Carter, who, like Redding, married a local lady upon returning to the Big Apple, says, "For lots of high school guys who have lived in New York all their lives, getting out is the dream. Only by going away do they appreciate what they left. It took Hawaii to make me realize the East Coast existed in college basketball."
The starting St. John's frontcourt, intact from last year, is also solid New York; this threesome simply never wanted to be anything else but: Ron Plair, 6'4", from East Elmhurst, and Frank Gilroy, 6'5", of Whitestone at the forwards; Wayne McKoy, 6'8", from Bayside and Carter's teammate at Lutheran High, at center. Which points up the fact that St. John's does have a weakness, a lack of size up front.
Nevertheless, against Oral Roberts, Plair knifed into the lane for 11 points in the first half, while McKoy scored 16 with jumpers, hooks and jump-hooks. Early in the second half, McKoy, as is his wont, began fouling. Carnesecca sat him down with four personals, but upon returning to the lineup with 4:50 to go, it took McKoy only 13 seconds to commit his fifth, and foul out for the 14th time in his career.
"His fouls are like arthritis," said Carnesecca. "I have to live with the pain, but thank God I'm getting used to it."
And thank somebody for Russell, who replaced McKoy and merely dominated the backboards. "Playing the pivot I thought I'd foul out, too," he said, "but it was just like a high school game."
In the tournament final the following night who should be waiting for St. John's but defending NCAA champion Michigan State. In the first round, the Spartans hadn't seemed to need the departed Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser in beating Princeton 60-46, mainly because the always-disciplined Tigers, after leading 42-35 while playing like Bill Bradleys, suddenly came up dry and scored only one basket in the last seven minutes while turning into Mr. Bills.
The Spartans came to New York eager to prove they are more than just a second-division Big Ten club, which is where they have been picked to finish. Yet Jay Vincent, Terry Donnelly, et al., admitted the road down might be short. "It seems strange to be playing without Greg out there dunkin' and Magic flash-in' and the crowd gettin' off," said Vincent. "What we'll all miss is the enthusiasm," said Donnelly. "Even if you were having a bad game, Magic could bring you out of it."
In that respect, Donnelly—the same little guy who shot 5 for 5 and scored 15 points in the 1979 championship finals—desperately needed Magic last weekend when he took the collar, shooting 0 for 9 in two games.
The erratic play of the Spartan guards—Kevin Smith, a transfer from Detroit who is Johnson's replacement, is shaky in a structured game—left it up to Vincent to carry the Spartans practically by himself. This isn't an impossibility considering the 6'8" Vincent's 240 pounds, but the huge center is still bothered by the stress fracture in his right foot he suffered just before last year's NCAAs, and his preseason practice was limited to barely six days.
With his slicked-back haircut and barrel tummy, Vincent looks like a sideman for Dizzy Gillespie, but he is one tough customer when his team is in trouble. "A Wesley Unseld with a shooting touch," Carnesecca called him.