ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Jonathon Modica clapped his hands, encouraging his Arkansas…
Famutimi's NBA Time Is Not Now
Word is, and it's apparently loud and clear, that Arkansas junior-to-be Olu Famutimi won't be invited to the NBA's Predraft Camp in Chicago.
Nope, Famutimi, who has declared for the 2005 NBA Draft but has not signed with an agent, really has no prayer of attending the all but mandatory (for longshot folks in his shoes) shindig at Moody Bible Institute that runs Tuesday through Friday.
That pretty much assures Arkansas coach Stan Heath that Famutimi will pull his name from consideration for the June 28 draft by 4 p.m. on June 21, saving his eligibility here, and likely, any future shot at the NBA.
We're still not sure if Famutimi – a 6-foot-5, 207-pound swingman with mediocre sophomore averages of 9.4 points (on 43.8 percent shooting), 4.2 rebounds and 1 assist for 18-12 Arkansas last season – tossed his headband into the NBA hopefuls ring shooting for a miracle or just seeking a revelation of what he needs to work on to leap to that next level.
We are pretty sure his old AAU coach and current guardian, Chris Grier, is behind this.
Famutimi said Grier is "like an uncle. He opens doors for me. He knows what he's doing. I trust him."
That's what Famutimi recently told Ballerz Basketball Magazine, a Canadian-based deal (Famutimi is from Toronto; Grier helped him transfer to Flint, Mich., to improve his high school stock and live with him).
In the interview, which was conducted after the NCAA Tournament, but we can't tell the exact date, Famutimi admitted he has lots to work on and that teammate/classmate Ronnie Brewer is more of a real NBA deal, at least at this point.
"His chances are pretty good, a lot more better than mine," Famutimi said.
Yet Famutimi still is trying to stay in the NBA picture. He's been in Atlanta, working out with Florida guard (and former Flint resident) Anthony Roberson (among others), who also has declared for early entry into the NBA Draft.
We hear Grier's there, too, but can't confirm that as Famutimi has been impossible to contact.
The Ballerz interview gave us a little insight, even though it likely was conducted before Famutimi declared for the draft (for instance, he spoke of attending the first session of summer school here).
Apparently, he's not hacked with this fourth-year program of Heath, whose Michigan ties (he was an assistant at Michigan State while Famutimi was in Flint) brought him here: "Coach Stan Heath, he's a great coach, he knows the game. You know, I'm with a great bunch of people that are supporting me and helping me go where I want to go."
He said he needs to improve his ball-handling skills (even wants to work some at point guard, which may be news to Heath) and shooting for next season. He also mentioned driving to the basket more, a constant Famutimi hair-pulling theme.
And this peak at next season: "I've got to step up my game, show the other guys to do what's right on the court and try to be more of a leader."
Lots, including me, have poked fun at Famutimi for declaring. It's especially bone-headed because he won't have a chance to dangle his name again next year while keeping the college safety net intact. In other words, he declares, he's gone, no matter the prospects.
But Google searches spell out the fact that this guy was a serious high-school stud, even though he tore an ACL during his senior season. His name was mentioned in the same breath as that of LeBron James, and we're not joking. He was a McDonald's and Parade All-American who, after his junior season, thought he had a good shot of hopping straight from high school to the NBA.
"Everything was pretty much going for me," Famutimi said. "My stock was going up. A lot of people thought I could've went (to the NBA) out of high school, but I had an obstacle – tore my ACL."
Famutimi does figure he'll make it someday, although surely he doesn't believe his time is coming later this month: "I think I have a great opportunity to go to the NBA, as long as I do my part. God has blessed me with (inaudible) to go to the NBA."
Ballerz also interviewed Heath, and it's always interesting to hear what the local coach tells folks who are far away.
He reiterated that – because of the knee injury that obviously bugged Famutimi physically and mentally two seasons ago – last season really was Famutimi's first.
"You could see he started playing with a lot more confidence," Heath said. "I felt he had a very solid sophomore season.
"Olu has primarily been a guy we've looked at to contribute with scoring some, a guy who can make shots as well as being an exciting player in the open court that finishes and makes plays above the rim. He's also turned into a very good defender and a very good rebounder as well.
"He's a guy that can do several different things out there on the basketball court that can help you win.
"The thing with Olu is he has so much potential – that's such a dangerous word – but he has that inside of him, and the more we can pull that out, the more we'll see his game elevate, maybe to another level."
And what about all this NBA talk? Heath didn't address this go-round, but looked openly at Famutimi's chances down the road.
"I would not rule that out," Heath said. "He's been on the radar screen at that level, been looked at very hard. He knows there are things he needs to work on to maybe help himself get to that level.
"When you look in terms of his athleticism, his body, his explosiveness out there on the court, that is a very realistic possibility.
"If he can continue to get better."
"If?" That's the most important question for now.
If so, then, "When?"
Certainly not now.
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