In all, the Cavaliers have 75% of the offense returning from last season's 19-10 team. The other starting guard will be sophomore Jeff Jones, the son of Kentucky Wesleyan Coach Bob Jones. As a freshman Jones broke Barry Park-hill's school assist record with 136, and he should get even more feeding Sampson. Also back is Forward Lee Raker, a junior who averaged 16.5 points a game and made the second team All-ACC. "He doesn't jump very high, and he doesn't run very fast," says Holland. "He just beats you." The other forward will be senior Mike Owens, the best shooter on the team and the most likely to get hurt. As a freshman he broke his jaw, as a sophomore he injured an Achilles tendon, and last year he severely sprained an ankle. Terry Gates, a junior who played with Lamp and Raker at Ballard High in Louisville, will spell Owens, especially when the Cavaliers need tighter defense. Virginia has another talented freshman in Forward Craig Robinson from Montclair, N.J., but the Cavaliers need one more dependable guard to back up Jones and Lamp.
Although this is easily the best team Holland has had in his six seasons at Virginia, he could use a little more speed and a lot more heft. "Our major weakness is that we're not a physical team," he says. "Ralph is not a weak kid by any means, but he may be at a disadvantage when it comes to bulk." The lack of muscle may not tell in the ACC, where the officials tend to call tight games, but it could make a difference come tournament time. "We have the potential to be great next season," says Holland. "But this year I'm trying to take it slowly. That attitude should last me about two losses into this season."
15 FLORIDA STATE
A couple of Joe Williams' coaching buddies, Bobby Knight and Abe Lemons, told him he was making a mistake when he left Furman to take over at Florida State last season. Sure, the weather in Tallahassee and the deep-sea fishing trips on the Gulf would be hard to beat, but with the Paladins Williams would have had Jonathan Moore and a lot of other good veterans to rely on. In contrast, the Seminoles had lost four starters from their Metro championship team and seemed to be slipping a bit after a decade of success under the departed Hugh Durham.
But Williams has never been accused of conservative thinking. He wore white suits throughout the 1970s and now favors Sasson jeans and saddle shoes. His reading ranges from Rolling Stone to the Bible, and there are evenings when talk of basketball must wait until he has satisfied his desire for oysters on the half shell.
"I suppose I shock some folks at first," Williams said recently while downing 45 oysters before dinner. "I used to have pretty long hair and I've never had many training rules for my players. Basically I'm a real easygoing guy, and I think I wear well on people."
Williams also enjoys the challenge of making something out of nothing. The only experienced players he inherited when he accepted the Florida State job were Tony Jackson, a fine passer and defender but a 35% career shooter, and sixth-man Mickey Dillard, who scored 40 points in FSU's first two games last year, then broke his leg and missed the remainder of the season.
Fortunately, there was a hidden bundle of talent on the team in Murray Brown, a seldom-used forward who, remarkably, had attempted only 21 shots during the previous season's conference games, but had hit 17 of them. Thus, Williams went to work designing an offense that would get Brown the ball close to the basket. He knew what to do with it from there. He converted 30 of his first 34 shots last season and went on to lead the nation in field-goal percentage—.691—while scoring 21.7 points per game. By skillfully deploying Brown and by playing the same brand of racehorse offense and high-pressure defense that had characterized Durham's teams, the Seminoles made it to the finals of the Metro tournament and finished with a highly respectable 19-10 record.
Williams' center this year will be Elvis Rolle, a Florida high school star who initially chose Oral Roberts over Florida State. He transferred to Tallahassee after his freshman year when the Titans changed coaches. Opposite Brown at the other forward spot will be either Pernell Tookes, a skinny sophomore, or Rodney Arnold, a tobacco-chewing gunner who followed Williams to Florida State after scoring 20 points a game as a freshman at Furman two seasons ago. Dillard, whose leg has healed, and Jackson are in the backcourt, along with 5'8" Bobby Parks, who shot 50% in Dillard's absence.
Tallahassee has always shown a decided preference for Seminole football. However, for the first time in history all 1,800 seats on the townspeople's side of tiny Tully Gym are sold out. Clearly, to the citizens of Tallahassee, Williams is wearing very, very well.