State Of The Hogs

No one among my contacts with any knowledge of how things work in professional basketball has given me one good reason Olu Famutimi should give up college basketball for a chance at playing in the NBA after only two years at Arkansas.

However, I do understand how the decision was made and see how something good can come of it. He's been told for about four years that he would soon be in the NBA. He was once the next great thing in high school basketball, destined to play in the NBA, before a knee injury and reconstructive surgery turned his world upside down three years ago.

Someone, and that someone was probably AAU coach Chris Grier, told his parents that he would be an NBA player if he followed a plan. That plan consisted of leaving his home in Canada, moving to Flint, Mich., with Grier becoming Olu's guardian. Of course, that was before he blew out a knee. That plan wasn't worth a plugged nickel ever since doctors cut on Olu's knee.

Whether or not Olu should be taken in the NBA draft may not have anything to do with his decision to go pro. It may be that it is now time for him to make some money, per the original plan. He doesn't have to play in the NBA to make money with basketball. He could play over seas. Or, he could be one of many who fits well in the NBA's new developmental league. He could end up playing for the Arkansas RimRockers as that franchise switches from older to younger players, per NBA Commissioner David Stern's plan.

I've listened on radio talk shows as many have ripped Grier for pointing Famutimi toward this decision. I won't be so quick to blame Grier. It may be that Famutimi just didn't believe he would be any closer to the NBA with another year in the Ozarks.

I understand his thinking. He was not going to be the star on next year's squad. I think both Ronnie Brewer and Darian Townes, and perhaps Jonathon "Pookie" Modica, will put up better numbers than Famutimi would have next year. Those three players are closer to being able to play in the NBA than Famutimi.

The most important question: how will Olu's loss affect the Hogs next season? No doubt, he will be missed. But I will argue he won't be missed as much as some might think. Perhaps the team will even be better off.

First, if Olu was not happy, then the team is better off without him. If he didn't like his situation, the team is going to benefit, not suffer, with him gone. The team may actually come together because of his decision to leave.

I'm not blaming Olu for any problems. He was not a bad actor or a problem causer. I'm just saying I didn't see a lot of smiles on his face on the floor or in the locker room. It just never seemed like he was happy. He talked in soft, low voices. He never bubbled forth with excitement and seemed happy to be left alone. Of course, that's a sportswriter's view and players don't have to act like they love being around sportswriters to be happy.

It was clear that Stan Heath had a tough time figuring out how to use Olu and Pookie at the same time. They often played the same position and subbed for each other. Ideally, they would have played together, but the way the team was built prevented that from happening too often.

The best four perimeter players on the team last year were Brewer, Modica, Famutimi and Eric Ferguson. If you add two big men to that mix, that means that one of those four had to sit out most of the time. Brewer and Ferguson could and did play the point. Famutimi and Modica, just average ball handlers, could not play the point. Brewer, while adequate at the point, was much better playing off the ball so he was fresher on defense and could create and rebound on the offensive end.

That meant Modica and Famutimi often battled for the same minutes and were matched against each other in practice. Again, that's a tough situation for a coach when two of your best players can't play a lot together.

Heath told me several times before last season and during the campaign that he wanted to get to the point where those two played together. He spoke to me on that subject just a few weeks ago. He wanted both to put much effort into their ball handling in their individual work this spring and summer so that the team could function without a point guard more of the time.

But the truth of the matter is that neither one was ever going to be an assist leader, one of the areas Famutimi struggled with the most.

What I'm getting at is that as strange as it may sound, this team may actually function better without Famutimi. It may be a rare instance where you end up with addition by subtraction.

This may open a few more minutes for freshman point guard Sean McCurdy and shooting specialist Ryan McBride, a juco transfer. It's way too early to know if any of this is true, but I've got a hunch that my new math (addition by subtraction) adds up to more victories next January and February.


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