RALEIGH, N.C., DEC. 20 -- Moments before Kansas faced North Carolina State here on Saturday afternoon, Kansas Coach Larry Brown stood in front of his bench watching Danny Manning warm up. "This one will be a real test for Danny," he said. "I want to see how he responds here."
A couple of hours later, Manning, Brown's 6-foot-10 senior star, had given him an emphatic answer. Not only did he score 32 points, pull down six rebounds and block three shots, he dominated during the last five minutes of the Jayhawks' 74-67 victory over the Wolfpack.
"When it's crunch time, I want the ball," Manning said. "I feel like if I get it, I can make something happen, if not with a shot, then with a pass. I think it's fun to have the ball at the end. I enjoyed today."
The words are almost as important as the performance. Manning, labeled for greatness for so long, often has been reticent about stepping forward in the clutch, especially when his team leans on him. Saturday, N.C. State, with it's bevy of big men, put a lot of large bodies on Manning. He never blinked.
"People have said he doesn't like a physical game," N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano said. "I would say that was a physical game. I would also say he handled it pretty well."
Manning also handled the pressure of returning to North Carolina pretty well. He was booed unmercifully when Kansas played N.C. State in Greensboro two years ago after leaving that city as a high school senior to move to Lawrence, Kan. His father, Ed Manning, had been hired as an assistant coach by Brown and some people back here remain bitter. Two years ago, Manning played poorly amidst the boos. Saturday, he was superb.
"It did get to me two years ago," Manning said. "Now, I'm more mature. Today, it just motivated me to play better. It's funny though, if I had stayed here at State or Carolina, I would never have heard a boo in the state."
Well, maybe at Duke . . .
As good as the game was Saturday, the best part of the show here may have come before the opening tip. Because the students are on semester break, N.C. State had sold many student seats located behind the benches, thinking the student turnout would be low.
Wrong. The students turned out in force, demanding their normal seats. They had been sold. Ninety minutes before game time, Valvano and Brown walked out on the floor and heard the students being held at the door chanting, "Seats, seats, we want seats."
They walked over to investigate. Hearing the students' plight, Brown said, "Oh hell, Jim, I say let 'em all in." In a flash, the students, given Brown's encouragement, had moved past the two men into the seats. Security asked them to leave. No. Athletic officials asked them to leave. No. Then, the officials asked TV commentator Dick Vitale to get on the public address system and ask the students to leave. "Only Jim Valvano can do that," Vitale answered.
Valvano was in the locker room, preparing his team and steering clear of the controversy. When athletic officials tried to argue that people had paid for the seats, the students chanted, "we paid more," referring to tuition and athletic fees.
Finally, N.C. State surrendered. Extra chairs were brought in and squeezed into the end zones and the area between the benches and the bleachers and press row and the bleachers. It undoubtedly violated every fire law in the book, but at least there wasn't a riot.
Quote of the Week
American Coach Ed Tapscott talking about why he will hate to leave Fort Myer even for a brand new gym next month: "This is home for us, no matter how humble it is. I like playing games here. My kids know where everything is. They know where the bench is, they know where our fans are, they even know which weight to hang their clothes on. Tom Scherer hasn't missed the bench press machine yet."
The Eagles dress in a weight room and senior center Scherer is assigned to the bench press machine for changing . . .
If you were filling out an all-America ballot right now it would have to include Iowa State senior forward Jeff Grayer, who is averaging almost 30 points and 10 rebounds a game. Playing in Ames, Iowa, he gets almost no attention. What's more, Grayer, listed at 6-5, was recently measured as barely more than 6-3 . . .
The high school junior generally rated as best in his class in the country right now is 6-6 James Jackson from Ohio. Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Kentucky are in hot pursuit already. Last month, Jackson's coach was invited to speak to the Iowa state high school coaches association. Coincidence, no doubt. This month, his team played in a high school tournament in Lexington. Their games were moved to Rupp Arena. Coincidence again, no doubt.
The Upset Pick
The Upset Pick dropped its fourth in a row -- resoundingly -- when Georgia Tech beat LSU Wednesday. But the four-game losing streak finally ended Saturday when Iowa State upset Iowa. The record is 2-4. This week: Illinois finally flashes its potential by beating Missouri in St. Louis.