Carolina State coach Les Robinson sensed that some of his younger players were
frustrated by their lack of playing time earlier this season, he gathered the
team in the locker room and wrote a set of stats on a chalkboard: 2.7 points,
1.7 rebounds and 8.1 minutes per game. After the players agreed that the
numbers were lousy, Robinson said, "Those were the freshman stats of that
guy right there." He was pointing to Tom Gugliotta, the team's senior
developed into a probable first-round NBA draft choice and, as such, is the
patron saint of bench warmers, living proof that sometimes hard work really
does pay off. His star continued to rise last week, when he scored a
career-high 36 points to lead the Wolfpack to a 99-88 upset of No. 10 North
Carolina. The 6'10", 240-pound Gugliotta also displayed the skills that
have caught the attention of pro scouts, making eight of 14 three-point
attempts and adding eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. At week's end
he was second in the ACC in scoring (23.3 points a game) and was leading the
conference in rebounding (10.1). "Think of [ Phoenix forward] Tom Chambers
with a better attitude." said one NBA Eastern Conference scout. "That's
what Gugliotta has a chance to be if he keeps working hard."
There seems to be
little doubt that he'll keep working. Gugliotta was a 6'7". 190-pound
project when he arrived at North Carolina State in 1988. He probably would have
wound up at either Fairfield or Iona if Jim Valvano, the Wolfpack coach at the
time, hadn't been a close friend of Gugliotta's father, Frank, who coached at
Walt Whitman High in Huntington Station, N.Y., for 32 years.
changing people's perceptions of him in his sophomore year, when he was named
MVP of a tournament in Charlotte in which Ohio State's Jimmy Jackson and Byron
Houston of Oklahoma State also played. Gugliotta averaged 11.1 points and seven
rebounds as a sophomore, and 15.2 points and 9.1 boards last year, an
improvement that can be traced to long sessions in the weight room and late
nights by himself on the Reynolds Coliseum court. "I was a late bloomer,
but I dedicated myself to being a basketball player," he says. "I just
wanted a chance. I guess I like proving people wrong."
regret is that his father couldn't share in his development. Frank died the
week before his son's first practice with the Wolfpack. "I think about him
before every game when we have the team prayer," Gugliotta says. "It's
something that motivates me."
Illinois's 64-59 victory over Illinois State last Saturday put the Salukis in
control of the Missouri Valley Conference at 7-0, 14-2 overall. The win was
even more gratifying because it came on Illinois State's home court in
Southern Illinois had lost the championship game of the MVC tournament to the
Redbirds in 1990. The loss cost the Salukis an NCAA tournament bid, even though
they were 26-7 for the season. Southern Illinois coach Rich Herrin complained
long and loud about the snub, and the wounds haven't completely healed.
victory won't erase that memory, but it did give the Salukis a 1�-game
conference lead over the Redbirds. Leading the way with 31 points and 14
rebounds was 6'8" junior forward Ashraf Amaya, who has never been accused
of complaining long or loud about anything.
league's leading scorer and rebounder, is a soft-spoken sort who avoids the
spotlight. Ask him about the preseason poll of the media that picked him to win
the conference Player of the Year award, and his response is, "It's a great
honor." End of conversation.