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.
December 25, 1989
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.
Although it's tough to hide a guy who's 7 feet and 265 pounds, Felton Spencer nevertheless spent most of his first three seasons at Louisville in the shadow of Pervis Ellison, last year's No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. But now, with Ellison gone to Sacramento—where he's known as "Out-of-Service Pervis" because of a foot injury—Spencer has emerged as the force around which the deep, talented Cardinals may funk and dunk their way to the Final Four.
Spencer, who was such a gentle giant at Louisville's Eastern High School that he took a stuffed animal to games, has recently toughened his image with a Wilt Chamberlain goatee. More important, he has learned to intimidate defensively, throw the outlet pass to start the break and score inside by using agility as well as brute strength.
He showed all those talents last Saturday when he outplayed New Mexico's 7'2" center, Luc Longley, a native of Australia who has drawn more than passing interest from the pro scouts, though he's only a junior.
Early on in the Louisville game, Longley looked as if he might dominate, and the Lobos enjoyed a surprising 31-29 halftime lead. But Cardinals coach Denny Crum used the intermission to challenge Spencer to D up on Longley on the high post and to keep the ball away from him as much as possible. Spencer did, and the Cards blitzed the visitors 38-7 early in the second half on the way to a 78-49 win, their seventh in eight starts.
In the end, Spencer outscored Longley 14-10, outrebounded him 20-11 and blocked six shots to Longley's four. The rebounds and blocks were career highs for Spencer, while Longley's point total was only half his average. Said Spencer, "I didn't look at it as having anything to prove. Everybody knows by now that I can play. I just wanted to have a good time and help us win."
Spencer has never expressed much of an interest in the NBA—he's a strong B student working toward a career in business—but he looks more and more like a first-rounder, maybe even a lottery pick. First, though, he and his Louisville teammates have to tend to the business of making a run at the Final Four.
Tyrone Hill, a 6'10" center for Xavier University in Cincinnati, has the killer instinct that great rebounders need. He even keeps killer fish to remind him of the attitude he has to have when he's hitting the glass.
Last season Hill pulled down an average of 12.2 rebounds per game, second only to the 13.7 of Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers. But after the season, Hill thought some changes had to be made. "I looked at my aquarium, and I saw these goldfish swimming around," he says. "I thought, That's not an aggressive fish for a re bounder. So I bought eight piranhas and put them in the tank. Bye-bye, goldfish."
When those piranhas died, Hill replaced them with three baby shark fish, but they went belly up after only three days. He then got some cichlids, known for aggressive behavior, and this batch apparently is doing swimmingly. So is Hill. After Xavier's 95-63 rout of Valparaiso last Saturday, he was averaging 18.3 points and 11 rebounds for the 3-1 Musketeers—and building a fan club among the pros. "He could use a little polish," said Cleveland Cavalier general manager Wayne Embry, "but he is definitely an NBA first-round pick."
Hill and his teammates are favored to win the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, but watch out for a feeding frenzy of rebounds before that. On Jan. 2, Hill will get to trade elbows with Gathers when the Musketeers host Loyola.
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
Instead of loading up Arkansas's December home schedule with boring patsies, Razorback coach Nolan Richardson, to his credit, invited mighty Missouri into Barnhill Arena on Dec. 13. The Razorbacks got a loss, 89-88, to make their record 5-1, but they also learned what it's going to take to be competitive when NCAA tournament play begins.
To beat the physical Big Eight teams like Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, the Razorbacks can't just rely on the perimeter shooting of Lee Mayberry and Todd Day. They have to pound it inside, as Missouri did with 6'10" Doug Smith and 6'9" Nathan Buntin, who ripped the soft Arkansas defense for a total of 48 points and 22 rebounds.
The game was so eagerly awaited by Razorback students that they began gathering outside Barnhill at 7:30 a.m. A Fayetteville pizza chain reported the students ordered 614 pizzas during the wait, but that didn't kill their appetite for an upset of the Tigers.
Richardson tried to counter Missouri's inside strength by ordering Mayberry, who scored 16 points in the first half, to forget shooting and feed center Mario (Easy) Credit. That enabled Credit to wind up with 20 points, but it took Mayberry out of the offense. He didn't score in the second half. Still, the Razorbacks did have the last shot to win it, with four seconds remaining, but Mayberry missed a trey, ending the Hogs' home court winning streak at 14.
This week's raspberry for unsportsmanlike scheduling goes to Georgetown coach John Thompson, whose Hoyas rolled to a horrendous 112-39 sleepwalk over the District of Columbia. The excuse for this mismatch was that UDC coach George Leftwich, a high school teammate of Thompson's, had requested the game last summer. Sorry, but that's not good enough—unless, of course, such things as valid competition and entertainment value no longer count in college sports....
Last Saturday, SMU defeated Texas-Arlington 36-31, proving that the 45-second clock and the three-point shot can't beef up the offense of bad teams. The go-ahead basket came when an intended pass went through the hands of SMU forward Vernon Perdue and into the hoop. Fortunately for basketball, only 1,056 were in attendance at Moody Coliseum in Dallas.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
MEN: Nathan Buntin, a 6'8" forward for No. 4-ranked Missouri, averaged 24.5 points and 15.5 rebounds as the Tigers beat Arkansas 89-88 and Bradley 86-77. Buntin made 21 of 33 shots from the field in the two victories.
WOMEN: Vanderbilt 's 6'4" junior center Wendy Scholtens, the SEC's leading scorer, had 56 points, 32 rebounds, eight steals and four blocked shots as the Lady Commodores beat Georgia Southern 95-61 and Morehead State 92-46.
SMALL COLLEGE: Harold Ellis, a 6'5" sophomore forward for Division II Morehouse College, had 29 points and 12 rebounds in a 103-98 overtime victory over Tuskegee. He also scored 31 and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 106-79 victory over Lane College.