What's The Real Scoop On Sullivan?

FAYETTEVILLE - Despite serious efforts to make mum almost every word, there are trickles of interest seeping from the Arkansas basketball program as it tries to rebound from the 39-47 three-seasons run.

This is that somewhat slow time of year, folks, when the possible loss of a seldom-playing forward is big news in these parts.

With fourth-year Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath under the magnifying glass of you, us, and, more important, his boss, athletic director Frank Broyles, anything that bounces out of Bud Walton Arena is of importance.

Here's what we know about the status of senior-to-be Rashard Sullivan: Nothing, really.

Citing an unnamed source, the Little Rock paper reported on Tuesday that Sullivan had left the team.

Heath gathered with reporters on Tuesday afternoon outside the weight room to address the situation.

Sort of.

To paraphrase, Heath said Sullivan has not been participating in the Hogs' much-needed off-season program.

He has not left the team or been booted from it.

In fact, Heath said Sullivan's "status has not yet been determined."

That's pretty Hoggone curious, but not as much as this: Heath said he had not yet met with Sullivan to discuss his situation.

When he does, Heath said, he'll let us know what's up.

Attempts to reach Sullivan, a tough 6-foot-8, 240-pounder who averaged 14.1 minutes, 2.3 points and 3.2 rebounds last season, have been unsuccessful.

All of that leads to speculation, which, unfortunately, is what we're down to.

Does Heath intend to punt Sullivan as he did Berry Jordan his first year here because of conflicts?

Probably not. Jordan was immediately booted after apparent continual loafing and attitude problems well before that season tipped off.

Is this a similar situation to this time last year when the scholarships of Kendrick Davis and Wen Mukubu were revoked?

Perhaps, but Heath insisted he will sit down with Sullivan and discuss the situation to see if they're on "the same page." Davis (who transferred to North Texas State) and Mukubu (to Alabama-Birmingham, where he joined former Arkansas right-hand man Mike Anderson) seemed to have little, if any, say in their situations.

What do all of those players - except Davis, a talented but streaky scorer who never seemed to click with Heath's intentions - who left early have in common?

They were the recruits of Nolan Richardson, who was fired before Heath took over here on March 28, 2002.

With the upcoming graduation of Mike Jones, that leaves just Jonathon Modica and Sullivan as holdovers of the Richardson era.

One would think there's an unfortunate, but entirely natural, inclination to favor the players you bring in. After all, you sold those players, and their families, on what you want to do and how you want to do it. And you select, of course, those who fit your style, both on the court and personality-wise.

Maybe Sullivan, a strong rebounder and game hustler who often has been a liability on offense (a shaky short-range shooter and ballhandler), decided to walk away on his own.

Perhaps he and Heath failed to see eye-to-eye or maybe he figured his role here would lesson with the influx of signee Cyprus McGowan (a 6-9 center), the return of forward Vincent Hunter from injury, the huge potential of sophomore-to-be Charles Thomas and/or the big-time thoughts of pairing Darian Townes with Steven Hill, both sophs-to-be, to create a twin towers effect.

If that's the case, or if his scholarship is taken, Sullivan has only two options.

He can transfer to a Division I school, but likely only a lower-tiered one, and at that, he would have to sit out a year for eligibility.

Or he could transfer to a Division II school and play right away, ala former Arkansas quarterback Zak Clark, who went on to star immediately at Central Arkansas.

Here's what makes the most sense. Heath already has dished out two scholarships (guard Sean McCurdy and McGowan) and has been carefully saving the other to find another guard to come in next season. Being so inside-heavy, he probably would love the luxury of signing another point guard as well as a shooting one.

McCurdy, who Arkansas listed as a "point shooting guard" in the release about his signing, may or may not be the much-needed solution at the point. He played prep ball for Bob Hurley (dad of Bobby, of Duke and NBA fame), and Heath seems to believe the 6-1, 175-pounder will be the immediate answer.

Then again, maybe he won't.

Maybe Heath's holding out to see if he still can sign another topnotch point guard and a dandy shooting guard. If so, Sullivan's scholarship likely would be gone.

Maybe it already is.

Maybe not.

Hard to tell with no one saying much.

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