Dick Jerardi: At La Salle, those were the days

Lionel Simmons celebrates 3,000th career point.
Lionel Simmons celebrates 3,000th career point.
Posted: January 20, 2010

LIONEL SIMMONS really did not think it had been that long.

"I didn't realize it was 20 years," the L-Train said last week.

It really was 20 years ago when La Salle went 30-2, swept the Big 5, overwhelmed the Metro Atlantic, played to overflow crowds at the Civic Center and had flair rarely seen in this city or any city.

On Saturday, when La Salle plays Charlotte, that team will be honored at Tom Gola Arena, on the day five new members will be inducted into the La Salle Hall of Athletes. One of those members is that team's coach, Speedy Morris.

"It's long overdue and welldeserved," Simmons said of his coach's honor.

The L-Train was the National Player of the Year in 1990 as he finished his fabulous career with 3,217 points.

"It's so long ago," Simmons said. "I remember the team and I remember some of the good things. But the things that stand out are the losses. I really don't remember much about the wins. That's kind of the way I am with that. I remember that major loss to Clemson."

That was the second-round NCAA game when La Salle had a big lead in the second half, but could not contain the inside power of Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. Clemson lost in the next round to Connecticut by one point on a Tate George buzzer-beater. UConn then lost in the regional final to Duke by one point on the first of Christian Laettner's buzzer-beaters.

So, La Salle really was not that far away from the Final Four.

"That was a potential Final Four team," Morris said. "I know we would have beaten Connecticut. They pressed. They were rooting against us up in Hartford."

In addition to Simmons, that La Salle team had two other NBA players, Doug Overton and Randy Woods, the terrific shooter Jack Hurd, sixth-man supreme Bobby Johnson and three young centers (Milko Lieverst, Donnie Shelton and Bron Holland) who would have their moments at La Salle, but were not quite ready for the Clemson giants on that day.

"You got to win that last game and, if you don't win it, you remember that loss more than anything else," Simmons said.

But 30-2 is still 30-2. That team so dominated its league that most of the second halves on the road were spent signing autographs for awed crowds in packed arenas that came to see the show. And who can forget the balloon drop at the Civic Center on the night Simmons scored his 3,000th point?

Simmons, Johnson, Hurd, Shelton, Holland, Mike Stock, Mike Bergin and Keith Morris are among the players from that team expected to be at Gola on Saturday to be honored.

Anybody associated with the team who has not been contacted and would like to come should call Kale Beers at La Salle (215-951-1606).

Reynolds off the charts

Scottie Reynolds was a very good college player from the moment he stepped on the Villanova campus. After specializing in big shots, he made the shot in Boston that nobody will ever forget.

Still, entering his senior season, there were questions. He was a scorer, but a volume shooter, a career 40 percent shooter. He did have those 374 assists, but also 309 turnovers. So there was also that.

Now, there is this: Showing the drive that only the best competitors have, Reynolds has improved just about everything in his game as a senior. That he is playing 3 fewer minutes per game because of the Wildcats' great guard depth might be giving him fresher legs.

Consider, he is averaging 19.3 points while shooting 50.5 percent, 44.4 percent from the arc and 79.6 percent from the foul line. In the last nine games, he is putting up crazy shooting numbers for a guard. He is 63-for-100 (63 percent), 29-for-48 from the arc (60.4 percent) and 51-for-62 from the foul line (82.2 percent).

Reynolds is such a tough cover because he can shoot from distance, get to the rim, create shots from impossible angles, draw fouls and convert. Defenders really just sort of have to hope he misses. Lately, that's false hope.

The Cornell story

As Steve Donahue's team gets into its Ivy League schedule, it should be playing for NCAA seeding. Has a team with its profile ever scheduled better and had more nonconference success?

The Big Red played nine true road games. They won seven of them. They won at Alabama, Massachusetts, St. John's, Drexel and La Salle. They nearly won at Kansas. They played very well at Syracuse.

The NCAA selection committee wants teams that have shown they can compete in difficult environments. They should love Cornell.

Obviously, Cornell (15-3) has to play its Ivy schedule. Harvard is a threat. The rest really are not.

The Ivy results will matter, but the noncon results will matter much more. The committee always says it wants to see teams challenge themselves in games they control. Cornell did exactly what the committee has said it wants teams to do. Let's see how the Big Red gets rewarded on Selection Sunday.

Let's just say for sake of argument that Cornell finishes 12-2 in the Ivy and 26-5 overall. But Harvard wins the league with a 13-1 record.

Would the committee be prepared to give one of those 34 precious at-large berths to an Ivy team?

Obviously, any game in the Ivy, win or lose, is going to bring Cornell's schedule strength down. But would it negate what it did in the nonconference, where it not only scheduled right, but always competed and passed any eye test?

This and that

* Jay Wright was not pointing at Georgetown coach John Thompson III late in Sunday's game with any bad intention.

Each coach was having some fun with the fact the officials would not allow a substitution because no time had run off the clock after the previous dead ball.

"He's a really good guy," Wright said of Thompson.

Scottie Reynolds was waiting to shoot free throws.

"I said, 'You're cheating, man, trying to freeze my shooter,' " Wright said.

"Do you think Scottie's getting nervous?" Thompson asked Wright.

>Scottie doesn't get nervous. And the two coaches are fine.

* The preaseason Wooden Watch list has been pared to 31. Villanova's Scottie Reynolds is on the list, joined by five other Big East players, the most of any conference. There are 10 players who were not on the preseason list. They include freshmen John Wall (Kentucky) and Xavier Henry (Kansas) as well as transfer Wes Johnson (Syracuse).

* Interesting note from Rob Carolla of the Big 12. Here are the records of each BCS league against each other - Big 12, 28-11 (.718); ACC, 24-20 (.545); SEC, 25-26 (.490); Big Ten, 17-19 (.472); Big East, 16-20 (.444); and Pac-10, 9-24 (.273).

* Wisconsin's Bo Ryan is not just an amazing 130-10 in home games. He is 20-7 against the Top 25 at the Kohl Center.

* Georgetown is 346th (out of 347) nationally in bench minutes.

* Jeff Neubauer was a freshman on that great 1989-90 La Salle team. He is now the coach at Eastern Kentucky, which is 13-6 and leads the nation in three-pointers made (193). That number should come as no surprise. Neubauer played for Speedy Morris and coached under John Beilein at Richmond and West Virginia. Both men were true three-point believers.

* Has it really gotten this bad at Michigan? After the 9-7 Wolverines beat 11-5 Connecticut on Sunday, the students stormed the Crisler Arena court.

comments powered by Disqus