When Randy Rutherford was a kid in Broken Bow, Okla., which should not be confused with Broken Arrow, Okla., he and his five brothers played baseball on Saturday afternoons in their backyard near the Macedonia Baptist Church. Alas, baseballs and church windows don't mix all that famously, so when the Reverend M.T. Crawford arrived for Sunday preaching, he was never too surprised to discover some new ventilation and a half dozen horsehides scattered around the altar. Rutherford's absolution usually was contingent upon participation in a rigorous cleanup detail and a month of mandatory attendance at the church. "Randy," the reverend would always say, "you Rutherford boys are a stubborn bunch."
Sure enough. When everybody else in Broken Bow (pop. 4,000) was cheering for the Dallas Cowboys, Rutherford decided he would back the Washington Redskins. When everybody else signed up for football practice, Randy tried out for hoops. And when former Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs assumed that Rutherford would jump at the chance to play in Norman, Rutherford went to Oklahoma State, where, as a senior guard, he has combined with center Bryant (Big Country) Reeves to carry the Cowboys to the Final Four in Seattle. "I guess I'm a nonconformist," Rutherford says. "There are leaders and followers in this world, and I never want to do anything just because everybody else thinks it's right."
Adds teammate Scott Pierce, "Randy's like Popeye—I am what I am. Take it or leave it."
When he wasn't playing hoops for Broken Bow High, Rutherford would often drive the nine miles down Route 259 to the McCurtain Cinema in Idabel, where he watched movies in bulk, an addiction that persists today. "He's our Siskel and Ebert," says teammate Chianti Roberts. "Except that when Randy recommends a movie, I make sure never to see it."
Less Siskel and Ebert than Beavis and Butt-Head, Rutherford's rating system is simple: Good or Sucks. Says Cowboy coach Eddie Sutton, "I consult Randy all the time. He loves the action pictures. The more shooting, the more he likes it."
Rutherford's own shooting has produced 19.7 points per game this season. A dynamic player on both ends of the floor, Rutherford saved his tour dc force for a game at Kansas on March 5, a night when Reeves was shut out. Rutherford filled the void with 45 points, including 11 three-pointers.
Rutherford has continued to provide Oklahoma State with its outside punch in the NCAA tournament, averaging more than three treys a game. In the East Regional final, Rutherford hit three clutch buckets down the stretch, including a three-pointer with 1:50 left that triggered the Mass exodus as the Cowboys won 68-54. "When Big Country set a screen for Randy today," said UMass guard Derek Kellogg, "it was like running around a huge building only to look straight down the barrel of a gun."
In the victorious Cowboy locker room, Rutherford preferred to talk flicks over picks. He reviewed films from A River Runs Through It (Good) to Stargate (Sucks). When asked what was next on his list, Rutherford grinned and said, "Probably Sleepless in Seattle."