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They're SECond To None
Curry Kirkpatrick
February 21, 1983
Top to bottom, Kentucky to Alabama, Southeastern Conference teams can claim more good players and greater balance than any other league in the land
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February 21, 1983

They're Second To None

Top to bottom, Kentucky to Alabama, Southeastern Conference teams can claim more good players and greater balance than any other league in the land

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•And Tennessee. Always Tennessee. The Big Orange. The elegant Ellis. The dangerous Don DeVoe, Tennessee's coach. He says Kentucky should win the SEC. He says Kentucky will win it. But DeVoe himself may be the negating factor in that equation when his team challenges the Wildcats again in Lexington on the last Sunday in February. DeVoe already has uncharacteristically lambasted his own Volunteers—"Seventh-graders can shoot better free throws than this team," he has said. "I've never had a team where a guy won't show some leadership, go up there and perform the job at the line"—but that's what the SEC will do to a guy. After the Vols won three in a row DeVoe said he would continue to wear a red tie. Red with orange? "I've never worn orange in my life," he said. "I'm not that superstitious."

No such restraint will ever infect the wandering mind of a former DeVoe assistant (at Virginia Tech), Sonny Smith, who for five years now has been the delightfully quotable, homespun coach at Auburn. Smith says he wants Barkley on the "Sonny diet—if it tastes good, spit it out." He says he wants Barkley playing at 250 pounds, "but I don't think he's ever been there." He says Barkley sometimes is called "Porkley" on the road. "Then they yell, 'Hey, Porkley, why don't you send Sonny out for some egg rolls," Smith says. "Damn, I'll buy up the whole A&P if Charles'll go get me 35 ever' night with maybe 15 'bounds."

The Round Mound of Rebound would be just another media-inspired sobriquet with no basis in truth were it not for the fact that Barkley actually ballooned up to 305 pounds during the National Sports Festival last summer. "Chocolate chips," he says. Still, he's a magnificent athlete—"our aeronautical wonder," says teammate Bryon Henson—a leaping, pirouetting hippo of a child who at week's end was third in the SEC in rebounding and was second in the entire NCAA in field-goal percentage (.667).

He has always been especially effective against Kentucky. Before last Saturday Barkley had gotten 70 points and 49 rebounds (to Turpin's 38 and 20) in four games against the Wildcats—grist for Smith's suspicions that either the Wildcats or Charles Hurt himself had plotted the Round Mound's premature dismissal.

Hall would not comment on the charge, and Hurt, who, strangely, had never covered Barkley in the past but was high-fived and congratulated by his ecstatic teammates as the Mound left the game, merely said, "It was my time to guard Barkley. We at Kentucky never set out to do that kind of thing."

Following the incident, the Tigers, especially freshman Forward Chuck Person (17 points, 10 rebounds), worked feverishly to give Auburn a 35-28 halftime lead. But, without Barkley's gargantuan frame blocking his path, Turpin soon had easy sailing through the keys. After Kentucky won the game on the rejuvenated Hord's 18-foot jump shot at the buzzer, Turpin said of Barkley, "I started feeling sorry for the kid, but yeah, I was happy to see the kid go." The kid?

Across the hall Barkley held court for the press while obviously contemplating an approaching repast. Should you have been disqualified? "Yeah. I told the ref, 'Good call.' I lost control for a few seconds. I deserved to be thrown out," he said. Were you set up? "More like made a fool of," Barkley said. What do you do now, go for the burgers or the Moon Pies? "Sure," Barkley said.

Hey, a kid's got to eat.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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