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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT : Tulsa’s Big Name Sounds Familiar

Tulsa takes on UCLA today, led by senior co-captain--OK, get ready--Lou Alcindor Dawkins.

“My uncle actually named me,” said Dawkins, a 6-foot-5 guard who averages 12.5 points a game. “I was born in 1971 and I guess Lew Alcindor was the man in college basketball then. I guess he won, like, a bunch of championships in a row.”

He wasn’t sure how many. Uncertainty surrounds Dawkins, whose birth date is listed in Tulsa’s preseason media guide as Oct. 4, 1968, but in the postseason guide as March 3, 1971.

Dawkins, 23 going on 25, is from Saginaw, Mich., where his Uncle Willie had once been a big high school basketball star. Willie Dawkins was also an admirer of Lew Alcindor, back when he was winning a bunch of championships for John Wooden and before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Upon learning that Haley and Marie Dawkins intended to name their new son Lou, Uncle Willie said, “Have I got a middle name for you.”

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And now, with this NCAA tournament pairing, people must be saying. . . .

“No, you’re the first one who’s brought it up,” Lou Alcindor Dawkins said after practice here Thursday, 24 hours from Tulsa-UCLA. “Nobody else has gotten on me about it yet.”

Hmmm. Maybe nobody in Tulsa remembers who Lew Alcindor was.

“Hmmm. Very possibly,” Dawkins said.

Surprising, sometimes, what some folks do know and what some folks don’t know.

Take, for example, the recent admission by UCLA forward Ed O’Bannon that he, a college junior, had no idea that Tulsa was in Oklahoma. Nor, apparently, did a couple of his teammates.

It was like the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” in which Tom Hanks points to a map of the United States and asks his son, “Do you know where Oklahoma is?”

And his son says, “In the middle?”

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All the UCLA Bruins knew was that they were opening the NCAA tournament with somebody from the middle.

Oooh, people said, Tulsa is going to be insulted.

Naturally, some busybody stepped right up to Gary Collier, Tulsa’s senior forward from Ft. Worth, and said, “Gary, Ed O’Bannon said that until this week, he wasn’t even aware of where Tulsa was. How do you feel about that?”

The insulted Tulsan’s reply?

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“Hey, before I signed there, I didn’t know where Tulsa was, either.”

Laughing, Collier said he understood where UCLA was coming from.

“Los Angeles, right?”

Lou Alcindor Dawkins knows where Tulsa is--now. It took him five years to adjust to leaving Saginaw. Michigan seems like a dream to him now.

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Dawkins said, “Tulsa was real strange. It was slow. I wasn’t used to it, especially the heat.

“Also, I came from a 100%, all-black school to a place where, like, there’s 50 out of 5,000 who are black. Man, that really shocked me.”

Dawkins now ranks among Tulsa’s all-time leaders in games played. He was the Missouri Valley Conference’s defensive player of the year.

How to defend against UCLA is his immediate problem.

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Tulsa intends to run with the Bruins, which could be a mistake unless UCLA playmaker Tyus Edney can’t make his backache go away.

Dawkins said, “They can only go three-deep, but we can play the whole bench. If we can get them to play our game, we should come out on top.”

Tubby Smith, the Tulsa coach, said of today’s opponents, “They haven’t been playing well of late, but we are. We won 15 of our last 18 games. We are trying to get Tulsa to the point where UCLA is at. We want to be expected to be in the postseason, just like they are.”

Careful what you ask for, Tub.

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Lurking around the corner at UCLA are two big things--expectations and Bill Walton.

Responding to recent commentary by Walton about the ol’ alma mater, Coach Jim Harrick jabbed back, “What I’ve found out about Bill is he’s anti. He’s always been anti. He’s been that way since college. I’ve even heard him rip Coach Wooden. That’s enough said. Consider the source.”

This apparently means the coach will not name any future children Bill Walton Harrick.

He makes no promises about winning the tournament, either.

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Harrick said, “Let me educate everybody with one word. It’s not hard to win the tournament. It’s real hard. It’s harder to win it than it is to get a ticket to it.”


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