Famutimi Leaves Name In NBA Draft

FAYETTEVILLE -- The NBA bug has bitten Arkansas again.

Olu Famutimi topped the surprise of his initial announcement to declare for the NBA Draft by informing Arkansas coach Stan Heath on Tuesday he was leaving his name in and bypassing the 4 p.m. deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from consideration for the June 28 draft.

"It's a major risk," a disappointed and surprised Heath said at a hastily arranged news conference late Tuesday afternoon in Bud Walton Arena. "I'm just hopeful whatever information he's getting is accurate that would lead him in that direction.

"I'm not getting the same feedback. I'm not at all."

Famutimi, a 6-foot-5, 212 pound small forward who averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore for Arkansas last season, was expected to return for his junior season after meeting for an hour with Heath last Thursday.

Last June, Arkansas lost power forward signee Al Jefferson to the NBA, but he was considered a late lottery pick and no worse than a first-round selection.

Heath said Tuesday he only spoke with Famutimi briefly and didn't get into the exact reasons behind his decision, but Heath said he felt something must have changed between his Thursday meeting and Famutimi's decision on Tuesday.

"When he left here, I really was under the impression after I spoke with him -- I knew that -- he said he was leaning toward coming back here," Heath said. "He liked everything about the University of Arkansas. He was happy to be here and he thought we'd have a good team and he wanted to be a part of that.

"I know he had a couple workouts between then and I don't know what was said to him or what led him in that other direction. Today, as time was on, I wasn't quite sure. After speaking with him I found out."

Heath downplayed the role of Famutimi's AAU coach Chris Greer in his decision. Greer also tutors former Florida guard Anthony Roberson, who also decided to leave his name in the draft pool despite his less-than sure thing status.

"Obviously (Greer) was influential in his life," Heath said. "But let's not pin this on anybody. This is Olu's decision. Olu is 21 years old. When he and I spoke, I told him, 'Whether it's what I'm telling you, what you're mom and dad are telling you or what your coach is telling you, it's your life and it's your decision.'"

Classmate and good friend Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas' leading scorer last season, said he thought it was "50-50" Famutimi would go pro after talking to him last Thursday, but he was still shocked he actually left his name in the draft.

Brewer also checked into his draft potential after the season but elected to avoid the uncertainty of declaring for the draft too early.

"You can be in a tough bind between staying in the draft and not knowing what your position is going to be or come back to school and play well and actually secure a spot," Brewer said. "That's what I'm trying to do. I think I can do a lot more stuff here at Arkansas and I felt I owed it to coach Heath to come back.

"I thought Olu was going to come back, but he decided this wasn't the best situation for him."

Brewer said he doesn't plan to consider the NBA until he guides Arkansas back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.

"The feedback I got was I need to get stronger, more consistent, better at my free throws, defense, a lot of things I can improve," Brewer said. "When I play, I don't like to people to say, 'He can't do this. He can't do that.' I like working on things in the offseason.

"And I want to get my team in the NCAA Tournament, which I haven't done in my freshman or sophomore year. But I plan on staying until I get to the NCAA Tournament."

Jefferson was drafted 15th by the Boston Celtics and enjoyed a successful rookie season, but nowhere near as certain a future lies before Famutimi, who was named on nearly every Internet list of players who made poor decisions to declare early for the draft.

Heath said no teams Famutimi has worked out for have called him for his opinion.

"I haven't talked to anybody," Heath said. "He is with teams working out. No one has called me. It hasn't been good. It hasn't been bad. No one has called me at all."

Since Famutimi declared for the draft on May 14, Heath steadily maintained his belief the former McDonald's All-American would return to campus for his junior year.

Famutimi wasn't invited to the NBA's Pre-Draft camp in Chicago earlier this month and was widely named on several lists of players who made poor decisions by declaring early.

At a press conference last Tuesday to introduce new assistant coach Dan Hipsher, Heath all but announced Famutimi would return, citing his continued contact with his teammates, his enrollment in the second session of summer school and his efforts to maintain his eligibility throughout the process of working out for NBA teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors.

Famutimi didn't call Heath on Tuesday until after a workout with the Utah Jazz and after the 4 p.m. deadline had passed.

Heath said his conversations with Famutimi never extended to a backup plan of playing overseas or in the NBA's Developmental League. He said Famutimi believed a good junior year could land him in the first round.

"But he didn't exactly have a backup plan," Heath said. "Our conversation was towards coming back."

Heath said Famutimi's move means more minutes and opportunities for the players who remain like seniors Jonathon Modica and Eric Ferguson

Famutimi is the second Razorbacks player to leave since the season ended with an 18-12 record and a lopsided loss to Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Power forward Rashard Sullivan quit the team in April, stating his disappointment with his improvement at Arkansas.

Brewer said the prospect of improving his draft stock with a good season at Arkansas wasn't a selling point for Famutimi to stay in school.

"He said if he was here or he wasn't here, we'd have a good team," Brewer said. "I talked to him about that. I felt we'd be better if he stayed. I knew it was on his mind. I guess he had a situation he couldn't pass up. He thought he'd get picked up by a team.

"That's everyone's dream. The hardest part is getting a shot and he had to go with his dreams."

Heath said he didn't want Famutimi back if his heart wasn't in being a Razorback.

"I didn't want him to come back if he was, 'Man, I should have gone to the NBA,' second-guessing his decision and not focusing on what we're doing," Heath said. "We're trying to win as a team. If he's, if any player for that matter, is not totally into the circle, then it is probably is one of those situations where there are other opportunities to look at."

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