Hoop: Voyages, Arrivals

Inner Toobin

Give the Harvard basketball team credit. Even if it's never won the Ivy League, few other Crimson squads can claim to have contributed to international harmony.

If you were to lay this year and last year's hoop schedules next to each other, the following consecutive entry would appear:

Chinese National Team (Away)

Portuguese National Team (Home)

After last spring's tour of China (the first ever by an American college team), the cagers will open their 1980-81 schedule with an exhibition against the ouring Portuguese team November 20 at that peach-basket era relic, the Indoor Athletic Building. And the way things looks as practice moves into its second week, the team may be creating some surprising domestic trouble when the season gets underway.

Buoyed by what he calls the "best recruiting year in the Ivy League," coach Frank McLaughlin heads into his fifth year at the Harvard helm with something he never had before: height--and plenty of it.

Scarcely able to believe his own eyes, McLaughlin stares at his roster and says, "That's right, eight freshman and sophomores 6-ft. 7-ins. or bigger." And how last year's 11-15 (6-8, fifth place Ivy) team could have used those outsized bodies.

The 1979-80 edition endured a collective season-long case of schizophrenia, resulting in amazingly inconsistent performances. For highs, there was an 81-80 victory over Ronnie Perry and Holy Cross early in the season, and a 86-85 upset of Yale in the final game of the season. For lows, there was a 67-44 embarassment against UMass, a team that had lost 30 consecutive games, and an 85-63 defeat at Columbia.

The tallest starter on that team was 6-ft. 5-ins. and the Crimson found itself repeatedly victimized under the boards. The influx of large types will aid Harvard immeasurably underneath, particularly senior co-captain Mark Harris, who at a beefy 6-ft. 5 ins. had to guard people six inches taller all season long.

But how well can The Young and The Tall play? "The freshmen are better than anticipated," McLaughlin says, and that must be pretty good. Six-ft. 9-in Californian Joe Carrobino, who averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds as a senior, and 6-ft. 8-in. Monroe Trout, who won All-State honors in Connecticut, figure to lead the frosh, along with 6-ft. 7-in. Chris Mitchell.

Returnees, of course, will form the core of the team. Tom ("...three point range") Mannix, the team's only senior besides Harris, junior playmaker Robert Taylor, and Harris will certainly all play key roles. Highly touted recruit Calvin Dixon put on some flashy shows as a freshman, but never put it all together. Improvement from Dixon in the backcourt, where Harvard surely needs it, would mean a great deal to the team--and certainly pack the IAB.

But this year's team, like last year's, will live and die with Don Fleming. Harvard went 7-4 last year when Fleming scored 20 or more points; 4-11 when he didn't. The junior says two years of experience will mean an improvement on his 19.9 points per game average. If that happens, and the young folks come through, Harvard's final year in the IAB may prove one of its best. And with 12 of their first 15 games in that ramshackle antique, the home town fans will know early on the verdict on this young and--we'll see how talented--team.