Ebony and Ivory/Live together in perfect harmony.
—PAUL MCCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER
They are the best college backcourt in America—perhaps the best to come along in more than a decade—which means, of course, that like other great guard tandems before them, Mark Price and Bruce Dalrymple of Georgia Tech share the unspoken awareness of each other's every thought that often exists in twins. "How he wants to lead his life is none of my business," says Price, a senior, of Dalrymple. "I don't know everything Bruce does, and I wouldn't want to know." O.K., maybe not identical twins. But still, the kind of bond that you find between brothers. "We're about as different as any two people on this earth," says Dalrymple, a junior, of Price. "I don't even know why we play well together. We have absolutely nothing in common. Nothing." Side by side on my piano keyboard, Oh Lord, why don't we? Oh, shut up.
Though taken together Price and Dalrymple may be the best pair of guards in America, separately they represent two completely different Americas, each foreign—perhaps even unknown—to the other. Price, the sloe-eyed plainsman from Oklahoma, is the religious point guard who learned his outside game indoors, where the winds that came howling down from the panhandle and into the Dust Bowl couldn't move his jump shots around. "He's got more brass than a cannon," says Miami coach Bill Foster. "He just takes it right in your face and he shoots it deep. He's the most exciting player I know about." Price is white and sings a little bit like Paul McCartney.
Dalrymple is the free-spirited ghetto blaster who learned his ferocious inside game outside on the playgrounds of Harlem. "The wind blew all the time up there, too," Dalrymple says, "but we didn't have any indoor courts to play on, so we just took it to the hole." In the second of Georgia Tech's three victories over North Carolina last season, the Tar Heels placed 6'10" forward Joe Wolf on Dalrymple to try to keep him off the boards. He still ended up with eight rebounds, five steals and 15 points. Dalrymple is black and, from the outside, shoots a lot like Stevie Wonder.
Georgia Tech finished 27-8 last season, with Price and Dalrymple leading the way to the Yellow Jackets' first-ever ACC tournament championship. Price has been named to nearly every preseason All-America team, with the singular exception of Playboy's, for which he declined to pose. Tech also got its first NCAA bid in 25 years, and came within a game (a 60-54 loss to Georgetown) of making the Final Four. Had it not been for Price's uncharacteristic 3-for-16 shooting performance against the Hoyas—he was 9 for 12 two days earlier against Illinois—Tech might have sneaked off with the national championship.
Bobby Cremins, the gray-haired, 38-year-old Georgia Tech coach, believes that much of his team's success is a result of good chemistry, although he admits that at first he wasn't sure how well Price and Dalrymple were going to get along. "To tell you the truth, I thought there would be a problem with them," Cremins says. "Price will take care of his business. I don't have to worry about him. Mark's only problem is that every church in Atlanta wants him to come sing in its choir. The kid's a trip. The first time I saw him singing on TV, I flipped. But Dalrymple's another story, a challenge. I worry a lot about Bruce. He likes to party and he likes the women. You have to stay on top of him every minute."
"Bruce and I used all the publicity to our benefit," says center John Salley. Salley and Dalrymple roomed together for two years before Salley, who is Tech's 7-foot center, began to worry that he was dissipating himself so fast there might not be anything left by the time he was ready to peddle himself to the pros next year. Their exploits backfired when Salley and Dalrymple each invited three women to a single home game last season, then realized there might be a logistical problem when they found out all six women were waiting for them in the same place.
"This was my own negligence for listening to Bruce," says Salley. He and Dalrymple sent word to their retinue that Salley had been asked to make an appearance live on the 11 o'clock news; then they sneaked out the back way. "It was a good thing we got out of there, too," Salley says, "because those girls were about to square off. One of them would say, 'Bruce and John better get here soon because I'm getting hungry,' and then another one would say something about how she was tired of waiting for us, and all the time their voices were getting louder and louder."
The voices of the four earnest-looking men singing at the front of the room in the Emmanuel Baptist Church climbed like homesick angels, bound for glory and hoping to get there in the same key. They were headed toward the pearly musical gates near the top notes of the traditional gospel song Walk Dem Golden Stairs, much to the delight of about 350 mostly spellbound adolescents.
When the quartet had finished singing, Mark Price's younger brothers, Matt and Brent, and his father, Denny, left him alone on the stage to sing his solo and to talk. Most of the time Price looks as if he has just been awakened from a long nap, and he is the last person you might expect to get up in front of a roomful of restless teenagers to entertain. "Mark has always been a real quiet, serious-minded person," says his mother, Ann. "It's very hard for Mark to verbalize his feelings. He's so quiet you just never know what he's thinking." And yet he seems to light up when he sings. "He's like a different person when he's singing about the Lord," says his girlfriend, Laura Marbut. "I think he feels like everything else in his life disappears then, and he kind of glows."