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More major schools are looking to junior colleges for talent. Come along on a quick drive through the juco world.
BEST LEAGUE: Kansas's Jayhawk Conference. When he suddenly began scouring the junior colleges a few years ago, Indiana coach Bob Knight remarked that four Jayhawk schools had as much talent as most teams in the Big Ten. It's not uncommon to see a team fail to win this conference and still send its entire starting five to Division I.
BEST ARENA: Midland (Texas) J.C.'s Chaparral Center. This impressive rotunda (it seats 4,500 for basketball) was erected when the region was flush with petrodollars; it would do many four-year colleges proud.
BEST FANS: Moberly (Mo.) J.C. The Greyhounds are so hot that the school always schedules spring break for the same week as the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kans. The policy makes sense: In the tournament's 40 years in Hutchinson, Moberly has reached the Sweet Sixteen 22 times.
BEST TEAM NICKNAME: The Artichokes of Scottsdale (Ariz.) C.C.
BEST JUCO SOPHOMORE: 6'7" Larry Johnson of Odessa (Texas) J.C. Suspicions that he's the best sophomore in the country at any school only grew stronger after his fine performance at the Olympic trials. "He plays incredibly hard for such a talent," says Rick Ball, who scouts juco players for four-year schools. "He'll dive for loose balls with anybody."
BEST JUCO FRESHMAN: 6'9" Kenny Williams of Barton County (Kans.) C.C. The North Carolina High School Player of the Year was ticketed for Chapel Hill but never graduated from Elizabeth City (N.C.) High.
BEST JUCO TEAM: Odessa J.C. The Wranglers will be tested in the tough Western Junior College Athletic Association, but coach Denny Helms has at least two sophomores besides Johnson who are Division I prospects and five freshmen who should go on to play major-college ball.
BEST JUCO RECRUITERS: Oklahoma assistant coaches Jim Kerwin and Mike Mims. Kerwin, a former coach at Seminole (Okla.) J.C., and Mims, a former high school coach in Tulsa, brought in Ricky Grace and Harvey Grant in 1986-87; for an encore, they landed four of the top 10 juco prospects in the land last season, including Sooner superguard Mookie Blaylock. All of which is fitting: Oklahoma boss Billy Tubbs is a former juco player himself, at Lon Morris J.C. in Jacksonville, Texas.
WORST JUCO RECRUITER: LSU's Dale Brown. First, Baton Rouge's Keith Smart quietly slipped away to a juco in Kansas in 1984 and ultimately helped win Knight a national title at Indiana. Then, one year later, another local kid (Horace Chaney) went off to the same juco (Garden City C.C.) and started last season for Houston. Perhaps Dale should spend less time on the Amazon and on the Matterhorn and more in his own backyard.