Say what you will about the eccentric, never-met-a-soapbox-he-didn't-like Dale Brown, but give him this much: The Louisiana State coach understands the incredible potential of sophomore center Shaquille O'Neal.
As if O'Neal weren't dominant enough, Brown recently arranged for a couple of personal acquaintances to visit Baton Rouge and spend a few days with the 7-footer.
Shaquille, meet Bill . . . as in, Walton.
Shaquille, meet Kareem . . . as in, legend.
What a tag team of tutors this was. Bill Walton visited LSU about two weeks ago and worked with O'Neal for almost four days.
"He [Walton] wasn't a good teacher, he was a great teacher," Tiger assistant coach Craig Crase said.
Then last weekend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stopped by and counseled O'Neal on the sky hook, among other things. In fact, several hours after LSU upset No. 2-ranked Arizona, O'Neal was back on the court working with Abdul-Jabbar. And maybe it's just a coincidence, but O'Neal wears No. 33 on his jersey.
"Had you heard them [Walton and Abdul-Jabbar] speak, you would have felt that John Wooden was there," Crase said. "Both Bill and Kareem basically said the same things, especially about preparing themselves for a game. It was the philosophy that Coach Wooden taught them."
In a bit of a surprise, 12th-ranked LSU, which wasn't even favored to win the Southeastern Conference, has prospered with a lineup that has considerably fewer big-name stars than last year's team. A roll call:
* Guard Chris Jackson left early for the NBA.
* Seven-foot forward Stanley Roberts flunked out and signed a contract to play in Europe.
* Starting guard Maurice Williams became a redshirt because of academic problems.
* Backup guard Randy Devall flunked out.
* Defensive specialist Dennis Tracey has been unavailable because of a knee injury.
* Someone needs to put a choke chain on the overzealous Antlers, Missouri's sometimes lewd and crude collection of students who fancy themselves the equivalent of Duke's legendary raucous student section. Problem is, Missouri's undergrads aren't half as clever. They are, however, twice as dangerous.
An example: With Arkansas visiting last Saturday, the Antlers met the Razorback bus when it arrived. Fine. Some good-natured barbs never hurt anyone.
Except that the Antlers aren't always known for their good nature.
Todd Day, Arkansas' gifted swingman, and Oliver Miller, its plump but powerful center, were hounded from the moment they stepped off the bus. Day was criticized for his decision not to speak with the media after a recent loss to Arizona. Oliver was a target because of his weight.
Miller laughed it off. Day said nothing.
Everything was fine, said Rick Schaeffer, Arkansas' sports information director, until late in the game. With the Razorbacks on their way to a 95-82 victory, the Antlers began taunting Miller again. This time, Miller playfully pointed at his stomach and then at the scoreboard. What followed was an embarrassment.
At game's end, the Antlers pelted the Arkansas players and coaches with cups, ice and soda. Coach Nolan Richardson had his suit stained by one throw.