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Scotty Thurman

TO FOLLOW Scotty Thurman in the days after the NCAA championship
game was to follow a legend in the making. Because he had sunk an
extraordinary game- winning shot against Duke, folks in Fayetteville
clamored to shake his hand or pat him on the back or touch the hem of
his garment. (Never mind that his garment is usually a T-shirt.)
There was even talk of making a video that would run Thurman's Three
right alongside the basket drained by a certain North Carolina Tar
Heel in the NCAA final 12 years ago.
But Thurman, like Michael Jordan, a 6 ft. 6 in. swingman, handled
his newfound fame with the same equanimity he displayed on the court
during the waning moments of the title game. ''He's a class player,''
said Blue Devil guard Chris Collins afterward. ''He also made a great
play. The national championship, a minute left, tie game -- he made a
great shot.''
Thurman's humility can be traced to his humble beginnings. Raised
in Ruston, La. (pop. 20,027), he learned the game from his father,
Levell, who played basketball at Grambling. The two would bend wire
coat hangers into basketball rims and hang them above closet
doorways. Scotty would loft balled-up socks toward his target from
across the room, pretending he was Dr. J. When he grew tall enough to
dunk, he crashed into a door and cracked it, after which the games
were moved to a patch of earth behind the house. ''Where I'm from,
you just stick a pole in the ground and that's your court,'' says
Thurman. ''After you play on the grass for a while, it flattens into
hard dirt.''
Not only did rural Ruston prepare Thurman athletically, but it
also prepared him academically. He was president of the student body
his senior year at Ruston High and a regular on the school's honor
roll. Thurman was determined not to make the same mistakes that his
older brother, Al, had made. Scotty had watched Al battle substance
abuse, and after several brushes with the law, he landed in prison,
where he remains today.
Scotty's excellence as a student in Ruston has continued in
Fayetteville. A sophomore communications major, Thurman has a 3.1
GPA, and he was recently named to the SEC's All-Academic Honor
Thurman has also been named to the All-SEC basketball team each of
the last two years, a particularly impressive feat considering that
he displayed different skills in those two seasons. In 1992-93
pivotman Corliss Williamson broke his foot in the opening game, so
Thurman provided much of the Hogs' offense, scoring a team-high 17.4
points per game. But with Williamson healthy this season, Thurman's
role changed. He scored less (15.9 points per game) but improved his
rebounding (4.5 per game) and assists (3 per game).
''The way Scotty scores in bushels, he easily could have averaged
25 or 30 points if I had played him more,'' says Nolan Richardson.
''And most players get most of their points against weak teams. But
Scotty's just the opposite -- he gets his points against the teams
that can play.'' Like, say, NCAA tournament teams? Thurman averaged
16.2 points in the Razorbacks' six tournament games this season.
Thurman spent many of his off-hours at the Final Four sporting a
cap that read: I'M SORRY I THOUGHT YOU COULD PLAY. If any other
Arkansas player had worn this hat, one could have assumed that the
words referred to basketball. With Thurman, though, they could just
as likely be about music. As an accomplished tuba player, Thurman
makes a point of keeping his ears pricked up while he shoots baskets
before games.
''I like to listen for the tuba in school bands,'' he says.
''Sometimes I can pick out a wrong note.''