Wicks and Rowe: They were Actually Quite Good in College

Mention the names Wicks and Rowe to a longtime Celtics Fans, and you are bound to get unpleasant reactions. Neither is remembered fondly in Boston. Both are thought to epitomize the antithesis of what it means to be a Celtic, especially when it comes to inspirational play, or lack thereof. 

During the infamous 1978-79 season when just about everything fell apart for Battleship Shamrock, Rowe tried to console teammates during one losing streak by telling them that "there ain't no W's or L's on our paychecks." His career in New England appropriately came to an end during training camp the following season, when first year head coach Bill Fitch, who couldn't bear to watch #41 loaf down the court one more minute of practice, instructed Rowe to "keep on running" into the locker room, out to his car, and back to his apartment where he was advised he could start looking for a new employer because he'd been cut. Wicks wasn't quite that bad, but, for whatever reason, is remembered as Rowe's soul mate when it came to lack of output.

So it may come as a surprise that when the period of evaluation for these two blokes is adjusted by a few years, the reputations of Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe improve immeasurably. This is 
one look at the Wicks and Rowe tandem before their reputations went South.

February 8, 1990


As he embarked upon the task of restoring glory to the UCLA basketball program 1 1/2 years ago, Coach Jim Harrick faced doubts about the players who would provide the cornerstones in the rebuilding process.

He wondered if Trevor Wilson, after two stormy years under former Coach Walt Hazzard, would be able to curb his temper. Would Wilson be able to blend his splendid individual skills into a team concept? Would Wilson react positively to a one-week suspension from preseason practice?

He wondered how Don MacLean, only a few months removed from Simi Valley High, would adjust to the more rigorous demands of college basketball. Would MacLean score as well as he had in high school? Would MacLean have the stamina to rebound, defend and run?

Harrick has since watched Wilson, a 6-foot-8 senior, and MacLean, a 6-10 sophomore, develop into one of the most proficient forward tandems in college basketball. The two have proved to be worthy heirs to a long line of exemplary Bruin forwards that includes Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and eight other NBA first-round draft choices since 1971.

Wilson is averaging 19.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. His teammates call him Rock, in reference to his physique and not his abysmal free-throw shooting.

MacLean is averaging 19.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. His teammates call him Air because his on-court demeanor is the opposite of Michael (Air) Jordan's.

Between them, that's 38.9 points and 17 rebounds a game.

As seniors in 1971, Wicks and Rowe combined to average 38.9 points and 22.8 rebounds.

Five years later, Marques Johnson and Richard Washington averaged 34.7 points and 18 rebounds. The next season, Johnson and David Greenwood averaged 36.6 points and 20 rebounds.

The latest tandem has led UCLA to a 15-4 record, within a game of the Pacific 10 Conference lead entering tonight's game at Arizona State.

MacLean is the No. 3 scorer and rebounder in the Pac-10, and Wilson ranks fifth in scoring and second in rebounding.

Said John Wooden, who has either coached or observed all who have manned the corners for UCLA in the last four decades: "If we were to compare them to the other pairs, I'd say they're not nearly as stable. They're a great pair of forwards, perhaps as fine a pair as there is in the country from an offensive point of view, but each tends to get out of control every now and then because of their temperament.

"Wilson is more outgoing, has been less disciplined in the past than MacLean. But MacLean, in his desire to excel, gets himself riled up at times and loses a bit of control. And when he does that, he loses a bit of his effectiveness.

"MacLean appears to be a more placid individual, but he really isn't. Rowe wasn't (placid), either, but he appeared that way. He was very competitive."

While Wicks and Rowe never backed down from a challenge, Wooden said, they were "spirited without being temperamental."

Physically, however, MacLean and Wilson might be their equal.

"MacLean is as fine around the board as any 6-10 man you'll see," Wooden said. "He has a great touch.

"Just taking the physical qualifications to play forward, I'd say Sidney (Wicks) had about as many as you could find in an individual, and so does Wilson," Wooden said.

College basketball coaches across America breathed a sigh of relief in 1969 when the former Lew Alcindor finally graduated after leading UCLA to three consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships.

But in the two seasons before Bill Walton joined the Bruin varsity in 1971 and started another reign of terror in Westwood, Wicks and Rowe kept the dynasty alive.

The Bruins won 57 of 60 games and consecutive NCAA championships in the 1969-70 and '70-71 seasons.

In 1970-71, UCLA outrebounded its foes by an average of 12 rebounds.

"We were extremely confident of our ability to get the ball inside and score," said Steve Patterson, who was the Bruins' center. "And if we didn't score on the first shot, then we'd score on the second or the third or the fourth. I remember that we used to really take control of games on the inside."

Rowe provided consistency.

"As a starter for me for three years, Curtis Rowe never had a bad game," Wooden said. "He didn't have the great games like Sidney might have, but he never had a bad game."

Wicks was brash--outgoing and talkative. Like Wilson, he wore his emotions on his sleeve. And, like Wilson, he clashed with his coach.

And so, as a sophomore, Wicks was used as a reserve behind Rowe and Lynn Shackelford, neither of whom was as talented.

"That used to trouble him," Wooden said. "He'd say to me, 'You know I'm better than them.' And I'd say, 'I know you are. They probably do too. It's too bad that you let them beat you out.' Eventually, he came to understand what I was talking about, and in his last two years he was the best college forward in the country."

As a senior, Wicks averaged 21.3 points and 12.8 rebounds.

Rowe averaged 17.6 points and 10 rebounds.

"Wicks was like Wilson, and Rowe was like MacLean," Wooden said. "Though not as good a scorer as MacLean, (Rowe) was steadier than MacLean has been. Maybe I won't say that next year, or in (MacLean's) senior year."

Like MacLean, Rowe was quietly intense.

"He had a good sense of humor--he loved to laugh--and he was very easygoing," Patterson said. "Yet, on the court he had a demeanor that was fearsome. He really could be scary at times on the floor. He just had a look of a guy you wouldn't want to mess with. I think he really scared people at times."

Today, Rowe is a community service worker in Detroit. He averaged 11.6 points in an eight-year NBA career with the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics.

Wicks, a UCLA assistant coach under Hazzard, is a real estate investor in Los Angeles. He averaged 16.8 points in a 10-year NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Celtics and the San Diego Clippers.

Among Harrick's first priorities as UCLA coach were to persuade MacLean to sign with the Bruins and to persuade point guard Darrick Martin, who had signed several months earlier, to honor his commitment. Accomplishing both, he has said, laid the foundation for his program.

Equally important, it seems, was bringing Wilson into line.

"We had a time, Trevor and I, when I needed to think about him being on our team," Harrick said. "I felt that I needed to get Trevor's attention and let him know that there was only one crazy guy on the team, and that was me. And that, most of the time, things would be done my way."

Harrick didn't like Wilson riding his teammates in practice. He wanted Wilson to encourage, not chastise and discourage.

Finally, before last season, he suspended Wilson for a week.

"I thought he was an individualist, and there was no place for that on our team," Harrick said. "That was just his style, but it was contrary to the way I thought.

"I told him, 'Trevor, I can't put up with this for two years. I'd be a fruitcake, so we might as well part, unless . . .

" 'We do this, this, this and this.' I had about four pages of things I wanted him to do."

Among the requirements was a weekly meeting with a sports psychologist, Dr. William Parham, who works regularly with several UCLA athletes.

Working with Parham helped him control his emotions, Wilson said. And except for an occasional flare-up, such as last month's technical foul incident at Stanford, Wilson's behavior has steadied.

He joined Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Walton, Greenwood and Johnson this season as the only Bruins who have both scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed more than 800 rebounds.

Through it all, Wilson never considered leaving UCLA.

"No way," he said.

Transferring would have meant not playing with his boyhood friend, MacLean, whom he met in the summer before the eighth grade.

"I remember seeing this huge guy," MacLean said. "He'd miss three layups in a row and then finally make it. We used to joke that that was the only way he led the league in rebounding."

Wilson and MacLean talked of playing together, but Wilson stayed close to home at Cleveland High in Reseda and MacLean stayed in Simi Valley.

So, before hooking up in Westwood, they were teammates only in pickup games.

"We've been playing together for so long that we kind of have a feel for each other," Wilson said. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well, and we kind of play off them. It's become instinctive. It's not something we talk about, but I just know where he's going to be sometimes."

Last season, when Wilson averaged 18.4 points and 8.7 rebounds, and MacLean averaged 18.6 points and 7.5 rebounds, it was the first time two Bruin forwards had each averaged more than 18 points in the same season. And while Wilson led the Pac-10 in rebounding for the second consecutive season, MacLean set a freshman conference scoring record.

This season, MacLean has accounted for 537 points and rebounds, only 12 more than Wilson. And in the last four weeks, the two have experienced a role reversal. Wilson has been the more accurate shooter in UCLA's last eight games, making 59.6% of his shots, while MacLean has been the more consistent rebounder, pulling down an average of 10.6 rebounds to Wilson's 7.8.

"Trevor is about as quick a forward as I've ever known," Harrick said. "And not many teams have a 6-10 player who can stay with MacLean. He shoots over most of the people who guard him, he's got good moves around the basket and he's got a soft touch."

Only two former Bruins, Alcindor and Walton, averaged more points a game as sophomores than MacLean.

"I never thought he'd be quite this good," Harrick said. "But I thought after last season that by January, he'd be one of the top players in the country."

Both are expected to be first-round NBA draft choices, although some have questioned Wilson's shooting touch from the perimeter and the foul line. He has made only 52.9% of his free throws this season. But Newell said: "I like (Wilson's) fire. I like the fact that he wants to win. He'll give up his body to help his team win."

MacLean is already being mentioned as an eventual NBA lottery pick. His unusual shot, released on the way up, is difficult to defend, Newell said. "His shot reminds me of Bernard King's. He shoots so quickly that he doesn't get a lot of shots blocked."

Together, Wilson and MacLean form a combination that's difficult to beat, MacLean said.

"Coach Harrick said there are better tandems in the country," he said, "but I don't think--as far as playing together and being so complementary (goes)--that there are."

Wilson, however, defers to Bruins past.

"I've seen some tapes of Wicks, and he's far superior to either one of us," Wilson said. "The stats are comparable, but we have to win a championship to be truly compared to those guys."

No comments:

Follow by Email