Young learned the virtues of all-out aggressiveness the hard way, during a 91-78 NCAA tournament loss to Louisville last season. Convinced, he adopted the Cardinals' high-energy style for his own. Now the Scarlet Knights come on like greyhounds, not bothered at all by their lack of muscle and inconsistent outside shooting.
They have more talent than size. The only starter taller than 6'5" is Center Jim Bailey, a 6'9�" freshman who provides valuable rebounding and shot-blocking. Another frosh, 6'7" Abdel Anderson, does the same coming off the bench. Sellers and Mike Dabney, both four-year starters, are the top scorers with 21.7-and 18.8-point averages. Jordan, a 6'1" junior, a 14.3 scorer and the team leader in assists, is a defensive harasser who reminds one pro coach of the Chicago Bulls' combative Norm Van Lier. And Young thinks that sophomore Hollis Copeland, averaging 12.8 points, could be the school's best player ever before he is through.
He will have to go some to outclass Sellers, who is enjoying his fourth season as the team's leading scorer and rebounder and his first as a nice guy. The 6'5" forward is taking it easy on referees, opponents and teammates, he says, because he wants to impress the pros with his maturity. Unfortunately, not everyone is getting the message. "I don't know if I can recommend him," one scout says. "He's a good player and he works hard, but there's still a lot of bad boy in him." In a recent game Sellers showed just how much by making a steal and laughing at his opponent before scoring a layup. But his teammates see a difference, and it's a welcome one. "When I was a freshman, Phil got on me so often it was scary," says Conlin. "Now he's less critical."
Sellers has improved his game as well as his behavior. He is finally playing defense, and he is so impressed by his teammates' talents that he is willing to share the offensive load—and the credit. Three other starters have earned game-scoring honors at least once this year, and in Rutgers' toughest test so far this season, a seven-point win over Georgia Tech, it was Dabney who led with 30 points.
Young knows he was fortunate to inherit both Sellers and Dabney as sophomores, but he also feels the players he has recruited will continue Rutgers' success. "At Catholic and American I couldn't even talk to the top high school stars," Young says, "and if an ACC team became interested in anyone I wanted, I started looking elsewhere. Now I'll compete for players with anybody. Look at this newspaper," he says, pointing to a story that headlined a recent visit he made to a New Jersey town. "Now it means something when the Rutgers coach comes to see a kid play."
It can mean even more when the Rutgers team comes to town, as a couple of New York City opponents have learned lately. While Young crouched on the sideline shouting instructions through his Linus towel, the Knights scorched Fordham 93-55 and Columbia 94-65. "That's as nasty as our defense has been all year," he said after the Fordham game. Following the Columbia win, Young praised his offense, which had raced to a 61-31 lead at halftime. "That's absurd," he said. "No team should be able to do that in 20 minutes."
Rutgers was back home last weekend, defeating Bucknell 105-82. Although largely a repetition of earlier victories, it did take on special significance when Sellers, who had 19 points, set a school career scoring record of 2,047.
All three games featured significant contributions by Anderson, Conlin and the other reserves, something Rutgers rarely got last season. And that becomes increasingly important as the Knights look ahead to the tougher opposition they will face in the NCAA tournament; a team that routinely runs so hard demands bench strength. Young is now so confident of his subs that he lets his starters take themselves out when they tire.
"I keep expecting us to let up, but so far it hasn't happened," says Young. "I guess the players are enjoying themselves too much to slow down."
If that is true, it is the ideal incentive, the one all coaches seek. "We came into this game looking for a blowout," said Jordan after the Fordham victory. "That's what we always want."