At Northwestern University, where academics and woeful basketball have become something of a tradition, junior college transfers are ordinarily strangers to the program.
This year, two such players comprise the starting backcourt--Rob Ross and Phil Styles.
Ross is a 6-foot-1 playmaker from Dixie Junior College in Utah. He is almost 23 years old, having spent two years on a Mormon mission in San Diego between his first and second years in junior college.
"If I could have done it over again, I think I would have gone right out of high school and then done the two years in junior college," he said. "I don't feel I ever quite got back the instincts. I still don't think they are back to the level they were."
Ross, not recruited during high school, knew little of Northwestern or the Big Ten before Wildcat assistant coaches showed interest in him.
"One coach told me the hardest thing about Northwestern is getting in," said Ross, who claimed he did not have to work to achieve a B average in high school or junior college. "I think I've studied more these past three months than I have the rest of my life."
Northwestern has had one winning basketball season in the last 18. The Wildcats, under Coach Bill Foster, went 7-21 the past year.
"I thought about that a lot," Ross said. "It's hard for me to conceive that it could ever be like that. I hope it's not like that. I don't like to lose. Nobody likes to lose. But I thought it would be a good opportunity to come here and be a part of a change."
Styles insists Northwestern will become more respected in basketball.
"I'd like to pull off a couple of major upsets to gain Northwestern some respect," said the 6-3 defensive specialist. "I want teams to leave having a feeling we gave them a good game."
Styles did not play basketball until his junior year in high school, concentrating on academics. He played two years at Lincoln Community College in Illinois. After his freshman year, he agreed to attend Oral Roberts but changed his mind because Tulsa, Okla., was not to his liking.
"I fit in great with Rob," Styles said. "It seems like I have been playing with Rob all my life."
Said Ross: "We came out of programs that were run-and-gun, just go for it, and if something good happens, great, and if something bad happens, we will get them next time. In junior college, my teammates knew how I was going to pass and they were constantly looking for the ball."
Not everyone on Northwestern's team has meshed with the play of Ross and Styles.
"Now we're trying to get it so we play good with the other three players because it is going to take more than us two to change the program," Styles said. "I'm not going to slow down. I think they (the rest of the team) are starting to realize Rob and I are always going to be down the floor and if they get down the floor, we are going to get them the ball, no matter where they are."
The two expect things to be more cohesive come the Big Ten season in January.
"One coach told me 'If you want to have a challenge, and if you think you can do it, then this is a good place for it because we are going to get it done,"' Ross said. "And I think they are going to get it done."