"O.K., everybody, stop shooting, come over here and listen up. You've had your fun. Now we're going to work on defense."
"Defense! Ah, coach, we don't want to play no defense. We want to score, coach. How about a little four-on-one fast-break action?"
"No, not now, men. It's time to work on the Big D. Switching. Double-teaming. Getting back. Slide-stepping. Taking the charge."
"Hey, coach, I just remembered I've got a term paper to write. Check you later."
"Uh, coach, the trainer says I shouldn't work too hard because of my injured knee...er, elbow. I better sit this drill out."
"You guys stay right where you are. It doesn't do any good to score 100 points if the other team scores 101."
"But, coach, I can't get no pub' playing defense. I can't get no girls, either. And what about my pro contract? I think I'll just slide-step over there and work on my running-twisting-bring-the-crowd-to-its-feet slam dunk. I'm a star, coach. Stars don't play no defense."
Although this attitude surely exists among some players, it is definitely not shared by the five young men striking defensive poses on pages 40 and 41. They're stoppers, and they're proud of it. On the average, they each scored an unspectacular 13.8 points a game last season but played important roles on teams that won 74.1 % of their games. They were brought together to emphasize a fact generally lost on most followers of the game: good defense is at least as important as good offense.
In a book to be published next spring, Coach Dean Smith of North Carolina writes, "Basketball's offensive skills are easily recognized by the press and spectators. Unfortunately, defensive dedication goes unnoticed. We try to offset this by constantly praising (both publicly and privately) good defensive play. I rarely find it necessary to mention our leading scorer during a postgame interview. Instead, I make it a point to highlight players whose defensive performances helped our team. Our players are also tangibly rewarded for their defensive efforts with playing time."