Since then he has resigned himself to being a student of the game rather than a practitioner of it. He has taken to basketball, like most subjects, with a thoroughness that's dazzling, perhaps even a little eye-glazing. "If you look, you'll see Georgia's turnovers are 22 and Arkansas's points off turnovers are 31," Clinton said on Saturday, breaking down a tape of the Razorbacks' 95-83 SEC quarterfinal defeat of the Bulldogs from the day before, a game he had watched in the privacy of the presidential bedroom.
Clinton used we and they interchangeably, but in each case he meant Arkansas. "See," he said, "here we are five minutes from the end of the game, we're up by five now. They are playing this half-court trap defense that worked very well. They got about three charges, which really helped them." Kerrrrrrrr-splat! As if on cue. 260 pounds of pork hit the floor, driven there by a heedless Georgia player barreling to the basket. Dawg had charged Hawg, and the Razorbacks' Dwight Stewart was helped to his feet by a couple of excited teammates.
As the tape continued to roll, the President's Packeresque command of X's and O's astonished several White House aides who had never seen him turn his attention to this particular subject. "Next time we'll get a telestrator hooked up," one of them promised.
Listening to the President talk, you could assemble an entire scouting report on Arkansas. Here are some of the First Fan's comments on:
•Corliss Williamson, the 6'7" sophomore forward who, thanks to the Razor-backs' two 6'11" freshman centers, Darnell Robinson and Lee Wilson, has been free to roam outside the lane this season. "He reminds me a lot of Larry Johnson when he was at UNLV," Clinton says. "The same kind of player, same abilities—he's always around the basket, he can always get open. On offense he can move people away who are a lot bigger than he is, or at least taller. He's the SEC Player of the Year, and he only plays about 27 minutes a game, which shows you how deep they are."
•Arkansas's depth. Small wonder Richardson has the courage to change, and change often. "There are 12 people on that team about whom you can say, 'Here's the contribution they make.' When we need something, they can come in and do it,' " says Clinton.
•The Razorbacks' perimeter game. "We've got some terrific three-point shooters," Clinton says. "Five or six of them can make three-point baskets, including two of the big guys. I saw Stewart make four three-point shots in a row in a game once this year."
•Al Dillard, the 25-year-old reserve who earned his general equivalency diploma and then made his way to Arkansas via junior college. "Here's a miracle, a guy who worked for three years out of high school in a grocery store and went out and practiced baskets afterward," says Clinton. "He just had this dream. I've told him that I didn't think he could possibly overestimate the impact of his story on other people. I mean, this 25-year-old guy playing college basketball because he followed his dream. It's like a Rudy story, you know? His life story could be an inspiration to a lot of kids in tough circumstances."
The morning after Dillard made 12 three-pointers against Delaware State on Dec. 11, he was the subject of some West Wing badinage. "Everybody in the White House asked it I'd met him," Clinton said during his Christmas visit to Fayetteville. "I had to say no. Now I can say I've met him." Richardson kidded Dillard that Clinton was more thrilled to meet him than he was to meet the First Fan.
•Scotty Thurman, the 6'6" sophomore forward from Ruston, La. "Last year he scored more than he did this year," says Clinton. "But this year there's so much talent on his team, he'd just as soon pass as score. But when we need him to score, he always comes in and scores."