When most people talk about the best college basketball players in the country, such names as Len Bias, Walter Berry and Kenny Walker come up almost immediately. But there is another name that belongs on that list that is not so familiar: Ron Harper.
Harper is Miami of Ohio's 6-foot-7 senior forward who recently surpassed 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for his career, a rarely achieved milestone. But Harper's story goes far beyond statistics. Against the best, he plays his best. Last year, in the NCAA tournament, he scored 36 points against Maryland and almost pulled the Redskins to a shocking upset. The previous year, he scored 36 as they beat Indiana.
Saturday, as the Redskins raised their record to 20-4 with a 103-77 rout of Ball State, Harper had 38 points and 13 rebounds. Pro scouts agree that he will be one of the players chosen by the seven teams participating in the NBA lottery for the top picks.
All this is remarkable for a player offered scholarships four years ago by only Miami and Arizona State. He had academic problems then because he stuttered severely. But now, thanks to therapy, he doesn't stutter, has a 2.5 grade-point average and has been working part-time with elementary school children who have learning disabilities.
The annual game of musical coaches has begun early this year. With Eldon Miller out at Ohio State, names are flying. Tennessee Coach Don DeVoe, an alumnus, is still the leading candidate, but because Ohio State has traditionally given only one-year contracts, might not be willing to move. Ohio State did contact Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski last week to ask if he was interested and was told no. The Buckeyes also like Boston College Coach Gary Williams.
At Florida State, where Joe Williams has resigned, the name being batted around is Cliff Ellis, who is finding the going tough in his first two seasons at Clemson. Also, if South Carolina replaces Bill Foster -- a possibility if the Gamecocks don't finish strongly -- the school will offer alumnus Bobby Cremins huge dollars to come back and do what he did for Georgia Tech.
As for the Pittsburgh job, where Hubie Brown and George Karl have been mentioned, Danny Nee, who is 17-6 at Ohio University this season, is also a possibility.
And, also in the area of speculation, if John Thompson goes to the New York Knicks, who might replace Thompson? Perhaps Williams, who coached successfully four years at American and knows the Big East well.
This is a quiet time for recruiters, with the season going on and the late signing date still two months away. But in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the contest for J.R. Reid goes on. He reportedly is down to three schools: North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland -- probably in that order.
Maryland's problem is personnel. Reid has said that he does not want to play somewhere where he will be the centerpiece his freshman year. With Bias gone and the returning ranks thin, Reid couldn't be anything but the main man if he opts to play for Lefty Driesell. The same would not be true at North Carolina (ever) or at Virginia, which has no seniors on the current team.
Unnoticed: The job that Johnny Orr has done at Iowa State. The program had never been to a postseason tournament when Orr took over six years ago. Last year, the Cyclones were 21-13 and made the NCAA tournament. This year, they are 16-7 and have beaten Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Iowa.
Early vote for Big East coach of the year: How about Rollie Massimino? His Villanova team is too young, too small and too slow. Yet it is 18-12 and 8-5 in the Big East. That's a remarkable record considering the personnel and the schedule. By the way, the 30 games played so far are no coincidence. Knowing he had a very young team, Massimino scheduled his team in Alaska and Hawaii, meaning the Wildcats would be six games more experienced down the stretch.
Last week, the Upset Pick came down to Missouri over Oklahoma or Virginia over Georgia Tech. The Pick was Virginia. The Cavaliers lost, Missouri won. The record is 5-8. Clearly, picking against a favorite playing at home isn't very bright. So the Pick this week is for Georgetown to go to Syracuse next Sunday and leave the Orange blue.