Wednesday, March 7, 2001
Carrying the team
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online
It seems every year in the NCAA Tournament someone emerges from the depths of anonymity to achieve individual fame and gain recognition for his respective school. And we eat these stories up.
Of course, the greatest one of them all comes out of Terre Haute, Ind. Though he had already been drafted by the Boston Celtics, much of the nation had gone without seeing a skinny blond kid with a sweet jump shot named Larry Bird before he led Indiana State to the National Championship Game against Michigan State. Bird and the Sycamores were the clear favorites heading into the tournament, and at 33-0, had a chance to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana three years earlier.
Bird led the NCAA Tournament in scoring (27.2 ppg) and rebounding (13.4 rpg), and his performance against Magic Johnson in the title game helped create his legend, changing the way we viewed college basketball.
This year's tournament gets underway March 15, and surely another little-known player from a little-known school will invoke cries of "Who is this guy?"
In that spirit, we take a look back at 10 players who classified as a "Who?" and carried their team to magical runs in the Big Dance. While you read on, keep in mind that it wasn't that long ago when there wasn't an ESPN (or multiple sports networks for that matter) or a medium like the Internet where hoop fans in Rhode Island could watch a player from the Pacific Northwest do his thing.
Some of these players went on to stellar professional careers, some played for the New Jersey Nets and others faded off into obscurity, but their impact on the tourney in their respective years can't be denied.
1. Bill Bradley, Princeton, 1965
|Larry Bird is the benchmark when talking about big players from small schools.|
Before he influenced public policy in New Jersey, he was scoring on backdoor cuts and fadeaway jumpers for the state's most renowned institution. Bradley averaged 35.8 points in the '65 tourney, leading a powerful Tigers team to the Final Four, where they lost to eventual national runner-up Michigan. His shining moment came in the national third-place game against Wichita State, when he scored 58 points in a 118-82 victory. The 58 points is the second-highest single-game total in an NCAA Tournament game, and he set Final Four two-game records for points (87) and field goals made (34).
Why wasn't he a forerunner for President?
2. Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville, 1970
3. Keith Lee, Memphis, 1984
Jacksonville entered the tournament with a 23-1 record, and expected to challenge UCLA for the title. Behind massive center Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville did just that. With a high-scoring offense that averaged more than 101 points, the Dolphins reached the National Championship Game against the three-time defending champion Bruins. Gilmore scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but counterpart Sidney Wicks was equal to the task with 17 points and 18 rebounds as UCLA won its fourth straight title. Gilmore was the tournament's leading rebounder (18.6 rpg), and his 93 rebounds in a series ranks second all-time.
The Memphis Tigers' run in 1984 has since been vacated due to point shaving, but one can't ignore Keith Lee's presence in the tournament. The 6-foot-10 junior used his inside muscle to power Dana Kirk's team to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. In the first two games of the '84 run, he averaged 27.5 points and 13.5 rebounds, but was held to just four second-half points against Akeem Olajuwon and Houston.
4. Roosevelt Chapman, Dayton, 1984
This is one that will make our ESPN colleague Dan Patrick proud. Entering the tournament as a No. 10 seed with an 18-10 record, the Flyers weren't expected to do much beyond the first or second round, but Roosevelt Chapman led the Flyers on an unlikely run to the Elite Eight, after upsetting LSU, Oklahoma and Detlef Schrempf's Washington Huskies. Chapman was a one-man show, scoring 29, 41 and 22 points in the three victories. The run ended in the West Region final against Georgetown, when he was held to just 13 points on 10 field goal attempts.
5. David Robinson, Navy, 1986
The tournament that earned him the nickname The Admiral. Robinson shouldered the load for the Midshipmen, averaging 27.5 points per game through Navy's run to the Elite Eight and the only 30-win season in the school's history. Had it not been for Army grad Mike Krzyzewski and Duke (paraphrasing Coach K, who said "There's no way I'm losing to Navy," prior to the game), there's no telling how far Robinson could have led his fleet.
6. Fennis Dembo, Wyoming, 1987
On this list, he has the most fun name to say, and when he was on the court, he said a lot. Known as one of the preeminent trash-talkers in his day, Dembo gabbed the Wyoming Cowboys, a 12th seed, to the Sweet 16 behind startling upsets of Virginia and UCLA. Known for his outside shooting prowess, Dembo scored 16 in the first round win over Virginia, and torched trash-talker extraordinaire Reggie Miller and UCLA for 41 points in Round 2, shooting 7-for-10 from three-point range. He followed that with a team-leading 27 points against Armon Gilliam's UNLV squad, who ended the Cowboys' charge with a 92-78 victory.
7. Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount, 1990
Stricken with the tragedy of Hank Gathers' death, Loyola Marymount was the Cinderella of all Cinderellas. Is there anyone who didn't root for Paul Westhead's run-and-gun Lions back in '90? Bo Kimble was the spark to this squad that carried itself into the Elite Eight on adrenaline, emotion and the three-point shot.
Kimble's numbers: 45 points, 18 rebounds versus New Mexico State in the first round; 37 points in the highest-scoring game in NCAA Tournament history, a 149-115 win over defending national champion Michigan; then 19 points against Alabama. Kimble was a non-factor in Loyola's 131-101 loss to the Runnin' Rebels.
Against UNLV, Kimble paid tribute to his fallen friend by shooting his first free throw of the game left-handed, and made it. He made the next one as well, shooting right-handed. Moments like that secured a special place for Loyola Marymount in the hearts of millions.
8. Yinka Dare, George Washington, 1993
Dare's story is an example of how the NCAA Tournament makes superstars out of players in a short amount of time. Billed as the next Olajuwon, Yinka Dare took the tournament by storm as a freshman in '93, leading the upstart Colonials to the Sweet 16 with his powerful play in the paint. His 17-point, 10-rebound effort in the first round helped GW past New Mexico. He then came up big in a second-round defeat of Southern University. However, the 7-foot-1 Nigerian failed to score against national runner-up Michigan in the regional semifinal.
9. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso, 1998
Who could forget the buzzer-beating three-pointer that sunk Ole Miss in the first round? Talk about a shot that gave a team momentum. Bryce Drew became an instant celebrity, and people no longer confused Valpo with a brand of dog food.
Drew's heroics didn't end there. The son of head coach Homer Drew, Bryce scored 22 points and hit two clutch free throws to secure a 83-77 overtime victory over Florida State. Thanks to Drew, Valpo became only the second 13th seed to advance to the Sweet 16, where the glass slipper broke. Jim Harrick's Rhode Island team, which had upset No. 1 Kansas in the second round, dismissed the Drews' dreams of further tournament glory.
10. Wally Szczerbiak, Miami (Ohio), 1999
Wally Szczerbiak was a one-man scoring machine in high school and continued that role in college. The first and second rounds of the '99 tournament quickly became Wally World, as Miami (Ohio) gained national attention by reaching the Sweet 16.
In the Redhawks' first round victory over Washington, Szczerbiak used a quick release and a deadly jump shot to score 43 of his team's 59 points. Szczerbiak scored a game-high 24 to lead Miami past second-seeded Utah in the second round, preventing a rematch from the previous year's National Championship Game with Kentucky. Wally continued to shine, scoring 23 against Kentucky, but a one-man band wasn't going to beat the Wildcats, and Miami couldn't slap another whammy on the college basketball world.
It's players like Bird, Szczerbiak, Drew and Kimble that endear us to the NCAA Tournament, and for as long as there are Cinderellas attending the Dance, this list will grow.
Will Weiss is an assistant editor at ABC Sports Online.
|Wally Szczerbiak's one-man band took Miami (Ohio) to the Sweet 16 in '99.||