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TGS ALL-NEWCOMER TEAM 2011-12...AND REMEMBER THE WALTON GANG!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor and TGS Staff


TGS 2012 ALL-NEWCOMER TEAM


MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST, 6-7 Frosh, Kentucky

CODY ZELLER, 6-11 Frosh, Indiana

ANTHONY DAVIS, 6-10 Frosh, Kentucky

BRADLEY BEAL, 6-4 Frosh, Florida

AUSTIN RIVERS, 6-4 Frosh, Duke

TREY BURKE, 6-0 Frosh, Michigan


NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Anthony Davis, Kentucky...The rare combination of our Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, as we noted in last week's TGS Superlatives issue. No player in the nation distorted games this season as did Davis, whose defensive prowess (the most-menacing in the college game since Georgetown's Patrick Ewing almost thirty years ago) closed off the rim on the stop end and effectively sealed off the paint, blocking an NCAA frosh record 186 shots in the process and likely altering several times that many attempts from the floor. All of which helped the Cats to their first NCAA crown since 1998 and got the title-game monkey off John Calipari's back. Davis will almost surely be the first player selected in the upcoming NBA Draft if he declares himself eligible at the end of the month (which most SEC insiders expect him to do).

The "All-Newcomer Team" is a staple of ours at TGS since our inception 55 years ago and recalls many fond memories. Especially as we annually name this team at or near the end of our publishing season, when we are usually in a reflective mood. Indeed, it's hard for us not to reminisce at this time of year as we look back upon the countless editions of TGS and recall the past All-Newcomer teams. (See online PDF version for a listing of all the past Newcomer teams.)

This year's team, with a pair of Kentucky stars, Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, recalls the first time when we named multiple members of the same team to one of our All-Newcomer years. And, in that season of 1971-72, we were also tempted to make it a trio of players from that same team, as we were this year when Wildcat guard Marquis Teague made it to our final cutdown, nearly joining teammates Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist on our Newcomer team.

Allow us, then, to digress for a moment as we recall the last time we faced the same dilemma, and reminisce about one of John Wooden's four unbeaten UCLA title teams in 1971-72.

It's almost hard to recall the days when freshmen were not eligible to play, as was mostly the case (save for brief exceptions around the years of World War II and the Korean War) through the 1971-72 school year. All of the great freshman football and basketball recruits of that era would play their first year of college competition on freshman-only teams. Indeed, it's hard to believe that a generation of star players was affected, including legendary names such as Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Bradley, Rick Barry, Elvin Hayes, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Wes Unseld, Pete Maravich, Julius Erving, and countless others. The NCAA had partially repealed the frosh eligibility rule in 1968, allowing their competition in all sports save football and basketball. The frosh prohibition in those sports was finally lifted for the 1972-73 school year.

Thus, the 1971-72 season was truly the last of an era in college sports, basketball in particular. But it was also the beginning of another glorious chapter in UCLA hoops history.

By that time, most of the nation had become sick and tired of UCLA winning national titles. Entering the 1971-72 campaign, it looked as if John Wooden's string of five straight championships, and seven in the previous eight years, might finally be ready to end. Graduation had torn the guts out of the 1970-71 national champion Bruins, with star frontliners Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, and Steve Patterson all graduating. And this from a Bruin team that had a lot more trouble staying on top than all of Wooden's previous title winners. One of these days, when we have the proper space and appropriate backdrop, we'll chronicle the perils of those 1970-71 Bruins.

That last Wicks-Rowe-Patterson title team hardly appeared unbeatable. The college hoops world breathed a sigh of relief that maybe the UCLA dynasty was ready to end.

Only it wasn't. Not by a mile.

West Coast hoop aficionados had known better throughout the previous '70-71 season, and realized there might be little or no drop-off after the Wicks-Rowe team, because Wooden had amassed another group of special recruits who would toil relatively unnoticed that campaign on the frosh team known as the Brubabes. Wooden, however, had made previous Brubabe teams a storyline in their own right five years earlier, when Alcindor's frosh team not only destroyed all opposition in 1965-66, but beat the Bruin varsity, which happened to be the defending national championship team, in what was the opening game at the newly-constructed Pauley Pavilion. (That shock 75-60 result was also chronicled by Sports Illustrated, which had the same sort of influence in those days as ESPN would decades later; SI was the ultimate validator of storylines in that era.) Thus, when Alcindor and classmates Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford, and Kenny Heitz became sophomores and eligible for varsity play in the following 1966-67 season, they had already made something of a name for themselves.

Wooden's recruiting class that enrolled in the fall of 1970, five years after Alcindor, was almost as ballyhooed. Unlike most of Wooden's previous top recruiting hauls which poached talent from across the nation (Alcindor had come via New York, Allen from Kansas City, and previous star of Wooden's first NCAA title team in 1964, Walt Hazzard, from Philadelphia), all of Wooden's 1970 treasure trove was mined from southern California. The prized nugget of the class, 6-11 C Bill Walton (whose brother Bruce had preceded him to UCLA as a football offensive tackle), hailed from Helix High in La Mesa, in the San Diego area. Forward Keith (later Jamaal) Wilkes played his senior high school season just up the coast at Santa Barbara High after starring at nearby Ventura High as a junior. Guard Greg Lee was a native of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, where he starred for his dad, coach Marvin Lee (a former Bruin), at Reseda High. (Lee always figured to attend UCLA, with his dad's connection and the fact Pop worked as an usher at the UCLA home games. "I guess I grew up hating USC," Lee would later admit.) Forward Vince Carson was a local product from Pasadena's John Muir High, while another guard, Gary Franklin, was a high-profile teammate of Lee's at Reseda. A rare juco addition in the fall of 1970 was 7-0 C Swen Nater, who didn't even play in high school for coach Bill Fraser at Long Beach Wilson High, beginning his career in the juco ranks at nearby Cypress College under another former Bruin player, Don Johnson. (Nater would redshirt as a non-playing varsity member in 1970-71.)

Another of the "newcomers" to the 1971-72 varsity was touted guard Tommy Curtis, who arrived in Westwood via Tallahassee, Florida. Curtis was a member of the previous recruiting class in 1969 who would also redshirt in the 1970-71 season.

Walton, Wilkes, Lee, Franklin, and Carson would all score between 13 and 19 points per game for the 1970-71 Brubabes, who, much like Alcindor's frosh team, ran roughshod through their schedule. Unlike the Alcindor frosh team, however, the Walton frosh team was routed by the Bruin varsity in an exhibition game prior to the 1970-71 season. Wooden, who had discontinued that traditional contest after the Alcindor frosh embarrassed the varsity, decided to reintroduce the game for the Walton-led frosh class. The fact Walton & Co. had no luck vs. Wicks, Rowe, & Patterson might have caused some onlookers to dismiss the Walton Gang as worthy successors to the Alcindor and Wicks-Rowe teams.

But the sharpest observers knew better. The Walton Gang would be capable of continuing the winning ways and emerge as perhaps the greatest of all of the UCLA title-winning dynasties.

Walton & Co. made their varsity debut on December 3, 1971, at Pauley Pavilion vs. an outmanned side from The Citadel, destroying the Bulldogs by a 105-49 count. Hoop fans across the country suddenly had a sinking feeling in their stomachs when word spread that this new UCLA team, led by the pale-skinned, redheaded Huck Finn-lookalike center Walton, might be Wooden's greatest creation of them all. "We knew they would be great," said The Citadel's HC George Hill. "But when you meet them you have a different impression. They're awesome."

The Walton Gang played at a frenetic pace, topping the 100-point mark in its first seven games, all of them ridiculous blowout wins. 106-72 over Iowa; 110-81 over Iowa State; 117-53 over Texas A&M; 114-56 over Notre Dame (the week after Digger Phelps' initial Irish team was slaughtered at Indiana, in the Hoosiers' first game at new Assembly Hall under their first-year coach, Bob Knight, 94-29); 119-81 over TCU; 115-65 over Texas. All of those games were at Pauley Pavilion (as were the majority of UCLA's non-confernece battles in that era), prompting criticism of AD J.D. Morgan for deliberately softening the slate. Morgan would later admit that this would be one of the few seasons in which he didn't go out of his way to schedule a few blockbuster intersectionals, although in truth the 1971-72 Bruins were betrayed by "off" seasons from a few of those intersectional foes, such as Notre Dame, which had upset UCLA with Austin Carr leading the way (as we detailed in an earlier TGS edition this past winter) and was then scheduled to play the Bruins twice each season. But Phelps' first team was a mess, depleted first by graduation and then by injury.

The Walton Gang would not meet a severe test until running into a well-regarded Ohio State side in the Bruin Classic at Pauley Pavilion, just before New Year's. By that time, Walton had already developed a local cult following after just a few varsity games, playing with a zest and joy rarely before seen and certainly never exuded by the more-stoic Alcindor. The big redhead was scoring and rebounding at will, directing traffic, triggering the devastating Bruin transition game with his bullet-like outlet passes, while also completely closing down the paint on the defensive end!

Walton was hardly the only star of this show that ran the fast-break with devastating efficiency and could employ a withering full-court press better than any Wooden team since the Hazzard-Gail Goodrich championship sides of 1964 & '65. The smooth forward Wilkes and the clever guard Lee, who piloted a newly-designed "point offense" that Wooden created specifically for this team, were the other "newcomer" starters in addition to the red-haired Walton. They were joined in the lineup by senior guard Henry Bibby, a North Carolina product, who had starred as a soph but endured a rough junior season before adapting seamlessly to his roles as the shooting guard, defensive stopper, and stabilizing influence, and Denver-bred junior forward Larry Farmer, a bit performer the previous year on the Wicks-Rowe team, but a valuable role player doing the dirty work for the Walton Gang.

"I'm really having fun with this team," Wooden admitted in late December of '71 as the new-look, Walton-led Bruins were exceeding even The Wizard's wildest dreams.

Wooden's "new" offense took the shape of a 1-2-2, with Lee at the point, Bibby and Farmer on the wings, with Wilkes and Walton setting up shop on the baseline. Wilkes would often flash to the free-throw line, giving the alignment more of a 1-3-1 look, providing Wooden with a high-post shooting threat who could divert attention from Walton in the low post. Moreover, by putting Lee at the point, Bibby was relieved of the heavy-duty ball-handling duties that proved such a chore in his junior year (when Bibby was a soph, then-sr. John Vallely handled the bulk of the ball-handling work) and freed him to look for his shots on the wing, which he could bury.

Meanwhile, Wooden was able to reintroduce his 1-2-2 zone press on defense (rarely used by the Wicks-Rowe teams) mainly because Walton was such an adept, deep-lying "center fielder," directing traffic from the back of the zone and acting as an intimidating presence for any foes who could break through the pressure.

Where the Walton Gang could also hurt teams was late in the games from the bench, where Nater, Curtis, Carson, Franklin & Co. could routinely extend the leads as they did when UCLA was scoring 112 points per game in the first seven games before the expected challenge vs. Ohio State.

The Buckeyes appeared to provide the proper litmus test, entering Pauley as the 6th-ranked team in the land, and having destroyed Arizona by a 90-47 count in the first round Bruin Classic game before UCLA took care of Texas by 50, with Walton scoring 28 and snaring 24 rebounds. The OSU matchup was set, and many were reserving judgement on these new Bruins until they faced a top-caliber foe such as the Buckeyes, possessing a 7-footer in C Luke Witte who figured to cause Walton some problems. OSU also featured deadeye shooter Allan Hornyak. UCLA's number one-ranking, which had yet to be challenged the first month of the season, seemed as if it could be in jeopardy vs. the Buckeyes.

So much for the challenge. Even with Greg Lee missing the game because of a bruised heel suffered the night before vs. Texas, the Walton Gang never took a deep breath. The score was 11-1 after four minutes. Soon, it was 30-10, and Buckeye HC Fred Taylor had seen enough, saying he felt like "getting up and going to Disneyland." Witte was helpless vs. Walton, who blocked six shots in the first half. Hornyak could rarely get a shot off vs. Bibby's tenacious defense. And even after Walton went to the bench with his fourth foul with 18 minutes to play, UCLA easily held the advantage thereafter with Nater keeping Witte flustered. The final score was 79-53.

The Walton Gang had passed its test!

For the remainder of that campaign, the Bruins retained their top ranking without much of a challenge. For a while, Al McGuire's Marquette hinted to be a potential worthy foe that might hook UCLA sometime in the NCAA Tourney, but C Jim Chones lost his eligibility just past midseason when signing a pro contract with ABA's New York Nets (really!), and the Warriors, as they were then called, were never the same that season. UCLA's Pac-8 was also without worthy challengers that term, especially as Bob Boyd's crosstown USC had slipped from its 24-2 mark the previous year and had lost All-American G Paul Westphal to injury by midseason. Oregon, in its first year under ex-Penn HC Dick Harter, was rebuilding, while Cal and Stanford were both in down periods. Meanwhile, Washington and Washington State were also reorganizing with new coaches (Marv Harshman being lured from Wazzu to U-Dub that season, and the Cougs going with Bob Greenwood, but only for a year before George Raveling, from Lefty Driesell's Maryland staff, would arrive in Pullman for the 1972-73 campaign).

The Bruins' only challenge in conference play was at Oregon State, when Ralph Miller's Beavers, led by guard Freddie Boyd, made a late rally at Corvallis, only to fall short by a 78-72 count. All other UCLA league wins were recorded by double-digit margins. In the Big Dance, the expected regional challenge from Jerry Tarkanian's Long Beach State, which almost KO'd the Bruins at the 1971 West Regional final at Salt Lake City, never materialized in a rematch at the 1972 West final at Provo, with Walton's Bruins cruising by a 73-57 count.

Into the Final Four, played across town at the L.A. Sports Arena (which, ironically, was not only the home court of UCLA's hated rival USC, but also the Bruins' home court before the opening of Pauley Pavilion, as well as this just-completed 2011-12 campaign when Pauley was undergoing renovation), the Walton Gang was expected to beat a Louisville squad, featuring G Jim Price and coached by former Wooden aide Denny Crum, in the semifinals before likely hooking up in what figured to be a lively title game with Dean Smith's North Carolina, featuring forwards Robert McAdoo (in the days before he was referred to as "Bob") and Bobby Jones, as well as a guard named George Karl. Only Hugh Durham's Florida State spoiled that much-anticipated UNC-UCLA matchup, which would have been a rematch of the 1968 title game between the Tar Heels and Bruins at the same Sports Arena site, by knocking off the Heels in the first semi, 79-75.

UCLA, an easy winner over Louisville by a 96-77 count in its semifinal, would have some trouble in the finale vs. the Seminoles and their athletic roster led by Gs Ron King and waterbug 5-7 Otto Petty, and a menacing frontline led by 6-11 Lawrence McCray, 6-10 Reggie Royals, and 6-6 Rowland Garrett, all of whom seeming even taller because of their heavy-duty "natural" hairstyles of the day. Indeed, all bore a hairstyle resemblance to memorable '70s baseball stylist Oscar Gamble. Still, the Bruins gained control of the game in the second half and won the title game a bit easier than the 81-76 final scoreline would suggest, finishing the season a spotless 30-0.

To this day, we're not sure we've ever enjoyed watching a team more than that sophomore version of the Walton Gang, nor do we recall a side that dominated a college season so comprehensively.

(And the Walton Gang would have several more chapters to write, as we have noted on these pages in other essays, most of which can be accessed in the archive section of our website at www.goldsheet.com).

Our only dilemma at TGS regarding the 1971-72 "Newcomer" team forty years ago was whether we wanted to make room for three Bruins (Walton, Lee, and Wilkes) on what was going to be our five-man All-Star rookie squad. Walton was an obvious pick; Providence's forward, notorious bad boy Marvin Barnes, and slick Dayton guard Don Smith were going to get two of the other slots. In the end, opting for the traditional one center, two-forward, and two-guard teams of the day, UCLA's Lee made the final cut as our second guard to go along with Smith, while Wilkes was omitted in favor of Duquesne's Lionel Billingy. Though in truth, a "Newcomer" team in 1971-72 with Walton, Lee, Wilkes, and, perhaps, even Nater, might have been appropriate, so overwhelming was their presence that season four decades ago.

It all seems just like yesterday. Where did the years go, anyway?

So, Kentucky's domination of this year's TGS Newcomer team is nothing new to us, even the possibility of naming three Wildcats to the All-Star rookie squad. Having been around for 55 years, this sort of development, like most others in college hoops, is something we have seen before.

Following is another TGS tradition, our additional "newcomer" teams divided by region for the just-completed campaign, followed by our all-time list of "newcomer" teams dating back to the 1956-57 season, when our first such team featured a couple of guys you might have heard of before...Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.

BIG EAST/IVY


MOE HARKLESS, 6-8 Fr., St. John's

D'ANGELO HARRISON, 6-3 Fr., St. John's

ANTHONY COLLINS, 6-1 Fr., South Florida

ANDRE DRUMMOND, 6-10 Fr., UConn

JERIAN GRANT, 6-5 Soph., Notre Dame

OTTO PORTER, 6-8 Fr., Georgetown



ATLANTIC 10/CAA


DAMION LEE, 6-6 Fr., Drexel

ADAM SMITH, 5-11 Fr., NC-Wilmington

JERRELL WRIGHT, 6-8 Fr., La Salle

KENDALL ANTHONY, 5-8 Fr., Richmond

PIERRIA HENRY, 6-3 Fr., Charlotte

JARVIS THREATT, 6-2 Fr., Delaware


ACC/BIG SOUTH


AUSTIN RIVERS, 6-4 Fr., Duke

RYAN ANDERSON, 6-8 Fr., Boston College

JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO, 6-9 Fr., North Carolina

NICK FAUST, 6-5 Fr., Maryland

DENNIS CLIFFORD, 7-0 Fr., Boston College

TREY FREEMAN, 6-2 Fr., Campbell


C-USA/SUN BELT


RICKY TARRANT, 6-1 Fr., Tulane

TONY MITCHELL, 6-8 Fr., North Texas

DERRICK GORDON, 6-2 Fr., Western Kentucky

JULIAN WASHBURN, 6-7 Fr., UTEP

GEORGE FANT, 6-5 Fr., Western Kentucky

JOSEPH YOUNG, 6-3 Fr., Houston


SEC


ANTHONY DAVIS, 6-10 Fr., Kentucky

MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST, 6-7 Fr., Kentucky

BRADLEY BEAL, 6-4 Fr., Florida

MARQUIS TEAGUE, 6-2 Fr., Kentucky

JARNELL STOKES, 6-8 Fr., Tennessee

KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE, 6-4 Fr., Georgia


BIG TEN/MAC


TREY BURKE, 6-0 Fr., Michigan

CODY ZELLER, 6-11 Fr., Indiana

AARON WHITE, 6-8 Fr., Iowa

ANDRE HOLLINS, 6-1 Fr., Minnesota

DAVE SOBOLEWSKI, 6-1 Fr., Northwestern

JULIUS BROWN, 5-10 Fr., Toledo


MISSOURI VALLEY/HORIZON


TYLER BROWN, 6-4 Jr., Illinois State

SETH TUTTLE, 6-8 Fr., Northern Iowa

CARL HALL, 6-8 Jr., Wichita State

GARY TALTON, 6-1 Jr., Illinois-Chicago

ROOSEVELT JONES, 6-4 Fr., Butler

KEIFER SYKES, 5-10 Fr., UW-Green Bay


BIG XII


PIERRE JACKSON, 5-10 Jr., Baylor

QUINCY MILLER, 6-9 Fr., Baylor

MYCK KABONGO, 6-1 Fr., Texas

LE'BRYAN NASH, 6-7 Fr., Oklahoma State

SHELDON MCCLELLAN, 6-4 Fr., Texas

ANGEL RODRIGUEZ, 5-11 Fr., Kansas State


MOUNTAIN WEST/WAC


KYAN ANDERSON, 5-11 Fr., TCU

ANTHONY DRMIC, 6-6 Fr., Boise State

HUGH GREENWOOD, 6-3 Fr., New Mexico

RAHEEM APPLEBY, 6-2 Fr., La Tech

KYISEAN REED, 6-6 Jr., Utah State

DANIEL MULLINGS, 6-2 Fr., New Mexico State


PAC-12


DAVID KRAVISH, 6-9 Fr., California

SPENCER DINWIDDIE, 6-5 Fr., Colorado

TONY WROTEN, 6-4 Fr., Washington

CHASSON RANDLE, 6-1 Fr., Stanford

DAVONTE LACY, 6-3 Fr., Washington State

ASKIA BOOKER, 6-1 Fr., Colorado


WCC/BIG WEST


KEVIN PANGOS, 6-1 Fr., Gonzaga

BRAD WALDOW, 6-9 Fr., Saint Mary's

MATT CARLINO, 6-2 Fr., BYU

STEPHAN HICKS, 6-5 Fr., CS Northridge

JAMES ENNIS, 6-6 Jr., Long Beach State

ROSS RIVERA, 6-7 Soph., Pacific


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