No college basketball coach likes to depend on recruiting junior college players. It's simple math. Every two seasons, you have to rebuild your team.
But American University Coach Ed Tapscott had little choice. His Eagles needed some scoring and rebounding punch with the departure of do-everything guard Frank Ross. So he went the junior college route to help a team that finished 13-14 in the Colonial Athletic Association last season and lost in the first round of the CAA tournament.
Dale Spears, a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 22 points and six assists last season at South Florida Community College, led Florida junior college back court players in scoring last season. Clarence Ingram, a 6-5 forward who was a teammate of Spears', averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Daryl Holmes, a 6-7 transfer from Charles County Community College who averaged 16 points and eight rebounds, lead the JUCO invasion.
"I'm big," Tapscott said in reference to his revamped front court. "We could have a front court of Tom Scherer at 6-10, Andy Bon Salle at 6-7 and Eric White at 6-6. And they're all over 220 pounds."
Among his freshman recruits, guard Brock Wortman (15 points, seven assists per game on the top-ranked AAA team in Washington state) and Ron Davenport, a 6-8 center from top-ranked Flint Hill, will have the most immediate impact.
"We're not the little Eagles anymore," Tapscott said. "We may not be the better Eagles, but we're not the little Eagles."
American lost its leading returning scorer, senior guard Chuck West, in a school-related disciplinary action. So senior point guard Mike Sampson may have to assume a bigger scoring role in addition to his ball handling duties.
Tapscott's most versatile returnee is sophomore swing man Mike Sumner, who can play both guard positions and small forward. Last season, Sumner made the CAA all-rookie team, averaging 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Up front, the big question mark involves junior forward White, American's leading rebounder in each of his first two seasons. But White's 1986-87 season lasted about three minutes before he blew out a knee in American's season opener against Providence.
White's rehabilitation has been steady and a return to his 1985-86 form would be a start at resolving a big problem for American -- rebounding. The Eagles did not have a player among the top 10 in the category last season.
Scherer will start at center. He has to do some addition and subtraction -- add to his rebounding and scoring figures (4.8 and 5.3, respectively) and subtract from his personal foul and disqualification numbers (96 and six). Senior forward Bon Salle came on at the end of last season, leading the Eagles in rebounding.
But the biggest addition to the American program is the new Bender Arena, which seats 5,000 and opens in January, ending the team's annual treks to Fort Myer in Virginia for home games.
"We're looking forward to the year, looking forward to playing at home, truly at home," Tapscott said. "It'll be nice to play under bright lights for a change. Where the gym will help is in getting the 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 athletes that you need to have to be competitive these days." SCHEDULE
November: 30, Coppin State, 7:30.
December: 4, vs. Drexel in Manufacturer's Hanover Classic, 6; 5, in Manufacturer's Hanover Classic, 6 or 8; 8, at UMBC, 8:15; 12, Dartmouth, 7:30; 15, George Washington, 7:30; 21, Long Beach State, 7:30; 28, vs. Miami in Palm Beach Classic, 8:30; 29, in Palm Beach Classic, 6:30 or 8:30.
January: 2, at Florida International, 7:30; 6, at Kansas, 7:35; 9, at William and Mary, 7:30; 13, Richmond, 7:30; 16, at UNC-Wilmington, 7:30; 18, at East Carolina, 7:30; 23, James Madison, 7; 27, at George Mason, 7:30; 30, Navy, 7:30.
February: 2, at La Salle, 7:30; 6, William and Mary, 7:30; 8, Gettysburg, 7:30; 10, at Richmond, 7:30; 13, UNC-Wilmington, 7:30; 15, East Carolina, 7:30; 20, at Navy, 1; 24, George Mason, 7:30; 27, at James Madison, 7:30.
March: 5-7, at CAA Tournament in Hampton, Va., tba.