Indiana's 7'2" redheaded center from Munich, West Germany, carries in his
wallet a clipping of a newspaper story in which Blab's coach, Bob Knight, tells
a group of students, "If you see Blab walking across campus, please tell
him that he's not playing for the Germans." Blab enjoys showing the clip to
people and explaining, "It's saying, basically, the Germans are a piece of
between Knight and Blab has always been one of Sturm und Drang. Blab has
described playing for Knight as "hell" and once gave his coach the
finger in full view of some 10,000 fans at Michigan State. Last season, Knight
benched Blab for most of three games after Indiana gave up 22 unanswered points
and blew a home game to Purdue. A story got into print that afterward Knight
took out his wallet, handed Blab a credit card, and told him to buy a ticket
back to West Germany. "The credit card never happened," Blab says,
"but he does tell you to leave sometimes. And he's serious."
At his best, Blab
was a better-than-average college center in '83-84. He led the Big Ten in
blocked shots (36), ranked 10th in field-goal percentage (52.8%) and was
Indiana's second-leading scorer (11.8 points a game). However, Blab was not
always at his best. Particularly galling to Knight were Blab's 52 turnovers,
most of them fumbled passes. "When I played for the German team [in the
Olympics]," Blab says, "I didn't drop the ball at all."
besides Blab were inconsistent last year. Indiana—22-9 and third in the
conference—swung through its schedule like the pendulum in a grandfather clock,
big wins followed by exasperating losses. After the biggest victory of all, a
72-68 stunner over top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA East Regional semis,
the Hoosiers folded up against Virginia, 50-48. "That's not characteristic
of a good Indiana team," says guard Steve Alford, who scored a game-high 27
points against the Tar Heels and six against the Cavaliers. Of course, last
year's was not a characteristic Indiana team.
18 different starting lineups and relied heavily on four freshmen, led by the
6'2" Alford, who paced the Hoosiers with a 15.5 point average and set a
school record for field-goal percentage (59.2%). This season, fresh from his
stint on the gold medal U.S. Olympic team-coached, of course, by Knight—Alford
returns as the most seasoned sophomore in college basketball history. He played
the most minutes on the U.S. squad, had the best turnover ratio, led in
shooting percentage, committed the fewest fouls and even finished as the
fourth-best rebounder, collecting two more than high-leaping Michael Jordan.
Alford promises to improve his foul shooting. He was a woeful .913 from the
line as a freshman, barely good enough to lead the nation and .031 below his
mark as a senior at New Castle ( Ind.) High. "I never put together a good
string," he says straight-faced. "I'd hit 20 or 25 in a row, then
Junior guard Stew
Robinson, who led Indiana with 104 assists, is also back, as are junior forward
Mike Giomi, sophomore forward Marty Simmons and 6'7" swingman Daryl Thomas.
The biggest boost will come from the return of senior swingman Winston Morgan,
who missed most of last season with a stress fracture of his left foot. Also,
the Hoosier recruiting haul was extraordinary, including the state's 1984 Mr.
Basketball, 6'5" guard Delray Brooks, a smooth mover with a feather-soft
jump shot. He can stand flat-footed and touch 8'4�", a reach that helped
him make 215 steals in the past two years. Another Hoosier freshman, 6'8"
forward Brian Sloan, who's the son of former Chicago Bull Jerry Sloan, was Mr.
Basketball in Illinois.
fortunes will depend on the embattled Blab, whose only backup, 6'10"
freshman Magnus Pelkowski from Bogota, Colombia, is as raw and unready as Blab
was when he first came to America. An emergency appendectomy in October set
back Blab's conditioning, but the surgeon's knife held little terror for the
man who has so often endured Knight's needle.