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A big one who thought small
Roger Jackson
December 01, 1980
Last year when Wil Jones was setting up shop for his first season as coach at the University of the District of Columbia, one of the things he hung on his office wall was a size-18 sneaker. "For us to be successful we have to get the guy who can fill that shoe," he would say. Like every other coach, Jones was looking for the ultimate big man, the Franchise, who, through his scoring, rebounding and intimidation, could make his Firebirds an NCAA Division II national title contender. Now, Jones and UDC may have him. In the most amazing recruiting coup the college game has seen in recent years, the coach persuaded 6'11", 215-pound Earl Jones (no relation), the most highly publicized high school player in the nation last season, to forsake the glamorous heavyweights of Division I for Division II UDC. Although Earl, who's 19 years old, doesn't quite fit the sneaker his coach had reserved for him—his shoe size is a mere 14—his extraordinary court talents should give fans at the four-year-old school plenty of kicks.
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December 01, 1980

A Big One Who Thought Small

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The Firebirds had better win, because Wil admits he's not very gracious in defeat. "I ain't done much losing. I ain't fooling nobody. Everybody knows how I am," he says. Georgetown Coach John Thompson certainly knows. He remembers Wil as an All-Metropolitan guard at Dunbar High and as an All-America at American University. "He was the Muhammad Ali of basketball," says Thompson. "He was an extremely confident person on the court, and he could be very aggravating, but I like him."

Wil spent 4� seasons in the NBA, the ABL and the ABA before becoming a high school coach. He later joined Lefty Driesell's staff at Maryland as an assistant coach and chief recruiter, and in the spring of 1979 he took the District of Columbia job. He didn't know it at the time, but when he signed Britt for UDC, he was also laying the groundwork for getting Jones, because the two players became good friends. "You see him, you see me," says Earl, who also took a liking to Wil when he came recruiting. Robinson says he didn't get involved in Earl's recruiting process, but it didn't hurt UDC that he and Wil are old friends. Robinson is now a part-time coach for the Firebirds. "We're not going to sneak up on anyone," says Wil. "But we got the big guy, and we're going to have some fun."

Two of the Firebirds' opponents this season will be in the thick of the Division II championship race: Wright State of Ohio and St. Augustine's of North Carolina, which have four starters back from teams that finished 25-3 and 24-7, respectively. Upsala of New Jersey seems ready to improve on its second-place Division III finish of last season. Cameron of Oklahoma, Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Alabama State will contend for the NAIA title.

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