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Dogs' Best Friend
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The 45 students in Speech 101 were bored and restless when Tito Maddox walked to the front of the classroom last semester. But not for long. First the Fresno State point guard kicked a chair, shattering it into several pieces. Then he dropped some serious knowledge. Bobby Knight was as successful off the court as he was on it ? "Believe me," Tito says, "they listened to every word."

Maddox got only a C for his work, but it's a perfect example of how he likes to operate: speak loudly, play even louder. The 6'4" soph has nearly lived up to his preseason prediction that he'd be the nation's best 1. He's averaging 14.6 points, 9.6 assists (best in the country) and 6.2 boards a game. Better yet, the Bulldogs reeled off 11 straight wins after Maddox joined the team on Dec. 19, surging into the Top 25 for the first time in four years. "I am just amazed by what Tito's done for us," Jerry Tarkanian says.

Consider this: When Maddox made his debut, he'd been sitting out for nearly 1 1/2 years. An academic nonqualifier coming out of Compton High, he wasn't allowed to practice as a freshman. And after tearing up L.A.'s summer circuit, he sat out the first eight games this season for accepting illegal benefits during a fall trip to Vegas with USC's Jeff Trepagnier, a buddy from back home.

While Trepagnier knows how to keep his road dog in check ("His ups are kind of shady," the Trojan leaper chuckles), few can match Maddox's speed, ballhandling and vision in the open court. "He's a lot like Jason Kidd," Tark says. And like Kidd in his younger days, Tito lacks a consistent outside jumper (31% from the arc), making him less effective in a halfcourt set. But he's got the size and strength to create mismatches, and when he says the Bulldogs will make noise at The Dance, you might want to sit up straight and pay attention.

Even before he took the court, Fresno had plenty of talent and athleticism, with double-digit scorers Melvin Ely in the middle, Chris Jefferies on the wing and Demetrius Porter at the 2. But the unleashing of Maddox has allowed the Dogs to really push it, energizing a squad that had lost to St. Bonaventure and San Francisco in his absence. "This team will go as far as I can take it," Maddox says.

Gotta give the kid an A for effort.

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