Why if it isn't the bounding brothers of the University of Houston's newest fraternity, Phi Slamma Jamma! There they are now, mastering their craft in a chapter meeting over at the house, Hofheinz Pavilion:
Aaaggggghhhhh, boooom! There goes Akeem the Dream Abdul Olajuwon. Akeem the Dream is 7 feet tall and hails from the Harris County suburb of Lagos, Nigeria. A graduate of Moslem Teachers College and a younger brother of 7'5" Kaka Olajuwon, Akeem the Dream says if anyone wanted to translate his last name into Texan it would emerge as "being on top." Perfect. Three times this season Akeem has been on top of and blocked at least 10 shots in a game.
That's Clyde the Glide Drexler. All subtlety and swirl and perhaps the finest athlete in the college game, Clyde the Glide is 6'7", give or take a couple of feet when he is in the midst of one of his swoop raids on the rim, a maneuver he learned as a mere babe on Houston's rough-and-tumble South Side. Over Drexler's three-year career with the Cougars he has scored and rebounded in double figures in the same game no fewer than 43 times. "I guess I'm kind of a legend around here," says Clyde the Glide.
Gggggrrrrrrrr, fffwaaap! There goes Larry (Mr. Mean) Micheaux. Mr. Mean is 6'9", with tattoos on both arms—an airplane on the right, a love sign on the left. "The traditional stuff," says Mr. Mean. When asked by a radio guy a year ago who was better, Georgetown's Pat Ewing or North Carolina's Sam Perkins, Ralph Sampson of Virginia answered, "Neither. That guy Micheaux is better." Twice Mr. Mean has shaved his head so as to look even meaner. "Since then everything started being wonderful," says Mr. Mean, who's a mite hirsute these days. "I don't take no mess from nobody under the boards."
Wwwwwrrrrrrr, sooommmpppf! It's Benny (and his Jets) Anders. Benny is 6'5", the shrimp substitute of the Phi house, with a haircut out of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and the bloodlines of a champion. Willis Reed, former Knick, is Benny's cousin. Orlando Wool-ridge, former Notre Dame, is Benny's other cousin. But good blood flows only so far. Benny just averages 10 minutes a game. "All I get is some vicious pine, but I got the utensils," he says. "I drop a dime on the big Swahili, he got to put it in the hole." Which is Phi Slamma Jammese for "If I deal it to Akeem, he should score."
Whoops. Better get organized on the foul line. Here comes the man. The frat's faculty adviser. The big Guy. The coach. "Hey you gahz," roars Guy V. Lewis in his finest East Texas twang after a botched play. "That's turrble, jest turrble. You think Raahz is doin' this. Hell, Raahz is workin' its butts off. Now git your damn free throws over with. It's aahz cream time." And so it is, because, with that, a big ole hefty booster named James Langham wheels in several gallons of homemade ice cream and a chocolate cake, and the Houston Cougars adjourn another meeting of Phi Slamma Jamma.
It may be difficult to fathom, but this very Houston team, these same jiving, beguiling Cougars, who slunk out of the New Orleans Final Four last March dragging their 0-for-8 star guard, Rob Williams, behind them; who early this season looked defenseless against a Syracuse mystery known as the bounce pass and hopeless against a Virginia playing without Sampson; this same defense-on-the-lamma, discipline-be-damma outfit, had won 23 games (18 straight) through last weekend and had become the latest heir apparent to the No. 1 spot in the wire-service ratings (Houston is fourth in the SI poll). Last Saturday night, after another routine Southwest Conference runout—this one an 86-52 laugher over Raahz, make that Rice—Houston had 22 consecutive league victories, the longest Southwest Conference streak in 55 years, and not too many coaches or teams, or fraternities for that matter, were prepared to question the Cougars' right to a high ranking.
The fact is, in college basketball's year of living dangerously, Houston is as legitimate as any of the other six teams that have reigned as No. 1: Virginia, Indiana, Memphis State, UCLA, North Carolina and Las Vegas. And the explosive Cougars are more entertaining than those six put together. Moreover, if Houston can whip Arkansas on the road this week—a huge chore inasmuch as the Cougars have gone 0-7 through the years in Fayetteville—Houston will be odds-on to win the Southwest Conference tournament in Dallas and be a top seed entering the NCAA playoffs.
"We can go all the way this time," says Drexler. "You've never seen such a confident team as this one." Well, not since the last Houston crew to be rated No. 1, the 1967-68 Elvin Hayes-Don Chaney tartar, which won 31 in a row, including that famous victory in the Astrodome over maybe the best UCLA team ever. Immune by now to the barbs directed at his buck 'n' wing coaching style, Lewis, 60, has wearied of all the comparisons. "But this is the best team I've ever had at getting ready for people," he says. "I'm not sure I can coach a frame of mind, but I can dang sure try. This team plays to its potential."