Mike Smith, a 6-foot-9 high school senior from Hacienda Heights, Calif., averaged 29 points and 16 rebounds this basketball season. Last football season, he threw 44 touchdown passes. Also an all-America volleyball player, Smith is perhaps most impressive in the classroom, where he has compiled a 3.98 grade-point average.
Mark Cline, a 6-7 forward from Williamson, W. Va., scored 30.1 points and had 14 rebounds per game to earn West Virginia player of the year honors. Cline also enjoyed calculus, history and English this year, earning a 3.79 GPA.
Joe Wolf, a 6-10 center and considered the best post player to come out of Wisconsin since Marquette's Jim Chones, scored more than 31 points per game and more than 1,100 on his college boards.
When the NCAA recently announced it was tightening its academic requirements for Division I scholarships--a minimum GPA of 2.0 for a core curriculum of 11 academic courses and a minimum score on the SAT or ACT tests, scheduled to take effect in 1986--Smith, Cline and Wolf approved. So did the other eight members of the U.S. All-Star team that will play the Capital All-Stars in the 10th annual Capital Classic at Capital Centre Friday night.
"I don't see anything wrong with the requirement," said 6-8 Tom Sheehey of Rochester, N.Y. "You're supposed to go to school for an education. What's more important? An education or playing basketball? A few lucky people play college basketball, one in a million plays pro ball. You have to be prepared to do something else.
"If you don't go to class, you don't deserve to be on the basketball court. Lazy kids make lazy basketball players. Of course, you do find a few exceptions. I don't think it's hard to get a 2.5 average. Just go to class."
"A lot of people bust their butts to get a 2.5 average, others can breeze and get a 4.0," said Cline, who is undecided between West Virginia and Wake Forest. "Why should a guy who works as hard as he can be penalized because his grade point isn't as high. Because I was a 3.7 student, everyone expected me to do much better on the college boards (900). I don't think the tests are that important. Classroom work is more important; that's what you do in college. There's no test that can be fair to all students."
While all of the players agreed some kind of academic standards are needed, they were sympathetic to the hundreds of students they felt would be affected, particularly those with poor academic backgrounds and study habits.
"Every student isn't gifted academically and might not be able to get the required grades," said Keith Gatlin, 6-5, who has committed to Maryland. "But that's the breaks. I think these requirements will help those students who tend to mess around early in high school. They know they can't do that and get in.
"I'm an average student but I'm not great at taking tests. I might panic if I thought I needed to get a certain score on my college boards to get in school," Gatlin said, laughing. "Maybe it should be lower or maybe a better combination could be worked out to suit all schools."
Said Barry Sumpter, a 6-11 player headed for Louisville, "Most athletes think they can goof around from the ninth to the 11th grades, then work like crazy in the 12th grade to get their grades up.
"It wouldn't bother me because I have a 3.0 and scored very high on the reading and comprehension tests I took this year. I haven't taken the college boards yet. Some people are very nervous when they take tests and, if I flunked it, it might be because of the atmosphere, not because I didn't know the answers."
Smith, headed for Brigham Young, where he'll be a premedicine major, said the requirements are fine if the school curricula are exactly the same for each student.
Like Smith, Kentucky-bound Winston Bennett, an impressive and aggressive inside player in the early U.S. team practices, has no problems with the requirement if the curricula are identical.
"The school has to prepare these students. If they do that, then it's not asking too much to expect students to get good scores," said Bennett, who had a 3.0 average this year. "Either way, I think it puts some pressure on students taking tests."
Curtis Aiken, a 5-11, 39.9-point-per-game scorer from Buffalo who will attend Kansas, said he had the luxury of having early counseling and, "I knew what I had to do.
"Expecting a student who isn't disciplined in taking tests or studying to get about 1,000 on the college boards is a bit unfair," Aiken said. "I haven't gotten my scores back but I felt I did pretty good. I still plan to take them again to see if I improve. I'd give that advice to everyone who takes those tests--take them again, regardless of your score."
Corey Gaines, a guard headed for UCLA, said there is some difference between private schools and public schools, but said he thought every student can do well if he's properly prepared in high school.
"I wasn't as prepared as I should have been and that's why my score (810) wasn't as high as it should have been," said Gaines, who is from Playa del Rey, Calif. "But I don't plan to take it again."