Hoops Season Starts In A Recovering New York
Nov. 7, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK - Four of the country's premier college basketball teams willget it all started this year at Madison Square Garden, just a few subwaystops from the World Trade Center.
'There is a special emphasis in coming to New York to play,' Maryland coachGary Williams said.
The Terrapins will face Arizona on Thursday night in the Coaches vs. CancerClassic, the official tip-off to the season. Maryland, No. 2 in the AP'spreseason poll, will be playing a fellow Final Four participant from lastseason.
No. 5 Florida plays No. 16 Temple in the other game. The winners will meetFriday night, as will the losers.
'I was looking at the fourth-place finishers in this tournament the lastfour years and it was Georgetown, Duke, Kentucky and Texas,' Williams said.'They're all great programs so obviously the competition is tough and weexpect to really find out something about our team. You can schedule 10 Wsor play in this and see how good you are.'
It is not only the chance to help New York continue its return to normalcyfollowing the Sept. 11 attacks that makes this sixth annual event important.
The tournament, sponsored by IKON, has raised $2 million for cancerresearch, a subject close to Arizona coach Lute Olson, who lost his wife,Bobbi, to ovarian cancer last year. Her death became a focal point forArizona's run to the national championship game last season, where theWildcats lost to Duke.
'Bobbi is another reason we're glad to play in this event,' he said.'Research has made great strides and we're just hopeful that we can have apart in eradicating this horrible disease.'
Arizona will definitely have the most different look from last season withfour starters gone, three early entries to the NBA draft. The only starterback is point guard Jason Gardner and he applied for the draft, then decidedto return.
'Our point guards through the years have been outstanding and Jason fitsinto that mold,' Olson said. 'The biggest thing he and Luke Walton and RickAnderson have to do is provide leadership for these young players who haveno clue what Division I basketball is all about.
'Jason has been taking a strong leadership role not only on but off thecourt. It's a great experience for him because he has to provide theleadership.'
Maryland has four starters back from the team that lost to Duke in thenational semifinals in March. The Terrapins were picked behind only the BlueDevils in the preseason poll, matching the highest ranking in schoolhistory.
'This is the third time in the last four years we've been in the top six orbetter in the preseason so we've been through this before,' Williams said.'We'd rather be here than not ranked in the top 100, which we weren't whenwe got here. The ranking's nice but the preseason stops Thursday.'
Florida-Temple is a rematch of last season's NCAA second-round game thatTemple won by 21 points. This will be the first game as a Hall of Famer forTemple coach John Chaney. He was inducted last month and having a plaque inSpringfield, Mass., hasn't changed him one bit.
'We don't have a lot of quality players on our ball club,' he said in hisusual self-deprecating manner. 'We have Lynn Greer and Kevin Lyde but we'llbe missing David Hawkins. We felt he was going to be a big help but he'sineligible the first semester. Last year, with us playing a lot of matchupzone, we found them shooting the ball a little bit poorly.'
Florida's backcourt will the key. Brett Nelson returns off a very goodsophomore year and Justin Hamilton starts his comeback from major kneesurgery that limited him to 14 games last season.
'This is a situation where we're starting a week to 10 days before theothers start,' Florida coach Billy Donovan said. 'But Kentucky lost its twogames here last year and came back and ran off a bunch of wins and then wonthe SEC. Certainly, these early games helped them.'