Childress is one for the show NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME 1: WAKE FOREST VS. NORTH CAROLINA A&T, 12:30 P.M.

March 16, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Wake Forest coach Dave Odom sounded like a lucky fan as he sized up the show put on by guard Randolph Childress at last weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

"It was the finest three days of individual basketball that I've ever seen," Odom said. "It's the kind of performance you hope to witness. I've spoken to people who have seen every ACC tournament [42], and they've said the same thing."

In 20 years of coaching college basketball, mostly in the ACC, Odom has seen his share of great performances -- many of them from Childress, who for two years has been considered one of the nation's top point guards. Then, along came Childress last week to torch the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum, where he dragged the Demon Deacons to their first conference title in 33 years.

What didn't Childress do? In three victories, he hit runners, baseline jumpers and mostly three-pointers. He produced 107 points, highlighted by 23 three-pointers, both tournament records. And he did the majority of his damage with a bum finger on his shooting hand.

Childress began with a 40-point explosion against Duke in the quarterfinals, then followed that with 30 in the semifinals against Virginia, a game in which Childress scored 21 second-half points after dislocating his right pinky finger late in the first half.

He capped off a brilliant weekend in the final against North Carolina with 37 points. He left his exclamation point in overtime, scoring all nine of Wake Forest's points, including the game-winning, 14-footer with five seconds left, as Wake Forest won, 82-80.

"To experience it with the person [Childress], to be on the bench as he is doing all of those things, watching him put a stranglehold on all three games, it's almost too much to hope for," Odom said.

Childress, a 6-foot-2 senior, brings his hot hand and cool, expressionless demeanor to the Baltimore Arena today, where Wake Forest begins a quest for its first national championship as the top seed in the East Region.

Childress was typically low-key the day after his historic afternoon, which earned him the ACC tournament's MVP award.

"Am I back to Earth? I don't know where the rest of the guys are, but I'm back," Childress said. "It's not like this team can take anything for granted. We have a lot of momentum on our side right now, but I don't think there's anything to be content or satisfied with."

Childress can be content with the momentum he has helped Wake Forest establish. As the perfect outside complement to All-ACC center Tim Duncan, 6-10, Childress has energized the Deacons throughout a 10-game winning streak. Childress, who leads the team in scoring (20.2), three-point shooting (85-for-221), assists (5.2) and steals (1.6), has led Wake Forest in scoring for the past five games.

He also saw his stock rise considerably with the best back-to-back-to-back performances of his life in Greensboro, although one NBA general manager cautioned that it's premature to start talking about Childress as a lottery pick.

"Even though he handles the ball for Wake Forest, he's essentially a shooting guard," said Washington Bullets GM John Nash. "The question is: Will he be able to play point guard in the NBA? His lack of size would really hurt him at the off guard in this league.

"Did he help himself last week? Definitely. It was an awesome performance, a clutch performance. I think he confirmed what everybody knew. He's an outstanding offensive player."

Childress is one of only nine ACC players to amass 2,000 points and 400 assists.

And if he is going to wind up a terrific career by leading Wake Forest to Seattle for its first Final Four appearance since 1962 -- also the last time it won the ACC tournament -- count on Childress doing some special things in Baltimore first.

FIVE-POINTERS

Best Game: In Wake Forest's 82-80, overtime victory over North Carolina on Sunday, the Demon Deacons claimed their first ACC title since 1962 and their second victory over the Tar Heels in two weeks.

Worst game: In a 67-65 loss at Georgia Tech on Jan 17, Wake Forest missed two possible game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds. It marked the only time the Demon Deacons lost back-to-back games this season.

Style of play: Rotating only seven players, Wake Forest plays best in a set offense and averages only 71.6 point per game. The Demon Deacons look to establish Duncan down low in the first half and then Childress operates from the outside in the second.

Key stat: Three of the five regular-season opponents who managed to shoot more than 42 percent beat the Deacons.

Miscellaneous: The Demon Deacons have never been a No. 1 seed and their only Final Four appearance was in 1962. Wake Forest is 5-3 in games decided by five points or less. In four of its five losses, Childress was held under 20 points.

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