Saul has been more than a coach and fan. After Cheryl sprained her right ankle her freshman year in high school, the same ankle she had broken a few months before and strained three weeks ago, the family doctor advised that she be taped before playing. "Cheryl had never been taped before," says Saul. "Our doctor told us that if she opened her eyes and even looked at a ball, she was to be taped. A relative was visiting who was studying sports medicine at the University of Arkansas. I told him I wanted to learn the right way to do it. Pretty soon I was taping the whole team."
There was some grumbling that Saul is so protective of his daughter that he choreographed the entire course of her recruitment. "He took a lot of flak," says Cheryl. "A lot of people who were criticizing my father didn't know what he's really like. All he was doing was making sure that no one took advantage of me."
It wasn't until Aug. 12, 25 days before the start of the fall term, that Miller announced she intended to play for USC. Sharp, normally as calm and businesslike as they come, sweated it out with the other finalists, the coaches of Louisiana Tech, UCLA, Tennessee and Kansas. She got the good news from Ted Dawson, a local sportscaster.
"When Ted called me, the first thing he said was, 'Linda, I've got some bad news for you.' I felt my heart skip," Sharp says. "I thought we'd lost her. Then he said, 'You're going to have to put up with a superstar for the next four years.' That was a mean thing to do."
Superstar is right, but truth be told, the Trojans wouldn't have done too badly without Miller. With nine players, including six of the top seven, back from last season's team, Southern Cal would have had a legitimate shot at the national championship anyway. Foremost among the holdovers are the glamorous McGee twins, Pam and Paula, who averaged 39.8 points (19.6 for Pam, 20.2 for Paula) and 21.9 rebounds (11.6, 10.3) between them last year and, with Miller, should form USC's starting frontcourt.
Paula spent the summer playing center for the U.S. team that came in second in the Jones Cup Tournament in Taiwan and has become an even more formidable inside player. Pam, whose poor defense last season would have made El Cordobes stand up and shout ol�!, should now be a force at both ends of the court. And then there's 6-foot sophomore Tracy Longo, the daughter of a 1961 UCLA alumnus. When Tracy graduated from high school, her father, Tony, gave her a Ford Mustang and a license plate inscribed TRAITOR. Longo can fill in at any frontcourt position.
The only question is: Who will get the Trojan fast break off and running? Thera Smith, USC's alltime assist leader, has graduated, so Sharp is counting on a slick freshman, Rhonda Windham, from the nearby suburb of the Bronx. Windham is lightning quick and a dangerous open-court passer, but at 5'5" she might be swallowed up by the increasing number of guards who can match her stride for stride and more than match her inch for inch. "I'm not worried about her size," says Sharp. "If she were 5'9", she'd be playing above the rim."
USC is loaded at the second-guard spot. Senior Kathy Doyle, a steady player who always seems to do the right thing, should start alongside Windham. If Windham finds the adjustment to the college game difficult, Doyle will move to the point, where her size (5'11"), scoring ability (11 points per game in 1981-82) and savvy should offset her lack of speed. That would bring Cynthia Cooper, a 14.6 point scorer and a blazing end-to-end player, off the bench.
This embarrassment of riches could be just a plain old embarrassment if the Trojans don't win an NCAA title in the two seasons Miller and the McGees play together. "I really don't think it's fair that that's being said about us," says Sharp. "We've never had a superstar, someone to attract attention." Sharp wants skeptics to give the Trojans a year to jell. After all, Miller scored only 11 points against Pepperdine. But as Billie Moore says, "Some teams are so good they don't have to jell."