Knight's entrance now rates big score from Tech's Emmett

National notebook

Sticking with program turns out great for guard

February 01, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

When he heard last spring that Bob Knight was coming out of a one-season exile to coach at Texas Tech, Andre Emmett was more than a little skeptical about his own future in Lubbock.

"I didn't think I could play for him," Emmett recalled earlier this week. "I thought my kind of game didn't fit how he coached. But it's turned out pretty good."

Emmett, who had averaged 7.7 points as a freshman on last season's 9-19 team, considered joining an exodus of players - either by choice or Knight's nudging - after the controversial Hall of Fame coach arrived in town.

The Red Raiders are now one of college basketball's biggest surprises this season, and Emmett is one of the main reasons. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard is leading Texas Tech (15-4) in scoring with an 18.3-point average, fourth best in the Big 12.

But Emmett is clearly not the only reason for Tech's sudden turnaround from a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the league for the fourth straight season to one ranked No. 20 in the country, the school's first Top 25 ranking in five years.

You could point to senior center Andy Ellis, who is the league's fifth-leading scorer at 18.0. Or you could point to junior forward Kasib Powell and the other three junior college transfers Knight picked up to fill out his depleted roster.

"Obviously, he's had huge numbers," Nebraska coach Barry Collier said of Emmett before the Cornhuskers upset Texas Tech, 80-69, in Lincoln on Wednesday night. "He's really been consistent for them. But he's benefited from the excellent play of Andy Ellis and Powell. There's no question Emmett has had a great year, but you can't stop there."

There's also the influence of Knight. He might have left Indiana under a cloud 16 months ago for violating a "zero tolerance" policy on verbal or physical abuse instituted by university president Miles Brand, but Knight's resume includes three national titles in Bloomington and 779 career victories.

While Bad Bob briefly found himself in the eye of another storm after nearly coming to blows with the manager of the Compaq Center in Houston after a game there earlier this season, Knight has used his Good Bob side to charm the fans who keep pouring into the school's United Spirit Arena.

Attendance has jumped more than 4,000 from last season to an average of 13,473. The team's recent win over then-No. 6 Oklahoma State was its third straight sellout at 15,098. The Red Raiders followed that victory by beating sixth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday.

"I'd like to think the 15,000 fans had a little bit to do with it," said Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson. "It's not just the team and the coach; the environment and atmosphere raises the level of play. That's as tough an environment as we've ever played in."

Former Texas coach Tom Penders, now an analyst for ESPN, said recently: "It's gone from a funeral parlor to Mardi Gras."

Knight and his assistants are not taking the credit for the turnaround.

"We were a little surprised at how quickly our guys have picked up our type of philosophy and teachings," said Tech assistant coach Bob Beyer.

"They deserve the credit because they worked extremely hard and they're trying to get a better feel of what we want to get done on court. To get so many new guys on the same page so quickly, it's really a compliment to our kids."

Said Emmett: "Playing for Coach Knight has helped me reach my potential."

Emmett totaled 26 points and 10 rebounds against Oklahoma after scoring a career-high 32 in the win over the Cowboys. Not bad for a player who was barely recruited out of high school in Dallas. It was Emmett's mother, Regina Oliver, who chose her son's school, even more than its coach picking him.

And when Emmett was thinking about leaving Lubbock last spring just as Knight arrived, it was his mother who did some research to figure out whether her son should stay put.

"She looked him up on the Internet," said Emmett. "She said he was a coaching genius."

Mother knows best.

Slow start for Pitino

Another of the game's big-name coaches who returned to college basketball this season isn't having the same kind of success.

Rick Pitino, who left the Boston Celtics last year and is now trying to rebuild at Louisville, saw his Cardinals drop to 12-7 (3-5 in Conference USA) with Thursday night's 80-70 loss at Memphis.

"I don't know how the record is going to end up, but as far as effort, this is my best team of all time," said Pitino.

Planting seeds

From now until the NCAA tournament, The Sun will run its weekly seedings for the top four teams from each regional. The seedings will be made before Thursday night's games.

East ..................... South

1. Duke ................ 1. Cincinnati

2. Kentucky .......... 2. Alabama

3. Okla. State ....... 3. Texas

4. Miami ................ 4. Indiana

West .................... Midwest

1. Maryland ......... 1. Kansas

2. Oklahoma ......... 2. Georgia

3. Florida .............. 3. UCLA

4. Arizona ............. 4. Ohio State

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