Meager attendance like that is raising questions about the future of the conference's postseason tournament. In the past, Arkansas fans bought as many as 11,000 tickets to the Southwest Conference tournament at Reunion Arena in Dallas, which seats 16,700. The league will hold the 1992 tournament in Dallas, where the crowds are expected to be disastrously small, but it is pondering where it might have a chance of successfully staging the tournament next year.
The conference's woes can be traced back to the Texas schools' inability to keep many of the state's top high school players at home. Two members of Michigan's outstanding freshman class, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, are from Texas, as are some of the other top freshmen around the country, including Alfred Grigsby of California and 7-footcr Greg Ostertag of Kansas.
Until its coaches can convince local players to stay home, the SWC will continue to suffer the sort of humbling experience it did when South Alabama went to Waco on Saturday and beat Baylor 88-59. Derek Turner scored 23 points for South Alabama, making seven of nine three-point shots. Turner is from Tyler, Texas.
A Stirring Debut
When Earnest Killum, a 6'5" sophomore guard for Oregon State, said he would give anything to play basketball, he meant it. Killum has had to clear some daunting medical hurdles to play for the Beavers.
During a pickup game last summer in Los Angeles, Killum went up for a rebound and realized that his left arm and part of his face had gone numb. When he sat down, he began to feel dizzy and his speech was slurred. He was taken to a hospital, where it was determined several hours later that he had suffered a slight stroke. Blood clots, including one in a main artery leading to his brain, had formed in Killum's circulatory system.
He underwent surgery for the removal of a clot in his left arm and was put on an anticoagulant called Coumadin. Trouble was, the medication made it risky for Killum to play basketball, because a blow to his body can result in internal bleeding.
"At the start of practice everyone said I would redshirt this season, and maybe I'd be O.K. to play next year," Killum says. "But I never felt any symptoms after they took care of that first problem. I knew I'd be able to play this season."
He was right. On the day after Christmas, Killum's doctors agreed it would be safe to reduce the amount of medication enough to allow him to play, even though he would be taking a calculated gamble. "He likely will always be at some risk, which he is aware of," Richard Cronk, the Oregon State team physician, told the Portland Oregonian. "But the experts have determined that the risk is in an acceptable range."
Part of the reason Killum so badly wanted to play is that he has a chance to be a star. He was the Player of the Year in Southern California as a senior at Lyn-wood High in Los Angeles, where he averaged 29.7 points per game and was one of the most highly rated recruits in the nation two years ago. Killum signed with Oklahoma but went to Oregon State after it was learned that he would be academically ineligible to play for the Sooners as a freshman.