One of the pastimes of high school boys on cold winter nights in the state of West Virginia is sitting around the radio listening to the Mountaineers run down some unfortunate basketball rival. Hot Rod Hundley, Jerry West and a number of other notables first heard of West Virginia University that way, and things haven't changed. "God bless the radio," Coach George King says earnestly. "Those mountain boys are good." Being a West Virginia mountain boy himself, King should know. And again this year he is surrounded by tall, adept young men who speak in slow drawls but do everything else very fast.
The most famous of them is Rod Thorn (see page 38), a crew-cut blond who runs with quick, mincing steps, is an offensive wonder and manages West Virginia's pressing defense. The 6-foot-4 Thorn's lone flaw is his tendency to fret about his own play. He can, and has, worried himself sick because of a bad night. But he has few of them. Once again he should lead the Mountaineers in both scoring and rebounding, a remarkable feat for a guard who is also the team playmaker. What is more, he actually seems to have improved his unorthodox but highly accurate two-handed jump shot.
At guard with Thorn is Jim McCormick, a senior who used to practice by shooting balls at a slowly spinning wagon wheel that had four baskets wired to it. As a training device it may never sell, but the 6-foot-2 McCormick is a brilliant shooter, and Coach King will take his point makers where he can find them.
King is well fixed at center, too, where light but fast Tom Lowry, 6 feet 8, scores and rebounds well. The only weakness—and it may not be one—is at the corners, where King was counting on two good-looking sophomores, 6-foot-4 Bill Maphis and 6-foot-6 Marty Lentz. They are having trouble adapting to West Virginia's tricky, free-lance offense. Until they are ready, King will go with hulking Mike Wolfe, a 204-pound re-bounder and good defensive player but no scorer, and Gale Catlett, who has experience and can run. A tough early-season schedule will sternly test this team before the sophomores are ready.