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Please pardon Bob Zuffelato for smiling. Any coach would wear a big grin if he had recruited Tom Meggers, a 6'9" high school All-America who averaged 34 points and 14 rebounds as a senior.
Please excuse Zuffelato for smiling again. He also has Pat Holmes, a 6'7" center who shot 60% in high school.
Please forgive Zuffelato one last time. The excuse is freshman Ernie Cobb, a 5'11" guard who both looks and plays a lot like fellow-Connecticuter Calvin Murphy.
Zuffelato also gets considerable pleasure from the sight of two other freshmen, 6'7" Forward Michael Bowie and Guard James Jackson.
Last season those five had a combined scoring average of 142 points a game. And Zuffelato has a fine group of holdovers led by 6'6" senior Forwards Will Morrison (17.6 points) and Bob Carrington (20.9). Morrison, a Honduran, has an extremely accurate off-the-top-of-his-head juniper from the corners and the key. If those shots do not stagger opponents, something else is sure to: the heavy dose of odorous body liniment Morrison rubs on before each game.
Carrington, Zuffelato says, "is like a snake around the basket. And late last season he had about six excellent games on defense. To join the pros he needs just one thing: heart." Carrington's disinclination to give 100% is something 6'10" Center Bill Russell Collins will work on. "When I was named captain, I thought, 'I'll have done my job if I can just once get Bob to dive for the ball," he says. Collins, a happy-with-either-hand hooker, will do other things, too. Last season he scored 13.4 points a game and topped the Eagles with 55% shooting and a 10.4 rebound average.
Two players, ball handler Mel Weldon and 6'11" Paul Berwanger, are gone from a year ago, when the Eagles were 21-9. But Zuffelato is banking on the playmaking of junior Guard Mike Shirey to ease Weldon's departure. He also has improved shooting and speed, and a fine sixth man in 6'5" Jeff Bailey.
But the Eagles will not soar until Zuffelato begins to get the best out of the freshmen. "It's not easy working with new talent because you have to find out what attitudes the players have about life and about the game," he says. "But every kid has a moose call, and if you can find the right call to reach him, then you can build a team."
Zuffelato is working on his moose calls, and still smiling.