Simon has Smith signed, sealed and delivered Arizona guard treasures letter from N.C. coach

March 29, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS -- How big a fan of North Carolina was Miles Simon?

Big enough that when he got his rejection letter from Dean Smith four years ago, it immediately became a prized possession.

"North Carolina has almost always been my favorite school," Simon said yesterday. "I wanted to go there. Anytime I could buy a hat or shirt, or whatever, that said North Carolina, I was going to get it. And just having something from Dean Smith, a personalized signature

"You get a lot of letters from coaches and it has their stamped signature on there. He wrote a little note on the bottom to me, and it was just something that I can treasure."

Their paths cross again this afternoon when Carolina plays the Arizona Wildcats -- with Simon at shooting guard -- in the national semifinals at the RCA Dome.

Smith remembers the letter he wrote, and why. He already had recruited Donald Williams and Dante Calabria at off-guard, and didn't want to overload the position. "I did write him a letter, and I seldom do that," Smith said.

Simon, who has the letter on his bulletin board back home in Fullerton, Calif., was academically ineligible when Arizona beat Carolina, 83-72, in the Tip-Off Classic Nov. 22.

Said Smith: "That's nice of Miles Simon and I have great respect for him. I just wish he were ineligible like he was in November for [today's] game."

The terrible tattoos

Minnesota coach Clem Haskins is from the old school, the one that frowns on self-indulgent behavior. He has a team policy against earrings, tattoos and long, baggy pants, all of which are freely indulged in by today's college player.

"Yes, I have kids with tattoos," he said. "Yes, I have some kids that wear earrings. But they wear them in their private surroundings I think the trend in America is kind of sick because we don't have strong enough people to stand up for what's right and what's wrong.

"I think earrings were made for ladies to wear, not for men. And I won't change from that. And [wearing] caps backwards, I think it's OK to wear them backwards from time to time."

Gophers guard Bobby Jackson and forward Courtney James both have tattoos. But Jackson says he got his before arriving in Minneapolis.

"Coach doesn't like tattoos and earrings, but we understand that," Jackson said. "But there is no way we can take them off."

One who stayed

Tim Duncan of Wake Forest picked up a handsome trophy as college basketball's Player of the Year yesterday at the Final Four, and deflected the notion he'll feel pressure to be a savior for some wretched NBA team next season.

"I don't think I'm really worried about that pressure," he said. "It'll be a learning experience no matter where I go."

Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, who accompanied Duncan to the ceremony, said the 6-foot-10 center benefited considerably by staying for his senior season.

"I think he's a much better player than he was as a junior, and he was great as a junior," said Odom.

One who won't

Ron Mercer also is headed to the NBA next season, but he'll depart Kentucky after only two seasons. Mercer made his decision before the NCAA tournament began.

"I don't really have to answer all the questions of whether I'm leaving or not," he said. "So I'm a lot more focused. And I think that tends to make me relax, and I can go out and play like I know I can play and not worry about anything."

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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