They were still wearing the Phi Slamma Jamma warmups of the University of Houston Cougars, but Benny Anders and Braxton Clark weren't in training anymore. So they thought nothing of holing up in a Houston tavern last Thursday evening, ordering a couple of rounds—Heinekens for Anders, Long Island iced teas for Clark—and venting some pretty unfraternal feelings.
"In our offense, an option is whoever touches the ball," Clark said. "If you're the second person to touch the ball, you've got the second option."
"They're probably happy I'm gone," Anders said. "They can shoot more."
"There are two fraternities," Clark said. "There's Phi Slamma Jamma on the court and Phi Slamma Clappa on the bench. And once you're in Phi Slamma Clappa, you're finished."
It hardly needed saying, but Clark did anyway. "There's trouble," he said, "in the frat house."
Trouble, indeed. Three days earlier. Anders and Clark had quit the Cougars, then No. 3 in the SI poll, and flown back to Texas from the Chaminade Classic in Hawaii the day after Houston had beaten Louisville 76-73 and just before they would drop the title game 68-61 to Fresno State. Both players had lost early season roles as starters, and both quit because of what Anders is fond of calling "heavy pine time," a euphemism for prolonged periods on the bench.
After losing to North Carolina State in the NCAA finals last April, Houston billed this season as the Return of the Jamma. Instead, it has become a sort of Stars Wars. Anders and Clark claim that each got promises from Lewis of more action—promises they maintain have gone unkept. "Here I am one of the top junior-college recruits in the nation [from DeAnza J.C. in Cupertino, Calif., where he averaged 35 points and 11 rebounds a game last season], and I sit on the bench against Louisville—on national TV," says Clark, a 6'8" junior forward. "What an embarrassment."
Given how poorly Clark has performed for the Cougars, Lewis was saving Clark embarrassment by keeping him on the bench. "He can't jump, rebound or play defense," says Kevin Sherrington, of The Houston Post. "Nobody knows if he can shoot because he can't fire his flat-footed jumper without having to eat it [having it blocked]."
On the other hand, Anders, heretofore the Cougars' sixth man and foremost funkateer, is a proven talent. But he played poorly as a starter in Houston's season-opening loss to North Carolina State, and the 17 minutes a game Anders had averaged off the bench failed to satisfy him. Says Anders, a 6'5" junior swingman who had been scoring only 7.3 points a game while shooting just 43%, "If you can't play, why stay?"
But while playing time—a.k.a. minutes, light, PT—is at the nub of Anders' and Clark's gripes, they have other complaints. Foremost is that everyone at Houston wants the ball, but, like the rush queen at the fraternity mixer, there's only one to go around. "We've played 12 games and I've taken 17 shots," says Clark. "Sure, I'm shooting 35 percent from the field. But give me three more baskets and I'm shooting 50 percent. And they say I'm not as 'productive' as the power forward who was here last year." That was Larry Micheaux, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, compared with Clark's 2.6 and 2.6.