The rumors and the whisperings are over. So is the wining, dining and whining. The nation's top basketball prospects have made their decisions on college. Now all they have to do is try and live up to their clippings.
In some cases that will be almost impossible. Consider Albert King, the 6-foot-7 Brooklyn schoolboy who finally opted for Maryland on June 8, two weeks after it appeared he would attend Arizona State.
King has had top billing in one book, has been the subject of dozens of feature articles, including one in Sports Illustrated, and has been compared with people like Julius Erving and Connie Hawkins. Fast company indeed.
But many of those supposedly in the know say that King may not even be the best high school prospect in the country this year.
Some prefer Eugene Banks, the 6-7 strongman from national prep champion West Philadelphia High School, who will play for Duke next season. Others tout Ervin Johnson, another forward, who decided to go to Michigan State, which is in his howetown, East Lansing.
Locally, no coaches would compare any of their recruits to King, but Catholic and Howard appear to have had good year, with George Washington and American lagging somewhat behind. Georgetown has not yet signed anyone.Maryland, thanks to its acquisition of King, probably belongs in the nation's Top 10 in terms of recruiting success.
While Banks and King, No. 1 and No. 2 in most polls, ended up in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 10 - mostly notably Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indians - probably had the best year among leagues.
Ohio State coach Eidon Miller grabbed the top five players in his state, plus New York star Kenny Page. Wisconsin coach Bill Cofield, a former Virginia assistant, landed two of the nation's top 20 players, Wes Mathews, a 6-3 guard from Connecticut, and Larry Petty, a 6-9 center from New York's Power Memorial, producer of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Indiana coach Bobby Knight, hurt badly by the defection of five undergraduates to other schools during the year, rebounded by signing four outstanding players. Chief among them is 6-8 Ray Tolbert, voted Indiana's prestigious "Mr. Basketball" award.
But perhaps it was Notre Dame's Digger Phelps, frustrated in a lastditch bid to grab Banks, who had the best year of all. Phelps signed five top players, including 6-6 Kelly Tripucka of Bloomfield, N.J., rated among the top five by many 6-11 Gilbert Salinas from San Antonio, Tex., and The Washington Post's player of the year, 6-5 Tracy Jackson from Paint Branch. With four of his first six players back from last year's 22-7 squad, Phelps should be sitting pretty.
The biggest surprise of the year came when 6-8 Jeff Ruland of Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., decided to attend neaby Iona, not exactly known as a basketball powerhouse in recent years.
"Ruland's going to Iona is a shock," said Howard Garfinkel, considered by many the country's top scout of high school talent. "He is without question the No. 1 center in the country.
"The have-nots are going to start getting more players like this. The freshman rule has changed everything. Now players want to go some place where they can play immediately. All the supers are looking to turn pro three years."
Garfinkel rated Banks as the best player in the country, with King second and Johnson third. But he added, "No one has ever lived who has more potential than King. He just has to put it together."
At Maryland, behind King, Lefty Driesell has added 6-7 Ernest Graham, who averaged 22 points and 17 rebounds a game while leading Baltimore Dunbar to a 25-2 record. He joins fellow Dunbar grad Larry Gibson in a Terrapin uniform.
The final Maryland recruit may be the best bet for a sleeper next season. He is Greg Manning, a 6-1 point guard from Stouton, Pa. Mannings averaged better than 28 points a game while shooting 60 per cent from the floor as a senior. With Brad Davis gone, he may see action early.
Brian Magid, darling of Maryland's fans but not its coach, will see no action next season. He has transferred to George Washington and will sit out a year before launching his bombs for Bob Tallent's team.
Fortunately for Tallent, two other transfers already in school will become eligible this winter. One is 6-4 Bob Lindsay, who played at Florida for two years after graduating from Ballard High School in Louisville, alma mater of two other GW players, Tom Tate and Mike Sampson. The other transfer is 6-foot Daryle Charles, also a junior, who came from LeSalle. He will be eligible in January.
Tallent's only freshman next year will be yet another Ballard grad, 6-1 Curtis Jeffries, who is expected to see a good deal of playing time at point guard.
While Tallent lost the player he wanted most - Georgetown Prep's 6-6 Dave Mulquin (to Holy Cross) - Catholic's Jack Kvancz got the man he wanted most. He is Dave Butler, a 6-3 swingman who averaged 33.6 points a contest for Burlington (N.J.) Junior College last season tops in the nation among JC players. Butler will give Catholic, 13-13 season, the scorer it needs to replace the graduated Greg Kolonics.
Unfortunately for Catholic, Kvanes did not fill his other big need, in the pivot. His other tow recuits are guards, 6-2 Joe Colletta, another New Jersey player from Bergen Catholic High School, and Dennis Demsey, 6-foot point guard from Washington city champion St. John's.
American, also in need of a big man, signed two guards. The big name is 6-4 Russell (Boo) Powers an all-state selection from Waterfield (N.J.) High School where he averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds a game. AU coach Jim Lynam called Powers, "without question the best prospect in my five years at American." Lynam also signed 6-1 Mark Garlitos, a transfer from Camden (N.J.) Community College.
Howard coach A.B. Williamson, with his first seven players back from last year's 18-10 team signed 6-3 Louis Wilson from Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro and 5-8 Andre Brd, who averaged 20 points and 10 assists a game at Nova High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Georgetown's John Thompson has even more players returning than Williamson (18) and thus far has not used either of his two available scholarships.
North Carolina, with 6-9 Loyola of Baltimore star Pete Budko and 6-6 Gray, Ga, native Al Wood joining Phil Ford, Mike O'Koren and company, will again he a force to be reckoned with.
Virginia, with Ballard's 6-5 superstar, Jeff Lamp, added to the cast, and Duke with Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel welcoming Banks, wil be darkhorse contenders in the ACC.
Darnell Valentine, 6-foot streak of a guard-from Witchita, could put Kanses back in the running; Danny Vranes, 6-7 from Salt Lake City, is expected to Keep Utah atop the Western Athletis Conference; Reggie Hannah, 6-3 of Titusville, Fla, may help Florida improve on its 18-8 mark, and James Ratiff of Washington will try to replace Bernard King at Tennessee.
And UCLA? The Brains lost to Idaho State, lost their top recruita and finally lost their coach. And their 11-year reign in the Pacific Eight may end next year.