|Thursday, November 5, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 53
Top 25 Notebook
|Inspiration lifts C-USA into strong basketball conference
On the Front Ro
49er returns for a '99er
This past midnight madness was sweet for all college basketball fans, but it was even sweeter for one man who thought he may never see a celebration like that ever again.
Charles Hayward of UNC- Charlotte was recruited to back up DeMarco Johnson, who was last season's Conference USA player of the year.
He ended up living in a Charlotte, N. C., hospital bed fighting for his life.
Hayward was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. His teammates kept a seat for him all season as he underwent intensive chemotherapy for a disease with no real cure.
His new coach Bobby Lutz thinks he is close to regaining his old form.
"Charles is busting his butt everyday at practice and it is really an inspiration to us all. He gives us the boost we need. Hopefully, he will be back to his old self by conference season," Lutz said.
Memphis was first, followed by UAB and South Florida with its wealth of young talent headed by Seth Greenberg. Rounding out the National division is Southern Mississippi, which was in the NIT's last year, an improved Tulane squad and a Clyde-Drexler-led Cougar squad.
In the American division, perennial power Cincinatti was ranked first even though it has seven new players and the top three players from last year's sweet sixteen squad gone. However, they reload with a bigger, faster and more dedicated Kenyon Martin and high-flying off-guard Melvin Levett. The rest of the teams are filled with unknowns and questions. Louisville is ranked second with Marquette, DePaul, UNC-Charlotte and a Saint Louis Billiken team without Larry Hughes.
Cincinatti is predicted to retain their crown and win the conference again. As a whole, C-USA is a solid basketball conference with no real pre-season powerhouse. But look out for Cincinatti, DePaul and Memphis. All these teams have great individual talent, and with a little chemistry, they could come together and streak to the tournament.
Now, just as in college football, pre-season rankings are absurd. No coach knows how a team will fare from watching them at midnight madness.
We Sneed to watch Omar
Omar Sneed may be the best player in the South. He has size (6-6, 230), quickness and an attitude which screams, "I am the greatest." Wouldn't it be nice too see him in a Cougar uniform? I bet Alvin Brooks is still throwing darts at Bill Carr's head on his closet door.
Sneed is the pre-season player of the year after averaging nearly 21 points a game, 10 rebounds and shooting a gaudy 59 percent from the floor. He was the most underrated player in the nation last year.
Joining him on the pre-season all-conference team is Martin and Levett from Cincinatti. Martin, a junior, was 6-8 last year, but his coach, Bob Huggins, believes he has grown to nearly 6-10 and gained 20 pounds to 240. Levett, a 6-3 senior, will always stick in my mind as the guy who took off from a standstill just inside the free throw line and ripped a nasty highlight reel dunk on a nationally-televised game against the Cougars last December. More effective shooting and improved passing make him a more complete player.
Southern Miss's Neil Reed left Indiana after starting for them for three years and joined his dad, who is an assistant coach for James Green's team. At 6-2, he gives the team an instant scoring threat, as well as a defensive specialist and a floor general to run the attack.
Joining Sneed at the forward position is Fred Williams out of UAB. He is 6-8, 215 and averaged 12 points a game coupled with seven rebounds.
A couple of Cougars might be up there in consideration for at least third team All-Conference. Kenny Younger had my vote last year as a first-year player, and he should be on the third team or even second team. Gee Gervin could surprise some people and make one of the all-conference teams as well. It will help if the Cougars win some conference games.
Crum(my) times at Louisville
Another setback has hit Denny Crum's Louisville Cardinals. First they are hit with sanctions from the NCAA, then Nate Johnson was arrested for disorderly conduct and being drunk in public. Now head coach Crum collapsed at the airport and had to be rushed to the hospital.
He is doing fine now, but when is this run of bad luck going to end?
UH practice report
Charles Fordjour is still nursing a bum shoulder which was operated on this past summer.
Roy Spears is coming along nicely after his reconstructive right knee surgery a year ago. His competition with Gervin has elevated his game.
Early Smith has had a slight injury which would limit the Cougars in the paint. It is not considered serious, and he should be healthy by the conference schedule.
Look for The Daily Cougar Basketball preview, coming out Nov. 10. It
will be an in-depth preview of the men's and women's basketball teams and
their upcoming season.
Reach Nandagiri at