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What's this? Georgetown University is one of the best teams in the country? Isn't that the Georgetown located in Washington, D.C.? Isn't that the Georgetown that's infinitely more renowned for producing hotshot lawyers than first-round draft choices? Yep, that Georgetown. Last season the Hoyas had a 24-5 record, their best ever, and defeated NIT titlist Indiana, NCAA semifinalist Penn and Eastern nemeses Syracuse and St. John's en route to the second round of the NCAA East Regional. Shot-blocking Center Tom Scates and two-year starting Forward Steve Martin, last year's acknowledged leader, are gone, but three outstanding starters have returned.
The mantle of leadership that once was Martin's now rests upon the muscular shoulders of senior Guard John Duren. The responsibility is not lost on Duren, a member of the gold-medal-winning Pan-Am Games team. "If someone has confidence in you, they'll do what you say," he says. "It's up to me to gain the respect of the other players. I'm not playing with the type of guys you have to hit upside the head." Duren, who has started 61 straight games, last season led the Hoyas in minutes played, assists and steals and was their second-leading scorer. Duren and Eric (Sleepy) Floyd form perhaps the East's top backcourt. In 1978-79 Floyd, who toured Brazil with the U.S. Junior National team last summer, established a school freshman record with 480 points, led Georgetown in scoring with 16.6 points a game, was the fourth-leading rebounder and played surprisingly good defense. The presence of Duren and Floyd, along with seniors Terry Fenlon, Lonnie Duren (John's older brother) and sophomore Ron Blaylock, will allow Thompson to bring freshman Kurt Kaull, a classic point guard, along slowly.
Senior Craig Shelton, dubbed Big Sky because of his vertical leap, is set at power forward, while sophomore Eric Smith, a former football quarterback, Mike Hancock, a good shooter, Jeff Bullis and Al Dutch, a onetime starter who sat out last season, are fighting for the other corner spot. Shelton is a marvel. He was the Hoyas' top rebounder, second-leading scorer and a .604 shooter. "People ask me who the MVP on the team is and I say, without a doubt, that Shelton's the man," says Coach John Thompson. Dutch, forced to the sidelines while patching up a shaky marriage, has been the most intense performer in practice. "He's playing like it's his Last Supper and he knows it," says Thompson. Sophomore Ed Spriggs, who ably replaced the injured Scates during the NCAAs last spring, gives Georgetown improved agility and offense in the middle, but the Hoyas cannot afford to lose him. The 6'10" Thompson may be the second-best center on the team, though he's about 20 pounds over his playing weight. "Spriggs has got to become very experienced very quickly," says Thompson. Spriggs gained some experience this summer as the third international traveler among the Hoyas. He played for an ECAC All-Star team that toured Yugoslavia. Now Georgetown appears ready to hit the road toward becoming a national power.
No matter how good his situation might appear to those around him, Lee Rose is always tormented by ghosts from the past, present and future. He winces every time he thinks about Jerry Sichting's jump shot that didn't drop in the waning seconds of Purdue's 53-52 loss to archrival Indiana in last year's NIT finals. He grumbles at the prospect of coaching this year without Sichting, whose only mistake in four years may have been missing that probable game winner. And when Rose tries to envision staying in the Big Ten race with Center Joe Barry Carroll forced to play one-against-five, he becomes positively morose.
Carroll is the quiet, 7'1" senior who has succeeded in doing exactly what he said he would do when he came to Purdue: "I'll let my playing do the talking for me." He led the Big Ten in scoring last season with a 22.8 average, was second in rebounding and paced the Boilermakers to a conference co-championship with Iowa and eventual NCAA champ Michigan State. He might have been expected to do pretty much the same this time around, except that Rose was unable to recruit a top-notch shooting guard to take Sichting's place.
Rose is not exactly bereft of talent, but there isn't a great deal of scoring punch once you get past Carroll. Forward Arnette Hallman is a superb leaper and a defensive ace who can be a spectacular all-round player when his streaky shooting turns hot. He worked hard on his shot all summer, and it looks better. However, in a preseason victory over the Yugoslavian national team he was still shooting one air ball for every two or three swishers.
Playmaker Brian Walker dealt out nearly 200 assists last season and has one guard spot nailed down. The other will go to either Keith Edmonson or Kevin Stallings, a junior-college transfer. Drake Morris will also play there when not at forward.
Despite the Boilermakers' shortcomings at guard, which will allow defenses to sag all over Carroll, Rose could scarcely be in worse shape than he appeared to be in the spring of '78 when he arrived at Purdue to coach a team depleted by the graduation of three starters. Worse, Rose got a late start in recruiting and didn't pick up any notable replacements. What he did do, out of necessity, was change the Boilermakers from the pro-style, run-and-gun outfit they had been under Fred Schaus and his predecessor, George King, to a deliberate team that succeeded because of defense. Purdue, which had been picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten, won a school-record 27 games principally because it held opponents to 62.5 points a game, best in the conference.