"The toughest thing," he says, "is I'm afraid they'd win without me."
Like most of his teammates at the University of Louisville, 6'11" Center Ricky Gallon digs soul and jazz. Unfortunately, he didn't dig his music history course, along with a few others. So Coach Denny Crum was forced to open Louisville's practice sessions on this discordant note: unless Gallon started attending class and worked to improve his grades, he would spend the season as the tallest student in the cheering section. Shaken, Gallon passed a makeup test in music history, putting him back in Crum's good graces—and back on the squad.
Without Gallon, Louisville still would have been outstanding. With him, the Cardinals have a chance to do wondrous things. Instead of using 6'6�" Wesley Cox or 6'7" Larry Williams in the pivot, Crum can play both at forward, and he can keep 6'4" Ricky Wilson at guard, where last season he was Most Valuable Player.
Crum has so much talent and experience on hand that he can afford to play it cool with Darrell Griffith, the local kid who was the No. 1 schoolboy prospect in the country last season. Although he leaps higher than anyone save Dr. J and David Thompson, Griffith may be on the bench when Louisville opens its season. Crum's intention is to nurture Griffith and his superbly talented high school partner, Bobby Turner, with the greatest of care.
"Their attitudes are great," said Crum. "So many kids are concerned with starting as freshmen that they can't see the future. But coming here, where they'll get that good competition in practice, will make both better players in the long run. Turner has the best pair of hands on the team, and Griffith, well, he does something spectacular in practice every day."
The fact that Griffith and Turner may not start is only a measure of Louisville's talent. After last season, Cox underwent tests that indicated he suffered from exercise-induced asthma, which cut down his lung capacity. Now that he has been diagnosed and treated, Cox appears ready for his finest season, as is senior playmaker Phillip Bond. Even if Bond falters, however, Crum has an outstanding passer and ball handler on the bench in Tony Branch, yet another fine freshman.
Nonetheless, Louisville will have considerable difficulty being No. 1. One reason is its killer road schedule, which includes games against Las Vegas, Marquette, North Carolina and Memphis State. Worse is the Metro Seven postseason tournament, which determines the league's NCAA representative.
But sing no sad songs for the Cardinals. Win or lose, they ought to be one of the most entertaining teams in America. With a little luck they can go to the final four for the second time in three years.