In the early to mid 1980’s, Georgia Tech’s Mark Price and Bruce Dalrymple were among the nation’s top college backcourts.
Price, from Enid, Oklahoma, was a crafty ball-handler and passer who fired away from deep with sniper-like precision. Dalrymple, a Harlem native, was a defensive savant who snagged boards with power forward nastiness. He played a muscular, take-it-to-the-hole, seek-and-destroy brand of ball that was forged on the Uptown asphalt.
At around that time, I’d begun paying serious attention to what head coach Bobby Cremins – a young, exuberant, white-haired, passionate New Yorker – was building in Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Price, Dalrymple, and John Salley, a 7-foot collection of limbs from Brooklyn’s Canarsie High School whose nickname was ‘Spider’, led the school to its first-ever ACC Tournament Championship in the 1984-1985 season, along with the Tech’s first NCAA Tourney bid in 25 years.
In the ACC Tournament that year, Price scored 20 points against Duke and 16 against North Carolina in the championship game, earning MVP honors. An ensuing nail-biting loss later in the NCAA Tournament to Georgetown dropped them one step shy of the Final Four.
The next year, as a #2 seed, they were upset by #11 seed LSU in the Sweet 16, despite Price's 20 points.
But his and his teammtes' exploits put the Yellow Jackets on the national map, earning Cremins the credibility to later snag some of the most exciting and dynamic point guards in the country like Kenny Anderson, Travis Best, Jarrett Jack and Stephon Marbury.
Mark Price was the originator of Georgia Tech’s future point guard pipeline. In addition to being a classic pull-up shooter with a pure form and release, he was an incredible facilitator and passer who also had the ability to destroy you with his scoring weaponry.
“He’s not the average white point guard,” John Salley told Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Newman in 1985. “If coach was to let him go, he’d have 40 a night against anybody.”
At an early age, Price’s father Denny helped him develop a quick release that would allow him to offset taller defenders and exotic defensive schemes designed to thwart his effectiveness. Denny was a coach who lived and breathed basketball. And all of the Price boys benefitted from his knowledge and expertise. Mark’s younger brother Matt played guard at Appalachian State while his baby brother Brent played ten years in the NBA after his college career at South Carolina and Oklahoma.
As a senior at Enid High in Oklahoma, most recruiters backed away from Mark because of his lack of height. But Bobby Cremins, in his first year taking over a team that went 4-23 and winless in the ACC, was not among them.
“I had everybody telling me how bad Georgia Tech was and asking me why would I even consider going there,” Price told SI’s Newman.
But he could not say no to the charming Cremins, as the coach’s New York style, verbosity and flair captivated the entire Price family during Mark’s recruitment.
After Price bought what Cremins was selling, he became a four-time All-ACC player and a three-time All-American, in addition to collecting the ACC Player of the Year Award for the 1984-1985 season.
He was the first freshman to ever lead the ACC in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game during his first college season, and led the Yellow Jackets in scoring for four consecutive years.
He averaged 20 points per game in the 1986 NCAA Tournament, where he was a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, and never averaged less than 16 points throughout his college career.
In addition to scoring over 2,000 points at Georgia Tech, he also amassed 510 assists and 240 steals. In 2002, he was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Men’s Basketball Team, along with the likes of Len Bias, Billy Cunningham, Walter Davis, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, John Lucas, Ralph Sampson, Buck Williams and James Worthy, among other conference greats.
The playground crucibles in places like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, D.C. and Baltimore produce some of the game’s harshest critics. The professors and philosophers of the game in those settings do not dole out respect without it being earned.
And I’ll bet my bottom food stamp that if you go to any of those places and ask a long-time connoisseur about a short white dude from Enid, Oklahoma named Mark Price that once played point guard at Georgia Tech in the early to mid 1980’s, you’d get a smile and nod, followed by something like, “Oh yeah. Mark Price was NICE! Mark Price was VERY NICE!”