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By the time Krebs was a sophomore at SMU, the hook shot was a polished and deadly weapon. Krebs was beginning to move with more assurance, too, and the big feet that got in his way in high school were under control.
Hayes had given Krebs a stiff course in advanced basketball his freshman year. Realizing the youngster needed more experience against big players after his abbreviated high school career, Hayes pitted him against a sophomore center, Tom Miller, every afternoon. Miller had been an all-city player in high school for two years, and he was a skilled and aggressive player, only an inch or two shorter than Krebs.
"We played one-on-one every afternoon during the season," says Krebs. "Tom did everything he could to me. He stepped on my toes and elbowed me and pushed and held when I tried to shoot. Once I complained because he was holding and I missed a shot, and Coach Hayes said, 'Make the shot anyway. If he's holding, you'll get three points with the free throw.' I used to get mad at Tom and I'd fight back as hard as I could and I learned a lot. I guess that's what Coach Hayes really wanted."
The hook carried Krebs through his sophomore year, but the other conference schools adjusted their defenses to stop it when he was a junior. They began to use zone defenses designed to deny him his favorite hooking area and keep him away from the basket where he could use his height to dunk the ball.
He tried to hook and, under strong pressure, his touch was off and he missed. He could not move inside against the wall of defenders and get quick, easy shots he was used to.
So, through the long, hot Dallas summer last year, Krebs worked on a jump shot from deep. "I changed my hook some, too," he says. "I was shooting a soft hook right at the basket before. You shoot a soft hook like that and sometimes it will hang on the rim and drop through where a hard shot will bounce out. But to shoot a soft hook you need more time than I was getting last year. It takes touch, and if you are hurried you lose the touch and you miss. So while I was practicing the outside shot, I worked on a hard hook that I bounce off the backboard. I can get it off quicker and don't have to be so delicate with it."
The tremendous competitive spirit that animates Krebs accounts for the long, grinding hours he has spent painfully acquiring his basketball skills. He has had that spirit a long time.
"When I was a kid in grammar school mother used to play card games with me a lot," he recalls. "If I lost I'd get mad and wouldn't talk to her. She was the same way, though. She'd get just as mad if I beat her. I guess I got that from her. I never have been able to understand anyone who didn't get mad about losing."
Krebs is now rated as the best basketball player in Southwest Conference history. Glen Rose, whose Arkansas team lost to SMU twice this year, says, "He's the hardest man to defense we ever had in this league, and I go back to 1925 in it. He's the best combination of size, strength and shooting ability. Why, when he played against Bill Russell in the NCAA, Russell couldn't handle him either. He got 24 points and Russell got 17. The record speaks for itself."
Krebs's success against Russell was no accident. It came from his habit of studying prospective opponents carefully, looking for flaws.