SI Vault
Kent Hannon
November 28, 1977
Even in the precise terms used in physics, the endeavor seems so fraught with variables as to preclude any chance for consistent success. What we refer to here is the act of propelling a 22-ounce sphere 9.5 inches in diameter through a metal circle only 18 inches in diameter, located 10 feet off the ground and 20 feet away. A mathematician might go about solving the problem by using the following equation (written by Enoch J. Durbin, professor of aerospace and mechanical sciences at Princeton):
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November 28, 1977

An Idea That's Gotten Way Off The Ground

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Williams' season percentage was .498, remarkable for a scoring champ who fires mostly 22-footers, squeezing them out of an unorthodox two-handed grip in front of his forehead in order to negotiate the long distance between himself and the basket. He has speed aplenty and will gladly drive when he gets the opportunity, but perhaps the best indicator of Williams' all-round ability came this summer when Crum thought enough of his ball-handling and passing skills to choose him as the point guard on the victorious U.S. World University Games team. He beat out the more experienced Perry of Holy Cross for the job.

Williams averaged only 10.9 points per game in Bulgaria, but knows that every one of them was more important to his future than the 71 he rang up in one game last season against Southern Oregon.


The main reason Marvin Delph's story is recounted here is to keep his confidence up. After all, the other members of Arkansas' vaunted "Three Musketeers" were in the limelight during the off-season. Moncrief starred on the World University Games team and Brewer appeared in Playboy as an All-America candidate. Obviously, Marvin needs something of his own to brag about as the season begins in Fayetteville.

Usually found on the perimeter of the Razorbacks' offense, Delph plays bigger than his 6'4" and, like Brewer and Moncrief, benefits from a lot of favorable matchups as a result. He was second on the team in rebounding last season and also jumped center. No wonder. Delph can rise more than three feet off the floor from a standing start and has a pair of 41-inch arms. Those assets are not the reasons he is such a superb shooter, but they certainly add other dimensions to his game.

"With complete freedom, Marvin could lead the nation in scoring," says Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton. "He led our well-balanced team with 19.7 points per game. He shot .533 and hits from 30 feet as well as he does from 15. He's got weird-looking form—cranks the ball way up and behind his head, then slingshots it up there. But he's no Heinz 57 Varieties man. He delivers it the same way every time, so I'm not going to say a word about it."

Delph was the driving force behind Arkansas' memorable comeback against Tulane, scoring 23 points and dropping in a long, acrobatic jumper to tie the score. In five scoring duels with Houston's Otis Birdsong—who completed his eligibility last spring with a 24.4 career average and then was picked second in the NBA draft—Delph won three, including a matchup last season in which he erupted for 24 points in the second half.

"Even though Arkansas is a big football state, I grew up with pictures of West, Robertson and Charlie Scott on my wall," he says. "Maybe that's how I got such a funny shot—trying to copy the Big O. Even now, if the coaches don't keep an eye on me in practice, I'll start imitating another player."

The way Delph is going, maybe everybody ought to be imitating him.

Where will all this hotter and hotter shooting lead? LSU's Brown, a fanatic on personal motivation in athletes, thinks he has discovered a unique method for driving the Tigers' shooting percentages up. He has hired a doctoral candidate in experimental psychology to conduct team seminars on relaxation and mental imagery. Twice a week, LSU's players will lie down in the dressing room at Assembly Center, close their eyes and listen to shooting instructions spoken in a soothing voice. At the same time, they will be asked to picture the mechanics of their shot and to "see" the ball swishing through the net 200 times in a row.

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