Fortunately, there's something special for people to see. Higgs and Drake have been close friends since first grade. As kids they used to ride around town on their bikes in search of playground games. At night they'd go watch Wesleyan play and cash in the free burger coupons in the game programs others left in the stands. But when it came time to choose a place of their own to play, the two local schoolboy heroes signed conference letters of intent with Murray State, a Division I school in Murray, Ky. Then the two heard rumors—unfounded, as it turned out—that Racer Coach Ron Greene might quit to take the head coaching job at Purdue, so they decided to remain at home.
Drake is an intimidating defensive player and clutch rebounder. "I love Rod Drake," says Pollio. "I have to make up things to yell at him in practice so I won't look like I'm playing favorites." Drake is dubbed Big Daddy for obvious reasons: At 215 pounds he overpowers most of his smaller Division II opponents in the backcourt. Last year he averaged just 12.3 points and 4.1 assists per game, but it's turnovers, or lack of them, that tell the story: He made just 60.
Higgs, a player with uncanny inside moves, scored 22 points and had five assists in Wesleyan's 79-58 loss to Louisville last season. He packs a mere 165 pounds on his 6'5" frame and has bird legs that would make a flamingo blush, but he jockeys for every inch of inside position. As a result, the man who Associate Coach Wayne Chapman jokes, looks "deceptively like a basketball player," holds the Great Lakes Valley Conference career records for points (627), free throws (173) and free-throw attempts (236). He averaged 16.0 points a game last season.
Wesleyan has another unexpected find in 6'11" Center Henk Pieterse (pronounced Hank Peters). Pieterse, easily Wesleyan's tallest player ever, is a native of Amsterdam who began playing basketball when he was 17, after he suddenly sprouted five inches to 6'8". Pieterse came to Wesleyan on the recommendation of a friend from Amsterdam, former Old Dominion Center Bert Kragtwijk. Pieterse had wanted to follow Kragtwijk and another Dutch friend to the Virginia school, but Kragtwijk suggested he contact his former assistant coach, Pollio, over in Kentucky. Pieterse was just coming into his own last season when he broke the fibula in his left leg in the seventh game. But he recovered to play well for the Netherlands in the European Cup tournament in Nantes, France, where he led his team to a surprising fourth-place finish.
Harper, who led Texas in assists as a freshman in 1980-81, is back in Kentucky simply because he missed his parents—his hometown is Bremen, Ky., a 40-minute drive from Wesleyan—and his girl friend, Tracy Tucker, a student at Western Kentucky, 65 miles away in Bowling Green. "I got lost in Austin," Harper says. "I didn't find a class my first three days." The Longhorns' collapse during his sophomore season after a 14-0 start, and the subsequent firing of Abe Lemons, the coach who had recruited him, didn't help either. He will start in the backcourt and share the play-making duties with Drake.
"We have accomplished all of the goals we set for ourselves except one," says Pollio. That one is No. 1, as in Best. Certainly nobody in Owensboro would mind putting that "B" in the town's bonnet.