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College Basketball / Robyn Norwood : NBA Scouts Now Even Showing Up for Vanderbilt's Games

February 03, 1988|Robyn Norwood

After Vanderbilt upset Kentucky last week, nearly 300 students lingered as much as an hour after the game to cheer the Commodore players as they left Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.

It has been nearly a decade since Vanderbilt, one of a number of schools with supporters who fancy it as a Harvard of the South, had a winning record in the Southeastern Conference.

With a 6-3 mark that includes victories over Kentucky and Florida halfway through conference play, this may be the year for a turnabout.

Now that Vanderbilt has pulled three major upsets--the Commodores beat North Carolina, then ranked No. 1, in December--and is ranked 15th in the Associated Press poll, Will Perdue is receiving national attention for something other than his size-21 shoes.

Perdue, a 7-foot senior, is averaging 17.8 points a game and leads the SEC with 10.4 rebounds a game. He is also shooting 67.8% from the field. At some games, the school says, as many as 10 National Basketball Assn. scouts have been in attendance.

Perdue is only part of what makes the Vanderbilt team work. The rest, apparently, is the result of the three-point shot.

"We're very conscious of the three-point shot," said C.M. Newton, Vanderbilt coach. "It's a very important part of our offense."

Word is, if a Vanderbilt player attempts an 18- or 19-foot shot, that's reason to be chastised for not getting beyond the line.

As a team, the Commodores are making 46.5% from three-point range. Against Kentucky, they made 13 of 20. Two starters--Barry Booker and Barry Goheen--are making better than 40% from three-point range. Two substitutes--Scott Draud and Charles Mayes--are making better than 45%, led by Draud's 49.3%.

Newton is something of a coaching legend in the SEC, not in the manner of Kentucky coaches, but largely because of his longevity.

A 1952 Kentucky graduate who was a letterman on Kentucky's 1951 national championship team, Newton coached at Alabama for 12 years and is in his seventh season at Vanderbilt.

Norm Sloan, Florida coach, can get his 600th career coaching victory this week if the 19th-ranked Gators beat Alabama and Auburn, becoming only the 11th coach to reach that milestone.

Only two active coaches, Oregon State's Ralph Miller and North Carolina's Dean Smith, have won more than 600 games.

Reaction around the SEC this week was mixed.

--"I don't think it's significant at all," said Dale Brown, Louisiana State coach.

--"I don't even know if I've been to 600 games," said Ed Murphy, Mississippi coach. "You have to be that combination of an excellent coach and an older gentleman, and he's both of them."

Sloan's greatest coaching success was at North Carolina State, where he guided a team led by David Thompson to the 1974 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship.

Florida, with a 6-2 conference record, is in first place in the SEC by half a game.

The top high school players from the Los Angeles area last season are having varied degrees of success in college basketball.

The two who have been most successful played together last season at St. Monica High School. Brian Williams, now at Maryland, and Jason Matthews, now at Pittsburgh, have started every game. Another--LeRon Ellis, formerly of Mater Dei and now at Kentucky--got his first start last week, and figures to continue starting.

Two more--Sean Higgins of Michigan and David Whitmore of Georgia Tech--have played sparingly. Higgins, who went to Fairfax, averaged 9.8 points a game in 12 games before being declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. Whitmore, a St. Bernard graduate who has been bothered by a knee injury, has played in only two games--his only field goal was a dunk--and is expected to be a redshirt.

Williams is averaging 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds and has 21 blocked shots for the Terrapins, who upset Duke earlier this season.

Matthews averages 9.8 points for ninth-ranked Pitt.

Ellis averages just 4 points and 2.6 rebounds for 10th-ranked Kentucky, but had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals Sunday in his first start, a victory over Notre Dame.

Add Ellis: Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton had reportedly hoped to start Ellis earlier, perhaps at the opening of SEC play. But Ellis missed some games, slowing down the process.

He missed two with an ankle injury, two with the flu and one for disciplinary reasons.

He was discovered up after curfew on the night before a game against Miami of Ohio, watching the Clint Eastwood movie, "Heartbreak Ridge."

Bob Donewald, Illinois State coach, has gained renown for being quotable. His most famous quote, as noted in a year-end wrap-up by the Des Moines Register, came last season after a 61-59 upset of Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, in which the Cyclones managed to run two plays with one second remaining.

"If I've got nine-tenths of a second to live, I want that man on the clock," Donewald said of the timekeeper at Iowa State. "Then I'll know I've got at least another week."

Donewald is still at it.

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