Heath Says Famutimi Sees Window Closing

Olu Famutimi

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas sophomore Olu Famutimi put his name in the NBA Draft because feels he has a dwindling chance to capitalize on his potential, coach Stan Heath said Tuesday.

After two seasons as a Razorbacks that haven't lived up to his hype as a McDonald's All-American out of Flint, Mich., Famutimi decided the best way to keep his name viable as a pro prospect was to declare.

"I hate to make it seem this way, but he came in with a lot of expectations," Heath said. "He came in with that label of All-American. There's pressures that go with that. There's expectations that go with that. He really feels like his window is shrinking."

Famutimi, 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds for the 18-12 Razorbacks last season.

He averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament late in his senior season in high school.

Famutimi struggled with the mental obstacles of rehabilitation during his first season, making his sophomore season more like a true freshman year, Heath said.

But he doesn't want the NBA to forget about his success as a high schooler and Heath said he expects Famutimi to make an all-out push to make it to the next level.

"He wants his name on the radar screen," Heath said. "He doesn't want his name eliminated from the radar screen. I respect that. That kid wants to put himself in a position where he can create a buzz about himself.

"It's not hurting us. He's going to be working out. He's going to be coached. He's going to be playing against good competition."

Academics are not an issue, Heath said. Famutimi had the highest grade-point average on the team last semester and is enrolled for the second session of summer school.

In the current instant gratification world of high school and collegiate basketball, players are now aspiring to be the next Trevor Ariza instead of the next Tim Duncan.

Ariza played just a season at UCLA before coming out and being drafted by the New York Knicks with the 43rd pick in the second round.

A highly athletic player, 6-8, 200, Ariza made the team and averaged 17.2 minutes and 5.9 points this year.

'There is a buzz or interest in being another guy like that," Heath said.

There are currently more than 70 underclassmen and high schoolers declared for the 60-player NBA Draft.

For Famutimi to get a serious look, he has to get an invitation to the pre-Draft camp in Chicago June 7-10. He must withdraw his name by June 21, a week before the June 28 Draft, if he elects to stay in school.

Heath said his biggest concern about Famutimi's decision is that he keep up with the documentation needed to prove he's paid all his own expenses for any team tryouts, meals or airfare.

Famutimi is currently in Atlanta working out with his AAU coach Chris Greer and a group that includes Florida guard and fellow Michigan native Anthony Roberson, who has also declared and like Famutimi, has not hired an agent.

Former Mississippi State forward Lawrence Roberts and former LSU forward Brandon Bass each had to repay expenses after they tested the waters last summer.

Bass declared for the draft last Friday, the second and final time he could do so. The NCAA only allows underclassmen to test the waters once without losing their eligibility.

Heath expressed concern that Famutimi will not have that option next season.

"It hurts him not having something like that to fall back on," Heath said. "When he comes back in the fall, it's all about our team winning, our team goals. It's not about, 'I have to have a year to get in the NBA.'

"If there's one thing I preach and preach is that team success will allow individual success."

Heath said Famutimi knows his game is not NBA ready.

"But Olu knows what he needs to work on," Heath said. "He knows his game is not at the level he'd like to be. He'd like to get it there. he's in the gym probably more than anybody I've got.

"He's got physical stature, he's got athletic ability, but he has to learn the game."

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