SEATTLE — SEATTLE -- He is more than merely the team's backup point guard, more than just a 20-minute-a-game role player for top-ranked UCLA.
"Cameron Dollar might be the key to their defense," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said last week after the Bruins took out his Huskies in the NCAA West Regional final.
Dollar, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Atlanta, has been one of the unsung heroes for the Bruins throughout their 29-2 season, one of the big reasons UCLA made it to the Final Four for the first time in 15 years.
Because he plays behind as well as alongside starting point guard Tyus Edney, Dollar's stats of 3.1 points and 3.0 assists a game do not indicate how he energizes the Bruins -- particularly on defense.
"That's my job right now, but I know that next year my role will change," said Dollar, who'll likely take over at the point when Edney's eligibility runs out after this season. "I have the confidence I can do the job."
That Edney was two classes ahead of him played an important part in Dollar's decision to go to UCLA instead of, say Maryland. Dollar started his high school career in Atlanta, but left when his father, Donald, quit coaching at Douglas High School.
Dollar came to Maryland, playing his junior year at Harker Prep in Bethesda with current Terrapin Exree Hipp as well as North Carolina's Serge Zwikker. When coach Stu Vetter left for St. John's Prospect Hall in Frederick, Dollar followed.
"Maryland had just recruited Duane Simpkins, and since he was only a year ahead of me, I never really considered going there," said Dollar. "If Tyus was a year ahead of me here, I probably would have gone somewhere else."
Even so, Dollar didn't think he'd wind up in Westwood.
But after taking an official visit on Senior Day three seasons ago, "I just fell in love with the place," he said.
The feeling is now mutual.
Until he arrived here Thursday, Clemson coach Rick Barnes hadn't seen North Carolina's Dean Smith since the two nearly tangled at midcourt during the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., last month.
The incident was precipitated by a couple of physical games played between the Tigers and Tar Heels during the regular season, and by comments Smith had made about Clemson's "Big East style" under Barnes.
Things got ugly when Smith began yelling at Iker Iturbe when the Tigers center shoved Jerry Stackhouse away from a rebound, and Barnes began yelling at Smith. When the two coaches met at half-court, they had to be separated by a couple of officials.
But Barnes met up with Smith at a dinner to salute the Final Four coaches, and they spoke briefly, and more calmly than they had before. "It's a shame that something like that had to happen," said Barnes. "I think things will be all right in the future."
The day after the incident, a fan outside the Greensboro Coliseum held a sign reading, "Rick Barnes, New Sheriff in Town." Barnes said he's received more letters and phone calls about what happened with Smith than for any victory in his
In fact, as Barnes was standing in the lobby of a local hotel Thursday night, several former Big East colleagues came up and offered their congratulations for standing up to Smith.
"Now, if it had been [John] Thompson, that would have been something," said one.
Kirwan on hand
Maryland president William E. Kirwan is attending his first Final Four in nearly 30 years. As a first-time member of the NCAA's Presidents Commission, Kirwan was here attending meetings.
"I'm a basketball junkie," he said. "I'm going to stay for the games."
The only other Final Four Kirwan attended was at College Park in 1966, the year Texas Western, featuring the first all-black starting lineup, defeated Kentucky in a game that many say changed college basketball forever.
Nolan: Dean's the best
John Wooden is the only coach to have gone to more Final Fours. Adolph Rupp is the only man to have won more games in Division I. Dean Smith's resume has made a believer out of Nolan Richardson, the Arkansas coach he was matched against in last night's second semifinal.
"In my estimation, Dean is the best in this business," Richardson said Friday. "[Mike] Krzyzewski is one of the best and [Bob] Knight is one of the best, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dean Smith, his record, the players he has recruited over the years, and the loyalty and respect they have for him after he is gone.
"Talking to some of those guys who have played for him is one of the most beautiful conversations you will hear. Some players don't talk about their coaches that way."
While he was preparing for his return to the NBA, Michael Jordan worked out in Chapel Hill, joined up with the second-teamers and beat the Tar Heels' starters. Now that Stackhouse has seen Jordan up close and personal, he is flattered to be compared to him.
"I think everybody knows that Michael Jordan is the greatest player," Stackhouse said. "For people to think we have something in common gives me a lot of encouragement and a lot of advice."
Stackhouse arrived at the Final Four with 1,062 career points, and the only two Tar Heels to have had more at the end of their sophomore seasons were J. R. Reid with 1,123 and Jordan with " 1,181.
First fan sits out
President Clinton, who attended the last three games of Arkansas' run to the 1994 title, will not be coming to Seattle. His schedule and a desire to avoid the security hassles caused by his visit to Charlotte last year led Clinton to take some R&R; in Little Rock, Ark. For his morning run yesterday, the President wore an Arkansas basketball T-shirt.