Look Out, Reilly, I'm Declaring!

FAYETTEVILLE - It's official, and time for you, Rick Reilly, to start shaking in your Italian loafers.

I'm tossing my worn-out Old Navy cap into the Sports Illustrated ring. Yep, I'm interested, declaring, and I want some feedback.

Come to think of it, also wouldn't mind gunning for that Pulitzer Prize deal or the Associated Press award for best sports columnist in the country.

Bet Mitch Albom will start covering those big ol' ears soon as he starts to hear the news.

Yep, Reilly, I'm coming after your SI columnist gig. Heck, you get to do interviews with the Phoenix Gorilla and swimsuit models.

I've struggled to get guys like Matt Jones to say more than, "Aw, shucks" for going on five years.

That once-a-week column, no-further responsibilities thing must be great. Ditto for the response when you call a subject and say, "This is Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated."

Not so easy on you, I'll bet, to hit national targets with, "This is Rick Reilly of The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas."

Heck, Reilly, try saying that three times fast.

Slow down, you say?

Got to strike while the iron is hot, Reilly. Lately, it's been piping.

You know all about Jones, the Arkansas quarterback most of the last four years, being snatched by the Jaguars with the 21st pick in the recent 2005 NFL Draft, right?

Well, that was surprising, wasn't it?

This Caldwell to SI thing just might not be such a stretch. Besides, we writers don't play these things on paper ... er, never mind.

Sure you know all about Arkansas sophomore small (6-foot-5) forward Olu Famutimi, who declared last Saturday for the June 28 NBA Draft.

Name doesn't jump out at ya?

C'mon, Reilly. You've been too busy tossing steroid snippets at Barry Bonds and chatting it up with Extreme Chickfighters.

Famutimi, as darned near everybody in the Northwest corner of Arkansas knows, was the Hogs' fourth-leading scorer last season for a team that again did not get its snout close to the NCAA Tournament Committee.

He averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds as the Hogs went from 13-1 to 18-12. Season before, by gosh, Famutimi was named to the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team by averaging 7 points and 3.5 rebounds when he drained 23.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Sure, he's 21, but apparently not old enough to drive, unless you count driving Arkansas fans crazy. But we do recall a few dribbles last season, and maybe, like Jones who is converting to an NFL wide receiver, Famutimi wants to convert to a slasher in the NBA.

Besides, apparently he was really good in high school, even gaining a spot on the McDonald's All-American menu.

Yeah, yeah, I remember the McRib.

I know you think folks who go by the moniker Hog cannot be too bright, and surely you remember the Scotty Thurman fiasco. If not, Thurman was an All-SEC shooting star who hit the game-winning trey when Arkansas won the 1994 national championship, and he didn't get drafted.

Then there was Darnell Robinson's dumb decision. Appropriately, we think he ended up in Turkey.

So Arkansas early-outs have not been such a hit?

What about Arkansas signee Al Jefferson's transition from a Mississippi high school to the 15th selection by the Celtics last year?

Or Suns stud Joe Johnson, who was drafted by the Celtics with the 10th pick of 2001 after playing here half his freshman and all of his sophomore season?

Clearly Famutimi is green with envy. Maybe he, too, has a Boston connection.

Cheers!

Nope, not everybody knows his name and you think this is crazy just because you've never heard of it and aren't sure how to pronounce it.

Look, Reilly, 60-70 high school dandies, foreign players and college underclassmen will be invited to the NBA predraft camp in Chicago on June 7.

Dare you to try and come up with 60 who are better than Famutimi. OK, teammates Ronnie Brewer, Jonathon Modica and Darian Townes make three, but that's just a start.

So you've finished the list before getting out of the SEC. Good for you. After all, you're blessed. I did mention the swimsuit models, right?

Well, Famutimi's chances have to be better than those of Eric Heroman. Swear that's his name. He's the guy who played intramurals at LSU last year before tossing his remarkable name into the draft.

All right, so maybe Tigers coach John Brady ran him off, too.

You say there just must be more to this Famutimi story? After all, Famutimi is anything but a slam-dunk in this draft and Arkansas fourth-year coach Stan Heath began cultivating a relationship when the kid was a ninth-grader in Flint, Mich.

Why do you think he's in such a hurry to leave?

It's not like Famutimi hasn't gotten a shot here. Heck, many wonder why he plays so many Hog-gone minutes.

Is Famutimi really just reaching for feedback from NBA folks even though even getting that seems unrealistic?

And isn't it extra curious because if he pulls out of this draft by June 21 and returns to Arkansas, he won't have a chance to repeat that process after next season, by which time he might actually have some at least reasonable numbers as a junior?

Is this a sign of boiling team chemistry?

Well, come on down and check it out.

Straight answers aren't so easy to get in this Peyton (Hillis) Place.

But I'm sure you can do it.

Besides, I'm looking forward to taking your last-page place.




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