IT DIDN'T take Arkansas band director Dale Warren long to realize
that his musicians would have to learn a new number. Early this
season, after watching junior transfer Alex Dillard score 16 points
in less than two minutes against Northwestern State, Warren figured
he should invest in some sheet music: Paul Simon's You Can Call Me
Al. The Hog Wild band had plenty of time to practice the tune a week
later when Dillard made an SEC-record 12 three-pointers en route to a
39-point performance against Delaware State.
''I'm instant offense,'' says Dillard. ''The guys on the floor
apply the pressure and wear 'em down. Then I come in with fresh
Dillard was third on the team in scoring this season, averaging
8.9 points. But he got those points playing only 12.4 minutes per
game. ''Sometimes I've just felt like sitting back and watching the
Al Dillard show,'' says sophomore swingman Scotty Thurman. ''He can
really put it up.''
Dillard claims he can put it up and put it in from as far away as
''the tip of the Hog's tail,'' which is painted near center court in
Bud Walton Arena, 35 feet from the basket. Indeed, when it comes to
long shots, no Arkansas player has ever been a longer shot than the
25-year-old Dillard, whom his teammates affectionately refer to as
Antique. In 1988, during his junior year at Jess Lanier High in
Bessemer, Ala., he dropped out of school after his mother lost her
job. He spent the next three years flipping burgers, bagging
groceries and busing tables at a Mexican restaurant. Often he would
leave work at 4 p.m. and play basketball at nearby gyms until late
into the night.
It didn't take long for word of Dillard's shooting prowess to
spread. After watching him hit a few deep jumpers, Ron Radford, the
coach at Southern Union State Junior College in Wadley, Ala.,
suggested Dillard study for his GED. Dillard agreed, passed the exam
and enrolled at Southern Union in the fall of 1991. Once there he
showed his stuff. Against Calhoun (Ala.) College as a freshman,
Dillard scored 40 points in the second half. Several weeks later he
made 14 of 16 three-pointers in lighting up Shelton (Ala.) College
for 52 points. As a sophomore, he averaged 30 points per game and hit
nine three- pointers in a game against Southern Idaho.
Arkansas assistant coach Mike Anderson heard about the 6 ft. 1 in.
Dillard after he won the '92 slam dunk title in the Birmingham summer
league for the second year in a row. Dillard didn't deliberate long
before deciding to sign with the Razorbacks. ''This is any guy's
dream -- to be playing for a No. 1 team,'' says Dillard. ''To be
playing for Coach ((Nolan)) Richardson.''
Since arriving in Fayetteville, Dillard has kept up the practice
regimen that brought him to big-time basketball. ''He's a self-made
player,'' says Anderson. Indeed, in December, Dillard had to be
ushered out of Walton Arena by assistant coaches because he was still
shooting baskets nearly two hours after a morning shootaround had
ended. ''I've never seen a guy work so much on his shot,'' says
Richardson. ''If we could get everyone to work like him . . . but
Dillard's dedication has won many hearts. ''I saw him on ESPN and
got teary eyed,'' says Henry Moton, Dillard's coach at Lanier High.
''I'm glad he finally made it to the big time.''
When President Clinton came to Fayetteville on Dec. 28 to meet the
Razorbacks, it was Clinton who gushed after shaking Dillard's hand.
Occasionally, though, even Dillard's supporters grow frustrated with
him. ''Watch practice,'' says Richardson. ''He screws up our
workouts. We don't have the opportunity to work on offensive
rebounding.'' -- M.J.
This is an article from the April 20, 1994 issue