Wednesday, November 24, 1999

No. 10 Kansas heads Alaska field




The Associated Press

        ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In the years since he took over at Kansas, coach Roy Williams has finished on the long end of the final score 306 times. He probably doesn't remember all of those victories, but he certainly hasn't forgotten the first — a 94-81 triumph over Alaska Anchorage in the 1988 Great Alaska Shootout.

        “We beat UAA, and then California in the second round, and then we got beat by Seton Hall in the championship game,” Williams recalled. “I remember it very, very vividly.”

        The 10th-ranked Jayhawks are back as the marquee team in the 22nd Shootout, which starts today with Grambling against Georgia Tech and Washington vs. Division II host Alaska Anchorage.

        First-round games continue on Thanksgiving Day, with Xavier against Louisville and Kansas taking on Georgia.

        The Jayhawks opened their season by trouncing Fairfield 97-71, but Williams was unimpressed by his team's overall play. Too many mistakes and turnovers, he said, and not enough hustle.

        In Alaska, he said, he is looking for significant improvement.

        “It's more exploratory surgery than anything, to find out if we have a good team,” he said of the tournament.

        The Jayhawks' 7-foot-1 Eric Chenowith is one of the nation's best centers. Complementing his inside game is an uptempo offense and team depth.

        “In the Shootout, with three games in three straight days, that depth could be a factor for us,” Williams said.

        Jim Harrick comes to Alaska looking for his first win as coach at Georgia, where he moved in the offseason after leading Rhode Island to the NCAA tournament for two straight years.

        Sophomore guard D.A. Layne, who averaged 13 points and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers, is the only starter returning for the Bulldogs, who dropped their opening game to North Carolina State last week.

        But Harrick, who won a national championship at UCLA in 1995, knew coming in he had a rebuilding job. He has a pair of junior college transfers, Anthony Evans and Shon Coleman, who look promising at forward, and 7-foot-1 center Robb Dryden is back from knee surgery.

        Georgia Tech, which opened its season with a win over Mercer, is using the Shootout as a tune-up for games against Michigan and Stanford in early December.

        The Yellow Jackets have four starters back, including 7-foot forward Jason Collier and 6-11 center Alvin Jones, who together averaged 30 points and 17 rebounds for last year's team, which went 15-16.

        “With Alvin and I together, it's going to be very hard to guard both of us at the same time,” Collier said.

        Denny Crum's Louisville team is back at the Shootout for the fifth time, more than any school.

        “You get to play three games and not have any distractions; the kids can concentrate on basketball,” said Crum, who also visits Alaska twice every summer to fish for trophy trout and salmon. “It helps me as much as the kids. At this point in the season, I'm still trying to find out what my best team is.”

        The Cardinals are led by senior forward Nate Johnson, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 79-74 loss to Virginia Commonwealth last week. They also have a group of backcourt recruits — Rasheed Brooks, Reece Gaines and Caleb Gervin — considered among the best in the country.

        Crum said the young players will be tested against Xavier.

        “With a team like Xavier, that will press you for 40 minutes, you learn pretty quick who can do what,” he said.

        The Musketeers lost three of the highest scorers in team history from last year's 25-11 team. But back is Darnell Williams, a 6-5 senior who averaged 17 points in 1997-98 before missing all of last season because of a knee ligament injury.

        “Darnell's not 100 percent,” coach Skip Prosser said. “I think, after sitting out for a year, it's difficult to come right back at the level you were playing. Still, we're happy to have him.”

        Washington opened its season Monday with a 73-60 win over St. Mary's (Calif.). Coach Bob Bender's Huskies, coming off two straight NCAA appearances, lost two of their top scorers in Todd McCulloch and Donald Watts.

        But back are guards Deon Luton and Senque Carey, who together averaged 23 points a game last season. And newcomers include 6-10 David Dixon and 6-9 Will Perkins, both junior college transfers.

        “We're a more athletic team and we're trying to play a quicker tempo,” said Bender, starting his seventh year at Washington. “We've found overall we can score easier this year, because we have more people capable.”

        Grambling got thumped by Louisiana State 112-37 in its opener Saturday. The Tigers, coming off a 6-21 season, are led by 6-7 forward Chris Thomas, who averaged 17 points and six rebounds last year.

        Host Alaska Anchorage returns 11 players from a team that went 17-11. Guard Ed Kirk, lost at midseason to academic ineligibility last year, is back, along with 6-5 guard Chris Hamey, forwards J.J. Pilgreen and Jon Madison, and 7-foot shotblocker Serge Using.

       



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