Drexler glides down memory lane at Houston Game at N.C. State stirs flashes of 1983 title game

National notebook

December 11, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The reunion tour starts for Clyde Drexler tomorrow, when the University of Houston visits North Carolina State. For Drexler, now the Cougars' coach, it will be a trip down memory lane.

In this case, at least, the memory isn't very pleasant.

It was against the Wolfpack that Drexler, then one of the stars of Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma fraternity, played his final college game. It came in the 1983 NCAA championship game at the Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Cougars were upset by N.C. State a dunk by Lorenzo Charles off an air ball by Dereck Whittenburg.

Drexler believes higher forces were at work that night.

"It was like divine intervention," Drexler told a reporter from the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record, "and the world would never have gotten to know Jimmy Valvano the way it did."

Along with N.C. State, Houston's schedule this season will also include a trip to the Pit, where the Cougars will play later this month in the Lobo Invitational, as well asa home game against Louisville, the team Drexler and his former fraternity brothers beat in the semifinals that year.

As to be expected of a team with no seniors, the Cougars have been erratic under their new coach. After an exhilarating opening-night win at home against Texas, Houston lost its next game against Sam Houston State. The Cougars will go into Reynolds Coliseum with a 4-3 record.

Still, there's plenty of excitement surrounding Drexler's program. Season tickets to Hofheinz Pavilion are sold out. The number of $1,000-a-year floor seats sold jumped from 65 to 270 and 24 luxury boxes have been sold for $15,000 each, including one to Hakeem Olajuwon, who played with Drexler at Houston and later with the NBA's Rockets.

"I think immediately we're gaining respect," Drexler told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. "And over a period of time, I'd like to hold that respect, kind of like what North Carolina and Duke have been able to do. Not have a few years of success, then go rock bottom and get back up."

Whatever success the Cougars have this year will likely be attributed to another familiar name. Gee Gervin, son of former ABA and NBA star George Gervin, has shown that he is a chip off the old shot. Gervin, a junior college transfer, leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points a game and has twice scored over 25 points.

Getting by

When Delaware forward Darryl Presley was suspended from school last month for reportedly cheating on an exam, it looked as if the Blue Hens would have a difficult time repeating as America East champions.

"If you would have told me we would have lost him and be 6-0 right now, I don't think I would have believed you," said Delaware coach Mike Brey.

But Presley, who after transferring from Virginia led the Blue Hens to the NCAA tournament last year, has hardly been missed. Mostly, it's because of the way John Bennett has stepped into the lineup.

Bennett, a fifth-year senior from Middletown, Md. (Middletown High), is averaging 9.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots. He is shooting 26-for-34 from the field and is a perfect complement to first-team all-conference forward Mike Pegues inside.

Back on track

When Marvis "Bootsy" Thornton arrived at St. John's last year, it was with a reputation as a prolific scorer at Tallahassee College. But Thornton, who played at Dunbar and now starts at shooting guard, was barely shooting the ball going into Wednesday's game against No. 20 Pittsburgh.

After taking only 17 shots in his previous three games, and making just six, Thornton was 10-for-19 from the field against the Panthers, scoring a career-high 23 in a 73-52 win for the No. 18 Red Storm. Thornton admitted that he was motivated by seeing former Red Storm star Felipe Lopez in the stands.

"I've been in kind of a slump," Thornton said. "I've been feeding off my teammates. Tonight they fed off me. Confidence has never been a problem."

Et cetera

Auburn's 8-0 start is the best in 36 years for the Tigers, but Cliff Ellis' teams at Clemson were known to start that way before fading down the stretch. Florida is starting four freshmen and one of them, point guard Mike Miller, was called "Wojo" by Florida State fans. Duke fans didn't during a 113-86 win over the Gators at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night. Wisconsin-Green Bay guard B. J. Larue outplayed All-American Wally Szczerbiak in the Phoenix's recent 78-60 upset of the Miami of Ohio RedHawks, scoring 20 of his 25 points in the second half and hitting all five of his three-point shots. Larue did it a few days after he broke his nose and was wearing a protective device on his face.

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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