"Our triangle-and-two defense really confused Southeastern. They scored 115 points on us, but they still don't know how they did it."
Washington Bible College coach,
Washington has a half-dozen brave and struggling small college basketball teams, like Button's Bible Warriors, who still play the game for the fun and the love of it,
There can't be any other reason.
"We all know what it's like to walk into a gym, look up at the other team, and say, 'You mean we've gotta play those guys?'" said Bowie State coach Taft Hickman.
The Washington area's Little Six - Southeastern Bowie State, Washington Bible, D.C. University, Gallaudet and Strayer - are full of revoluntionary basketball oddities.
For instance: they have coaches who are candid, fans who cheer for a good try even if their team is getting clobbered, and players who are more likely to be studying to be CPAs than NBAs.
The Little Six already has a headstart on the town's Big Seven when it comes to self-appraisals.
"We won't score 100 points in a game this year," said Bowie State's Hickman. "Even if we ran up and down court that many times, we'd be too tired to put it in the basket when we got there."
"Turnovers are our big problem," explained Gallaudet coach Hubert Anderson. "Forty is just too many."
"My best player scores 35 a game," said UDC coach Emory Waters. "Our strategy is to keep the ball away from him as much as possible. When he touches it, my other players stop to watch."
"None of our players has ever won a college game," admitted Strayer coach James Brown. "We don't exactly have a basketball tradition. Last year we practiced in a shoe store."
"When I came back after Christmas, half my team was gone," said Southeastern mentor Clayton Singleton. "I've been through 40 players in three years. When my two best players showed up five minutes after tipoff, I said '"Glad you could make it.'"
Even in the self-effacing Little Six there has be a pecking order, a hierarchy of merit. The Southeastern coach howls at his team after a defect. "The way you played tonight you couldn't best Strayer."
Add Hickman, looking at his team's 1-10 record, said. "We're oversheduled. Next year we're going to play every school I can find that has 'Bible' in its name."
To get an inkling of what the Little Six must endure to put a respectable team on the floor, one need only look at the hardships that the best of the bunch - Southeastern - must overcome.
"Right now we got to say we're the best," said guard Jimmy Vines after a 112-109 overtime over UDC.
But Southeastern knows its hold on that distinction is tenuous.
"It doesn't surprise me at all that we lost six players off the team at semester break," Singleton said. "Nobody knows the sacrifices these guys make to play for Southeastern."
Almost every player works a 40-hour-a-week job, supports a family and goes to school full time before he can think about coming to the team's 9-to-11 p.m. practices at Anacostia High's gym.
"I don't need players," said Singleton. "Players in Washington are a dime a dozen. I don't want players. I want men.
"I use my assistant coach Charles Sias as an example. He played on a Southeastern team that won four games in three years. But he got his business degree and now he's the Kellogg's representative for this whole area.
"They say I'm strict and put a lot of players off my team. I don't kick them off. They do it themselves by not going to class. I'm only interested in spending my time coaching people who will work to amount to something."
Vines, a jumping jack junior guard, is a full-time teller at Perpetual Fedderal and works "all the overtime I can get. I'm going to be a CPA."
How does basketball for an 8-8 team fit into such a life?
"Just pride," said Vines. "We drove five hours, six-to-a-car to Roanoke to play Virginia Commonwealth.
"All anybody sees is that we lost 90-75. But they're a Division I team with two players 6-9 and we didn't have anybody over 6-4. But look at the box score - both teams had 37 field goals. They just beat us at the foul line. We take a lot of pride in that game."
When senior captain Darrell Joyce misses the first new minutes of a game because he is working as a security guard, Singleton says nothing.
"We'll even hold the team bus for him," the coach says. "He's going to law school next year. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw him in Congress somebody."
If Southeastern, which gives scholarships, is the biggest of the Six, then Washington Bible is the littliest.
"We're a one-man team," admitted WBC Coach Button. "If Charley Cato isn't back next year," he kidded, "neither am I!"
The 6-foot-3 Cato, with his 28.5 points and 16.8 rebounds a game, has helped WBC to four victories in 13 games.
"Offensively, our only plan is Get the ball to Charley and clear out," says Button. "Out only plays are our different ways to 'Get the ball to Charley.'
"Defensively, I'll try anything I can get away with."
Button goes light on the strategy and pep talks.
"Sometimes I tell the kids. 'This isn't a 'should-win' game. It's a 'should-get-out-alive' game.
"We try hard and have fun. If we lose by 40, we lose by 40. We always try to be courteous, so maybe the refs will help us a little."
Only once did Cato break the Coach's good-manners rule. Since Washington Bible practices in a rented Salvation Army gym, dunking isn't a good idea - bad for the rims. But in warmups for a game two years ago. Cato tossed down a couple of soft, illegal dunks just for fun. The ref called a pair of technical fouls on him.
Cato never complained. But when Bible had the game clinched. Cato threw down an enormous dunk, stuffing it with his right hand and catching it in midair with his left. With one motion he handed the ball to the startled ref and walked to the bench, knowing that his third technical foulment an automatic ejection.
"Charley never said anything," Button said, "but I think he wanted everybody to know that even though we were a little school, we knew what a real dunk looked like."
For a school where everyone majors in Bible and 85 per cent continue into religious work. Washington Bible has the peculair nickname of Warriors.
"It ought to be something like one team we play The Piedmont Preachers," said Button. "But we are warriors in the sense that the word is used in the 16th chapter of Ephesians as 'warriors for the faith.'"
If Washington Bible has trouble with its nickname, pity the Strayer Streakers.
"It'd be pretty hard for us to have a team mascot," coach Brown observed. Actually, Strayer's entire basketball entourage consists of one cheerleader. Strayer fans encourage her in solo gyrations by yelling. "Talk to 'em, Michelle."
Of all Washington's college teams, Strayer is considered something of a miracle by other schools.
"I really respect the kids on that team," said Bowie State's Hickman. "I don't see how they stay in existence."
It's not easy. Two years ago, when the team won its last game, the Strayer coach had to put on a uniform when three Streakers fouled out so that the team could finish the last six minutes of the game with three men on the court.
Beside holding chalk-talk practices in an F Street shoe store and working out in a church gym with a nine-foot high ceiling, Strayer has to put up with occasional opponents who seem determined to set a school scorning record.
Last year's Nadir was not a 61-point loss to a team of subs. It was a game when the Strayer coach pulled his team off the floor and forfeited when they were only 41 points behind.
"When the referee ran past the other teams's bench and winked at the other coach, that was it," said former Strayer coach Josh Wright. "We will lose with dignity, but we will not be humiliated."
Strayer's players, like Southeastern's, are primarily interested in becoming accountants, salesmen, data processors, merchandisers and the like. Before they march into such a stearnly realistic job market, basketball is one last playful vestige of youth that they hate to give up.
"We're getting better," first-year coach and former player Brown. "For once I can say that the talent's here, though it's slow to blossom.
"Used to be we were awful small. Now folks on this team can dunk the ball. I've got my fearsome threesome of (6-3) Eric Gainey, Eugene Johnson and William (Itty-Bitty) Jackson. They can all play this game pretty nice."
Especially Itty-Bitty who never shoots unless he has the ball.
Only a year ago a victory over Strayer was a foregone conclusion for a team like Gallaudet with a million dollar gym and players 6-5 and bigger.
This month, however, the busky Bisons were delighted to escape with a 10-point victory in their own Gallaudet Invitational.
"Strayer has improved a lot," said Gallaudet Coach Hubert Anderson."But so have we. We've already won six games and that's as many as any Gallaudet team has won for as long as anyone can remember."
Gallaudet no longer keeps its eye on what its athletic director calls "the margin of defeat, the way we did in those 1-23 seasons." Now the Bison are so gung-ho that they spent two weeks training in Marathon, Fla., over Christmas vacation.
Even that junket, glorious as it was, had a bit of Little Six whimsey around the edges. Most college teams use those down-South Christmas trips for a tournament of two. Who did Gallaudet play in Florida"
"Nobody," sighed 6-6 center Mark Meyers.
"We got up at 6:30 a.m. and ran seven miles, then went back to bed," he grinned. "Then we got up again, held two practices a day on an outdoor playground court and by then we were so tired that we just went back to bed again."
The angels behind the Gallaudet trip were the Bison cheerleaders who spend the fall raising $2,000 with raffles and bake sales.
"We had to be pretty economical to make $2,000 stretch over two weeks," indicated tMeyers. "You know, the cheerleaders came, too. Not a bad deal, huh?"
Gallaudet came back tanned, together and in shape. "I keep hearing about how physically strong they are," says Southeastern's Singleton. "People are talking about them."
In fact, first-year Coach Anderson, who has installed a fast-motion passing game, is pleased about everything at Gallaudet except the position of his team's bench.
"We've even had a couple of full-house crowds," said Gallaudet athletic director Tom Jackson. "But Hubert has to use sign language to talk to the team in the huddle and everybody in the crowd leans forward and reads what he's saying.
"It makes him nervous for 500 people to know the strategy. If they make a mistake, it's pretty obvious."
If Gallaudet, led by graceful freshman guard Jimmy Newsome, a 5-11 smoothie who can dunk, has reached the respectable plateau it has long sought, then the newly-consolidated University of the District of Columbia has ambitions as big as its name.
"We're going to dress this program up," vowed rookie Coach Waters. "Our guards are instant offense. They can all turn it loose, not just Barry Frazier (Averaging almost 35 points a game). If I can pick up a couple of big ones, we'll be very tough next year.
"Man, I'd even take a 6-foot-7 doughnut. It wouldn't take me long to turn him into a dunking doughnut."
Waters' problem - the one which has driven many a Little Six coach into a one-year tenure - has been grades.
"The players we thought we would get from D.C. Teachers had no grades whatsoever. I couldn't believe some of those transcripts. There's sort of a social stigma to small schools in D.C., as though you're not supposed to go to school, but just basketball," said one UDC official.
For the time being Waters tries to steal a few victories to stay at 500 with his onslaught of gunning guards and a front court so small that the center came to Waters when he was named a starter and said. "Coach, I've neve been first string before. Are you sure you're not making a mistake?"
"I finally spotted a 6-9 in the halls the other day and I practically tackled him. 'Son.' I said, 'would you like to play basketball?"
Waters gets his voice up to its highest, thiniest squeek and gives his one word immitation of the giant's answer.
"No," peeps Waters, then shakes his head in despair.
One of Waters' UDC players comes over sheepishly and says quietly. "Coach. I need $5 for gas."
Waters reaches into his pocket and fishes out a five. There isn't a great deal left.
"I dont' make no money in this job," he said, just stating a simple fact. "But anything I can do for 'em. I will."
I couldn't love 'em any more if they were ten Bill Waltons."