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November 27, 1978
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November 27, 1978

The Top 20

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Back in the days when Sly was presumably unconscious and uninterested, he did not do too badly for himself. As a sophomore last season, he averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds a game and led the Rams in six offensive and two defensive categories. With 27 points and nine rebounds, he single-handedly almost knocked off Duke in an early round of the NCAAs. In losing 63-62 to the Blue Devils, the Rams came within two points of having an open road to the final four of the national tournament. Unhappily, without Sly, Rhode Island's chances of being a success this year are nil. He must stay interested and, on some nights, play unconsciously for Rhode Island to surpass last season's 24-7 record.

The Rams' most obvious weakness is the absence of a tested point guard to replace Jiggy Williamson, who before graduating ran their 1-3-1 offense. The candidates are Nick Johnson, a 6-footer who averaged 3.1 points last year; 5'10" Vic Bertuglio, a 2.7 scorer; and Kevin Whiting, a 6'2" freshman who averaged more than 30 points a game as a high school senior. Kraft has even toyed with the idea of using Sly at the point, which would give him a lineup in which everyone would be 6'4" or taller, but it would probably take a spectacular failure by the three smaller men to prompt Kraft to sacrifice Williams' baseline scoring.

Irv Chatman, 6'8", is solid at center, especially on defense. However, he was only second, to Williams, among the Rams in rebounding last season, and he must improve his board work if the team is to run consistently, as Kraft hopes it will. John Nelson will probably start at small forward, and because he is a gifted outside shooter—he hit 54% of his shots last year—he may be moved to guard in a pinch. That would open a frontcourt spot for Jimmy Wright, who is better than his 33% shooting from the field indicates, or freshman Roland Houston, an all-stater whom Kraft, formerly of Villanova, hustled out of Philadelphia.

The man who could join with Sly to clinch a spot in the rankings for Rhode Island by season's end is 6'5" Forward Gilson DeJesus of São Paulo and the Brazilian national team. The crafty Kraft mumbles on about how it might take all year for DeJesus to adjust to American-style ball. Some of the Rams, who played against him during a South American tournament last summer, are sure DeJesus can be their savior sooner than that.

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