 22 points a game with the Penn freshmen, may be the key to the season. "I won't be able to penetrate as freely as I did last year," he says. "I'll have to stop short and throw up the 15-footer. But I have confidence in that shot." So do his coaches.
Lonetto also was recruited by schools like Notre Dame and North Carolina State. "I'm from around here," he says. "I wanted to play in the Big Five, and Penn has by far the best academic credentials." A statement, and an athlete, to give Ivy critics the creeps.