Everybody knows that three freshmen will drive any college basketball coach crazy, especially if two of them are in the starting lineup and the third is your sixth man.
And Bucky Roman, Mike Zagardo and Tom Glenn are driving George Washington mentor Bob Tallent to distraction, keeping him awake half the night, making him set curfews, forcing him to change rules.
Tallent doesn't know what to do with them. Youngsters sure aren't what they used to be. Tallent can't get his three prize recruits to stop studying.
"I've threatened to ban books on road trips," said Tallent, not entirely joking. "I've had to put in a studying curfew. They can bring the books but they've got to stop working by midnight."
Tallent has even dusted off the lecture that coach Adolph Rupp once gave him during his playing days at Kentucky. "I'd often be late for practice because I was the only engineer on the team," recalls Tallent. "Rupp would lock the gym. I'd stand there shaking the gate and Adolph'd say, 'Hark, sounds like our student engineer at the gate. Hey, Tallent, what the hell did you come here for - to play ball or study'?"
Tallent used the same tounge-in-cheek speech on the 6-foot-10 Zagardo last month. "Ziggie was in the motel room right above me in Stoors, Conn., the night before the first start of his career," said Tallent. "I just thought he couldn't sleep from nerves and was pacin gand taking hot showers to relax. Turns out he was up 'til 3:30 a.m. taking cold showers to study chemistry."
Zagardo got a lecture the next day and Tallent wasn't kidding about "studying when the sun's up and sleeping when it's down." The next day Zagardo was dutifully muttering, "I got to get this premed thing in perspective and get serious about my ball."
The worst freshman offender, however, is Roman, a 6-4 guard who was supposed to replace Tallent's brother, Pat who was occsionally allergic to books, but always addicted to points. To date, Roman's grade-point average (3.8 out of 4.0) is rivaling his scoring average (6.5).
"I can't believe I got that 'B' in calculus," says Roman, who, along with his roomie, Glenn, has won a starting job.
Tallent can't believe that a muscular guard like Roman who has high-jumped 6-foot-9 and can score from almost anyplace, could be content "just to be out on the court." Gradually, the Noblest Roman, as the easy-going guard has been tagged, is pulling fewer "all-nighters" to cram for his electrical engineering major and looking out more for the well-being of his jump shots.
"He's getting more confident, looking for part of the action," says Tallent of Roman. "We weren't running the fast break well and part of the reason was that Bucky had to outlet pass, then whip the ball back to John Holloran in the middle. It's improving."
Nevertheless, the bright, relaxed Roman - who greets strangers with a confident "Howdy" - can still make Tallent dip into his barrel when he makes a clownish freshman error.
"Ringling Brothers called me this morning," Tallent will tell Roman. "They want you back real bad."
Tallent calls Baltimorean Zagardo "the most intense young man I've ever met. He eats more than two people but he works and worries it right off." Roman, who took Lee High to the Virginia AAA finals last year, is as organized as you would expect the son of a Navy captain to be.
The effect of the two on the 6-7 Glenn, who rooms with Roman in the dorm directly avove Zagardo, is already apparent. Glenn feels a bit guilty running his record player all day. He no longer fears math. He finds himself content just "studying and trying to become better-schooled in my basketball fundamentals. I've only played three years of organized ball."
If Glenn lacks a fundamental or two, he has a lock on several of the frills. "His shooting range is anywhere inside the lines," marvels Roman. "He'll throw it up from anywhere and make it. I thought I could jump pretty well, but he's a real leaper."
The trio - who form a perfect balance of one guard, one forward, one center - becomes enthusiatic simply thinking about four years of playing together. "Boy, it makes you wonder what kind of team we'll have when we're seniors," says Glenn. "Ziggie'll be destroyin' people when he gets heavier. He's hooking with either hand. They're making me into a power forwar, rather thatn finesse player, but it's nice to know Ziggie'll always be there for reinforcement."
In the last three games since Roman and Glenn won starting berths, the pair has averaged 24 minutes a game - Roman hitting for a 10-point average on 52 per cent shooting and Glenn averaging eight points and eight rebounds. Zagardo is the team's third-leading rebounder and first front-court sub.
"They're young and still streaky. And sometimes they look like they don't know what the heck's going on," says Tallent. "But they're all good, smart kids, and in time, they may make me look even smarter."