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Northeast Notebook

December 20, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Chris Roddy

1983 – The Assist, The Shot and The Championship

It was never a pass. It was a bad, off-centered shot.

And a lot of people still remember the 1983 NCAA championship game because of the frenetic last second heave of a North Carolina State guard.

Tie game, 52-52. About eight ticks left on the clock. The University of Houston team, featuring future greats Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, set up a 1-3-1 defense to prevent a last second heroic shot.

And then it happened. Guard Thurl Bailey got the dish from Sidney Lowe, but was smothered by Olajuwon. Bailey swung the ball around to the top of the key.

Into the hands of Dereck Whittenberg.

The N.C. State guard squared up and let go a wild shot at the basket. He missed. He missed with an air ball. But, his shot fell right into the hands of teammate, Lorenzo Charles. In one emphatic slam-dunk, Charles won the NCAA Championship and would forever stymie fans as to whether Whittenberg had passed or shot the ball.

But that isn’t the interesting part of the story.

Whittenberg, the current head coach of Wagner University, scored over 120+ points in the ’83 tourney, leading all scorers. He guided the Wolfpack to a double overtime victory over Pepperdine in the first round. His deadly accuracy from beyond the arch propelled the Cinderella team past UNLV and Virginia, both one-point wins. He was selected to the ACC Tournament team and Most Valuable Player for West Region and NCAA Finals.

He is 22nd on the all-time scoring leaders at N.C. State. Whittenberg, almost ten years later, is still second in career three-pointers at his alma mater.

He went on to coach under legendary Jimmy V. as well as stints at Long Beach and Georgia Tech. He slowly faded out of memory only to surface in momentary highlight reels during March Madness. Now he patrols the sidelines at Wagner, bringing skills and experience to a burgeoning conference.

A few weeks ago, Whittenberg was honored at an N.C. State home football game. A good number of the face painted fans, mere glimmers in the stars in ’83, didn’t know this man wearing a flashy Wolfpack red sports coat. And the contingent that knew of him (or at least the game) still debate if it was a shot or assist.

It’s funny that a player’s entire career might revolve around a single shot. For all the minutes on the court, hours of practice and years of learning, it all can boil down to a single moment.

The game is full of moments. That’s why we watch and they play. I was happy to see Whittenberg get his moment of recognition. And as far as I’m concerned, he wasn’t the “guy” who missed the shot. He was the MVP of the 1983 N.C. State championship team. No question, no debate.

Quinn-, Quini-, err, the Bobcats are the NEC’s Meow

Maybe it’s more of a growl than a meow, but a certain Connecticut university has won five in a row. What if we also mention that the Quinnipiac (I feel like I did when spelling Mississippi for the first time) Bobcats are 10-3 in their last thirteen games dating back to last season?

The streaking Bobcats downed Dartmouth this past Wednesday, 81-72, and sport the best record in the NEC at 5-1. After losing to then ranked No. 14 Connecticut, the ‘Cats have been clawing and scratching opponents into shreds. They held an always-scrappy Manhattanville team to 34 points and have beaten two tough CAA teams in Hofstra and Drexel.

Senior forward, Jeremy Bishop, has been absolutely key to Quinnipiac’s success. Last season’s NCAA leading rebounder (yes, the NEC is home to some sweet playas), Bishop ripped on average twelve boards per game. He averaged a double-double in 2001-02. Averaged. The soft-spoken big man was smokin’ last weekend, scoring 23 points and reeling in eleven boards against Drexel.

Player of the Week

Freshman Guard, Darshan Luckey, St. Francis (PA)

Everyone is talking about the Tar Heels’ and Illini’s diaper dandies. How come no one is going after Luckey’s basketball charms? The frosh guard had an uncharacteristic off night against Robert Morris over the weekend. He only managed 20 points and five rebounds. He leads the NEC in scoring and has blown by defenders with incredible speed and senior-esque ball handling skills. Lucky? No, Luckey. He’s on pace to be the NEC’s first ever freshman to lead the league in scoring. And it has nothing to do with, you know, luck.


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