AFTER SPENDING a year under Nolan Richardson's roof as a high
school junior, guard Davor Rimac didn't think much would surprise him
about Arkansas basketball. That was before he heard Razorback fans
calling the Hog -- everywhere the team went. ''At first I didn't know
what it was,'' says Rimac, a native of Zagreb, Croatia. ''But even if
there were only a hundred Arkansas fans in a building, you could hear
them. Most places there were a couple of thousand. It amazes me.
There are Razorback fans everywhere around this country.''
Now that Arkansas has won a national championship, Croatia
probably has a few Hog fans as well. ''Back home the only basketball
we ever saw on television was the NBA playoffs and the Final Four,''
says Rimac, ''so I knew the Final Four was a big deal. Winning the
NCAA championship is the greatest thing I've ever experienced. It's
especially wonderful for Coach Richardson.''
A 6 ft. 7 in. junior reserve, Rimac feels a unique loyalty to
Richardson, who, as a favor to Rimac's father, Matan, allowed Davor
to attend his basketball camp in Fayetteville six years ago.
Richardson then took the boy in when Davor decided he wanted to stay
in the U.S. to attend high school. Matan, who coaches a club team in
Switzerland, had once done Richardson a good turn by finding a spot
on his team for David Brown, one of Richardson's former players at
While living with Richardson, Rimac helped pull Richardson's wife,
Rose, out of the depression she felt over the loss of her daughter,
Yvonne, who had died of leukemia a year earlier, in 1987. ''My wife
had not gotten in a car,'' says Richardson. ''I talked with doctors,
and they said it might be good to have Rimac live with us. It would
get her back to PTA meetings.''
''We helped each other,'' says Rimac of Rose. ''She spent a lot of
time teaching me what to expect in the United States, and I'd like to
think I helped her get more involved in life.''
While at Fayetteville High, Rimac scored a school-record 1,245
points in two seasons. He also won the state Class 4A singles tennis
title as a senior. But after his junior year Rimac moved in with
another Fayetteville family to avoid the appearance that Richardson
had an unfair recruiting advantage.
In the Hogs' balanced offensive attack, Rimac's scoring role (4.8
points per game) was reduced from his high school days. Although his
most valuable strength is his outside shooting -- he had two critical
treys in the 90-82 midseason victory at Kentucky that snapped the
Wildcats' 33-game home winning streak -- his most eye-popping skill
may be his dunking, something fans don't often get to see. ''I tell
you, Davor has done some things that make us all go, Oh, my
goodness!'' says assistant coach Brad Dunn. ''The guy can even dunk
off a missed free throw. He's an incredible athlete.''
An incredible athlete whose attitude toward winning was, until
recently, hardly admirable. ''When I played on under-18 teams in
Europe, we played year- round,'' says Rimac. ''When we lost, it
wasn't a big deal because we always had another game.''
Last summer, instead of going home to Zagreb, Rimac stayed in
Fayetteville to hone his game. The hard work was rewarded on Jan. 29,
when he got the first of his 12 starts this season. In that 65-64 win
over Tennessee, Rimac had 12 points and nine rebounds. ''I learned
last summer that when you don't put much into it, losing doesn't
bother you as much,'' says Rimac. ''But when I put the effort in, I
wanted to get the reward for the work.''
Now Rimac and his fellow Hogs have their reward. As do Razorback
fans everywhere. -- K.A.
This is an article from the April 20, 1994 issue