About that missed shot against Houston, no one need feel sorry for Bird. He finished the game with 44 points, and Indiana State still had a 25-3 season. It was a pretty good beginning for a 20-year-old sophomore.
What makes Greg Sanders so much fun to watch? Mostly it's the way he gallivants around the court without apparent common sense. If the spirit moves him, he may launch a rainbow from beyond the top of the key—a description that fits his crucial basket in St. Bonaventure's surprising final-game victory in the NIT last March. Or he might fly down the lane and try to jam one in over some 7-footer. The prayer shot from deep in the corner with four other guys hanging all over him is also in Sanders' repertoire. And besides, he is a lefty, and everybody knows that a left-handed shot never looks as dependable as the other kind.
But what Bonnies' Coach Jim Satalin thought was the most fun about Sanders' game last season was his .586 shooting percentage. Despite his unorthodox play, Sanders has been a model of consistent improvement at St. Bonaventure. He shot .518 as a freshman, coming off the bench to hit 10 of 13 in his first game. As a sophomore, he moved up to .559, buoyed by a torrid 86-for-122 streak that included 30 points against Notre Dame. He topped off last year with a 14-for-23 afternoon in the NIT finals, good for 40 points and the tournament MVP award. A 6'6" 190-pounder from Fairmont Heights, Md., he nearly broke the Bonnies' single-season field-goal-percentage mark of .588 set by Bob Lanier, another deadly lefthander, who worked considerably closer to the basket.
By his own admission, Sanders is usually off-balance when he shoots. But his jumper used to look even shabbier when he kicked his legs back and faded away at the same time, in the manner of Dick (Fall Back, Baby) Barnett. The kicking stopped when Sanders decided it looked silly; the fadeaway faded only after he nearly broke his back while practicing a shooting drill between two chairs.
"Because I call myself Mr. G, people think I'm cocky," says Sanders. "Naw. It's just a personal psych-up to keep me on top of my game. When I shoot the ball I always make a ssshhh-OOO! sound. Then this index finger here, like an automatic part of my follow-through, starts waggling. That means, 'Count it.' "
Let's see now. Phil Ford, hmmmm. Peppery little No. 12 with the jitterbug moves and the nonstop enthusiasm. He can't still be in college, can he? No way. Must have started playing ball for North Carolina about 1970. Probably in his third year in the NBA by now. At least that's the way it seems. Where were you when Ford:
?Scored 27 and 29 points in the 1977 NCAAs before he sustained an elbow injury that cost Carolina a good chance of beating Marquette in the finals.
?Led UNC in scoring (18.6/18.7) and assists (7.0/6.6) the past two seasons.