THE OTHER SHOE DROPS
Last January, when Lawrence Funderburke shocked the recruiting world by announcing he was going to Indiana because, as he said, "I need the discipline," all sorts of bets were made about how long the willowy 6'8" forward would last under Bob Knight. Well, if you predicted he wouldn't make it through December of his freshman year, get ready to collect. After being kicked out of practice last Thursday, Funderburke cleaned out his locker and disappeared.
He didn't make the trip to El Paso, where the Hoosiers beat UTEP 69-66 for their seventh win in as many starts, and nobody knew when or if he would be back, although Knight left the door open for his return. "I'm perfectly willing to sit down and talk to him, if that's what he wants," Knight said, "but my concern is the kids [who are] here."
Of the seven prize Hoosier freshmen who make up what was generally regarded as the nation's best recruiting class, Funderburke may be the most talented. He averaged 28.5 points while leading Wehrle High School in Columbus to the Ohio AAAA championship during his junior year. After that everything began to unravel.
First, Funderburke became embroiled in the NCAA investigation of Kentucky through his friendship with Bill Chupil, a self-confessed Wildcat "basketball junkie" and a former student manager for the Wildcats. The NCAA charged that Chupil acted improperly when he took Funderburke on several trips to Lexington. Although Chupil and Funderburke denied the charges, they were cited by the NCAA when it put Kentucky on probation for three years.
Then, seven games into Funderburke's senior year at Wehrle, coach Chuck Kemper kicked him off the team after the player missed a curfew during a holiday tournament in Pine Bluff, Ark.
Knight, though, had become interested in Funderburke through an old friend. Dean Chance, the ex-major league pitcher. For two straight summers Chance had employed Funderburke at the Ohio State Fair, where Chance operates carnival games on the midway. "He always seemed like a good kid to me," said Chance.
When Knight saw Funderburke play, he was impressed. The young man was also a good student, so Knight decided to give him a chance. "A lot of people think you're a pain in the ass," the coach told Funderburke, "and a lot of people think I'm a pain in the ass. Maybe we ought to get together."
After starting three games, Knight relegated Funderburke to the bench, ostensibly for poor shooting. He did come off the pine on Dec. 9 to score a game-high 26 in the Hoosiers' 92-75 win over Long Beach State, their last game before the trip to El Paso.
That may turn out to be Funderburke's last game in an Indiana uniform. Then again, maybe he and Knight will renew their brief alliance. Hold all bets, as they say at the racetrack, until the results are official.