Price says his soul was saved at a revival meeting in Enid four years ago. "All those years I thought I was fine because I was going to church," he says. "But just like being in a garage doesn't make you a car, being in church doesn't make you a Christian."
At one time or another Price has invited all of his teammates to join him in church, though few have gone. Cremins, whose mother made him recite the rosary every night before bed when he was growing up in the Bronx, has adjusted his practice schedule to allow Price to attend church on Sunday morning. He has also tried to adjust his language. "The only thing I've ever done is ask him not to take the Lord's name in vain," says Price. "That's something I can't tolerate. But I don't get in people's faces and tell them they're going to hell. I can't stop loving my teammates if they don't believe the same way I do."
And certainly no one could share fewer of Price's beliefs than Dalrymple. "Bruce and I don't have that much in common," Price says, "so we don't hang around much off the court. He does what he does, and I do what I do."
The only place where Price and Dalrymple are more unalike than off the court is on it. Dalrymple is a defensive demon who roams the court looking for loose balls the way a free safety does in football. His 6.4 career rebounding average at Tech is slightly better than the springy-legged Salley's, and Dalrymple, who's 6'4", has never exactly levitated over anybody while going to the boards. "We've got a second guard who can't shoot, a point guard who's a great shooter, and neither one of us is a high jumper," says Price. "We just play real well together, and we both know what our limitations are."
Price is the classic pure jump-shooting guard, and yet he must also direct Georgia Tech's offense. "He's not the average white point guard," says Salley. "He plays like he's six-five—a Larry Bird type. If coach was to let him go, he'd have 40 a night against anybody." Although Cremins's insistence that Price diversify his game has prevented him from getting his scoring average back up to the 20.3 mark with which he led the ACC as a freshman—the only time in conference history that has happened—he has become lethal at long range.
Price is listed at six feet, though Laura, who is 5'9", says she had to stop wearing heels when they started dating. But he has had little trouble getting his shot off against taller defenders and against the loaded defenses Tech's opponents have thrown at him, primarily because of his quick release. "Because of his size," says his father, "he knew he was going to have to get it off quick." Denny Price has spent a lifetime tinkering with his son's shot, and to this day he remains a kind of shooting guru. "He's the only one who can fix my shot," Mark says.
Price's height, or lack of it, has always been of great concern to him. "When he hit 16, he really began to worry because he could see he wasn't going to grow much more," says his mother. "I remember one night sitting on the edge of his bed, visiting about things, and he said to me, 'I just hope I get to be good enough that one school will want me. Just one school.' "
Price was born in Bartlesville, Okla., where his father was playing for Phillips 66, an AAU team. Denny later went into high school coaching, and Mark never lived in one place for longer than four years when he was growing up. When Denny became disenchanted with coaching in 1979, he got into the oil well-servicing business and settled in Enid. By his senior year Mark had become the star of Enid's high school team. His size scared off most of the big colleges outside Oklahoma, but not Georgia Tech, which was then in its first season under Cremins. The year before, 1980-81, Tech had gone through a 4-23 season and was winless in the ACC; its coach, Dwane Morrison, left and became a caddie on the pro golf tour.
"I had everybody telling me how bad Georgia Tech was and asking me why would I even consider going there," Price says. During the wooing process, Tech assistant coach George Felton went to Enid 17 times to see Price play, once showing up in the middle of a blizzard so bad that the game he had gone to see was canceled. But in the end it was Cremins who captivated Price. "He had never even seen me play when he came to visit," Price says. "He came in in a green suit with that gray hair of his and talked for two hours straight. I hadn't been around many New Yorkers, and my whole family was just fascinated with the way he talked. We didn't say a word for about an hour."
"I'm a person who could have become a hoodlum and didn't," says Dalrymple, gliding through the streets of Harlem. "And I'm talking about a serious hoodlum. I'm good friends with all the pushers from 159th Street on down, and the reason I don't use drugs is because of them. They'd kill me if I did that.