IF YOU happen upon an enormous figure somersaulting above the
skyline of Waco, Texas, this summer, rest assured that it won't be
some modern-day Hindenburg lurching out of control. It will be Lee
Wilson, the Razorbacks' 6 ft. 11 in. freshman center, who likes to
spend hot afternoons flipping off the high- diving board at the
Carver Park swimming pool in Waco. He usually uncorks his favorite
dive, the jackknife, late in the day. ''When I'm way up there in the
air,'' says Wilson, ''I feel the same kind of rush I get after
dunking a basketball.''
This season, however, Wilson logged some unexpected pool time when
his chronically ailing right knee -- first injured in high school --
flared up again. Following arthroscopic surgery he hit rehab hard:
swimming, lifting weights and scaling countless flights of stairs at
Razorback Stadium. His dedication was well rewarded, for he wound up
third on the team in blocked shots despite having missed four games.
Still, much of Wilson's time has been spent answering questions
about the Hogs' other freshman center, Darnell (Tank) Robinson. And
Wilson has proved to be a good sport about responding to the
countless queries concerning his more highly recruited classmate.
''Tank has helped me out a lot,'' says Wilson. ''He helps me with
moves on the offensive end and shows me how to do some things better
on the defensive side.''
But Wilson has also had a beneficial effect on Robinson. ''Tank
hadn't had the chance to go against someone who makes you work as
hard as Lee does,'' says assistant coach Mike Anderson. ''In high
school Tank was blocking shots with his armpits. He can't do that
Anderson notes that Wilson's imposing presence on the floor during
practice has helped Corliss Williamson's game as well. ''Corliss
either has to go around Lee or shoot over him,'' says Anderson. Now
some of the Hogs probably know how their opponents feel, having to
face wave after wave of physical frontline players.
Wilson just hopes that some of Williamson's pivot moves will rub
off on him: Wilson insists on holding one of Big Nasty's hands during
each pregame team prayer. (Another Wilson superstitions is tying the
shoelace tighter on the sneaker he lifts off from on layups -- the
left one -- than he ties the lace on his other shoe.)
Hardly content with starting only one game during the season,
Wilson is the first to admit that he still has a great deal to learn
if he wants to break into the lineup more often as a sophomore.
During the Razorbacks' 85-73 win over Georgetown in the second round
of the NCAA tournament, Wilson set a rather dubious school record by
fouling out in only seven minutes of action. ''I didn't break much of
a sweat that night,'' he says ruefully.
That performance notwithstanding, Wilson usually makes the most of
the time he does play. In 13 minutes of service against Northwestern
State in December, he scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds. And
while playing only five minutes in the championship game against
Duke, Wilson scored four points and had four rebounds.
Perhaps Wilson's favorite basketball moment, though, occurred
during the Midwest Regional final against Michigan in Dallas. He
remembers hearing the Arkansas band playing something with a wicked
beat when he looked up into the stands to see his mother, Pearl Ross,
and grandmother dancing together. Wilson plans to kid them about
their ''dance capades'' when he returns home for part of the summer
-- just before he wanders down the street to Carver Park for a few
tumbles off the high board. -- M.J.