Pellom will defend his rebounding title, but Indiana State junior DeCarsta
(Byrd) Webster could nose him out, having once hit his nose on the rim during a
game. Also back to defend titles will be Arkansas' Sidney Moncrief (field goal
percentage), Loyola's Tad Dufelmeier (free-throw percentage) and Texas Coach
Abe Lemons (joke percentage). Lemons moves from Pan American and hopes to
rebuild a broken program; Eldon Miller, who coached Western Michigan so well
last season, is trying to do the same thing with a new chalkboard at Ohio
State. For another coach, the switch is a bit different. Ray Scott, who coached
the Detroit Pistons last year, is now at Eastern Michigan, where he also is a
student. Can a coach be put on probation for poor grades?
This season could
be remembered for something besides victories. The recent merger of the NBA and
ABA may have dealt a mortal blow to the hardship draft. True, Washington and
Dantley were among the seven players that left college early via the NBA draft,
but that figure is only half of the 1975 total. Also, Green of Michigan,
Marques Johnson of UCLA and King of Tennessee all reneged on their desires for
W-2 forms and withdrew their names from the draft. "The merger is the best
thing that has happened," said Tennessee Coach Ray Mears.
Mears made that
statement several months ago, relieved that he would have King back to
challenge for the SEC championship. Since then, King has run afoul of the law
for everything but slurping his soup, the offenses being mostly a series of
minor transgressions that always seem to involve his automobile. After the most
recent violation, Mears suspended King for at least the first three games and,
subsequently, checked into a hospital suffering from what was described as
nervous exhaustion. Did King's flirtation with the pros mess up his head?
Maybe. Maybe not. Marques Johnson admits his own experience—Denver offered him
a huge contract, but withdrew it just before the merger—left him disillusioned.
"I was ready to be a pro," he says. "Then I got the bomb from
Denver. It was a downer at first. It was hard to get myself to accept the fact
I'd be going through the college scene again. Now I'm just trying to make it
click. This year probably will determine my fate for the rest of my
The ABA started
signing underclassmen in 1969. Spencer Haywood, a junior at the University of
Detroit and an Olympic hero, was the first to go. A year later Ralph Simpson
signed out of Michigan State. The NBA began its ill-named hardship draft in
1971, selecting Phil Chenier ( California), Nate Williams ( Utah State), Tom
Payne ( Kentucky) and Cyril Baptiste (Creighton). The last two are no longer in
"I never felt
it was to the advantage of the kids," says Louisville Coach Denny Crum. His
freshman hotshot, Darrell Griffith, reportedly was offered a million dollar
contract to jump straight from high school to the pros, the route chosen by
Bill Willoughby ( Atlanta) and Darryl Dawkins ( Philadelphia) the previous year.
"It's a question now of whether they'll ever develop sitting on the bench.
Agents create more problems than they're worth, so we've never had them around
here. They were trying to talk Darrell Griffith into turning pro last summer.
Now that the big dollar is gone for the agents, they're going to have to find
someone else to prey on."
The agents are
particularly nettlesome to the coaches. The Big Eight has barred them from
campuses. Coach George Raveling of Washington State caught one last year in a
motel room with two of his seniors on the day of a game, showing them pro
basketball films. His center, Steve Puidokas, a senior this year, is a prime
target. "He must have heard from every agent from here to Tibet," says
Raveling. "He got one letter addressed 'Dear Player.' The guy didn't even
bother to use the kid's name."
lost three players to the pros via hardship—Jim Chones, Larry McNeill and
Maurice Lucas. "My biggest hangup about it is there's no return," says
Coach Al McGuire. "If a kid gives up the rest of his education and he gets
cut, he becomes a Kamikaze pilot. His life could be ruined."
And players do
get cut. Jacky Dorsey, a freshman at Georgia last year, was dropped by the New
Orleans Jazz. Skip Wise left Clemson in 1975 following his freshman year and
signed with Baltimore of the ABA. The team never played a regular-season game,
and Wise was cut most recently by Golden State. Fly Williams, Coniel Norman,
Raymond Lewis—be gone. Of the 60 to 70 players who signed as underclassmen in
the last six years, perhaps a dozen are playing pro buckets regularly.
draft has even influenced college coaches' recruiting. Frank Arnold of Brigham
Young says that if he learns that a recruit is thinking about leaving school
early, he drops him. Long Beach Coach Dwight Jones lost Clifton and Roscoe
Pondexter to the pros: Roscoe was cut and Clifton is making only a ripple with
the Chicago Bulls. "I take a look at the great prospect now," Jones
says, "but I'm not going to overextend myself in time and effort and energy
if I fear he might bug out and sign a pro contract after a year or so. I'd much
rather have a guy with a little less talent that I know I'm going to keep four
player plans to go hardship, he doesn't blend in with the rest of the
program," says Lake Kelley, the coach at Austin Peay. After the 1973-74
season, Fly Williams quit school and signed with the Spirits of St. Louis.
"A player's mind is elsewhere," says Kelley. "He's not a team
player. He has to score as many points as possible to attract the