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College Basketball Notes

Loyalty Relative for Ex-Wildcat

March 29, 1997|JASON REED | From Staff and Wire Reports

Merion Haskins is a Wildcat by birth--but a Gopher by blood.

Haskins, 41, was born and grew up in Kentucky and played for the Wildcats. But his older brother, Clem, coaches Minnesota. Minnesota plays Kentucky today in the Final Four semifinals at the Indianapolis RCA Dome.

Despite his strong Kentucky ties, Haskins said he is behind Minnesota all the way.

"I love the University of Kentucky, but I've got to support my brother," Haskins said. "He needs me now more than Kentucky needs me."

Merion played three years at Kentucky and graduated in 1977. He was among the first African Americans to get a basketball scholarship from Kentucky.

Kentucky formerly adhered to a longtime unwritten Southeastern Conference policy prohibiting the recruitment of African Americans. That policy prevented Clem Haskins from attending Kentucky during the era of Coach Adolph Rupp.

Joe B. Hall wanted to break with tradition after succeeding Rupp in 1973 and Merion Haskins was eager to help.

"There were only two [African American] players in the program before me," said Haskins, who works for a cigarette company.

"I remember taking my recruiting trip to Lexington and the guys telling me they needed me there with them. We kept our noses clean and did a good job representing the university, and I think that helped [to open doors]."

*

Derek Anderson, Kentucky's injured star swingman, has figured out a way to play in the Final Four.

"In my dreams," Anderson said. "I dream that I'm playing, because I know that's the only place [Coach Rick Pitino] will let me play."

Anderson, sidelined since Jan. 18 because of a torn right knee ligament, has been cleared to play by doctors and has practiced with the Wildcats.

However, Pitino said Anderson's season is over because Anderson would jeopardize his chances at an NBA career if he re-injured his knee.

"I'm kind of history right now," said Anderson, who averaged 18.6 points before his injury. "Coach Pitino doesn't even look at me on the bench anymore, but that's OK because I understand why I'm not playing.

"If I was in his position, I probably wouldn't play me either."

*

Pitino is hopeful that forward Allen Edwards will play.

Edwards did not play in the West Regional at San Jose after X-rays revealed he had a hairline fracture in his right ankle. However, Pitino said the injury is not as bad as initially feared and that Edwards might play "five to 10 minutes" against Minnesota.

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