How did Cal's Islamic Studies department help the Bears' ranking?
Houston Rockets' center Hakeem Olajuwon met Cal freshman Shareef Abdur-Rahim a while back and started talking to him about the Islamic Studies program at Cal. Not long after, Denver Nugget Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, another fan of Cal's Islamic Studies department, helped pay for Abdur-Rahim's plane fare to visit Berkeley. Hashim Alauddeen, a grad student at Cal, even visited Abdur-Rahim's home in Marietta, Ga., for a week that fall. When Cal coach Todd Bozeman made his visit to the home of Abdur-Rahim, who was Mr. Basketball in Georgia last season, he brought along brochures to illustrate the Muslim experience at the school.
That was enough to land Abdur-Rahim, who averaged 31 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season. He joins a talented young lineup that includes only one senior, center Alfred Grigsby, who has missed 42 of the Bears' last 57 games with a variety of injuries. But the NCAA dealt a severe blow to the Bears' title hopes last week when it ruled that forward Tremaine Fowlkes, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, will be ineligible to play for the entire '95-96 season because he accepted $1,800 from a former sports agent, James Casey. Fowlkes and Cal are appealing the penalty.
Bozeman hopes that by season's end he can change the growing perception that he recruits marquee talent only to watch it underachieve. Anybody got the number of the chemistry department?
Coach, are we disrespecting the Hogs by ranking your team so low?
Coach Nolan Richardson simply wants Arkansas to be considered among the traditional hoops powers, and the Hogs' two straight appearances in the national title game argue for ranking the Hogs higher. "People who write about us are all human, which means they don't understand anything anyway," Richardson says. "Writers pick the same five teams high every year because they're creatures of habit. So once we become a habit, then when they open their mouths, Arkansas may come out."
Alas, with all the success the coach has had recently, it means he has also begun to lose players to the pros—players like Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, who both left school after their junior years. In fact, Richardson lost 10 players—including Razorback mainstays Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel and Dwight Stewart—which adds up to one of the heaviest single-season talent drains in memory. The good news is that he has one of the top incoming classes in the nation, with eight new players (nine if you include Kareem Reid, who sat out last season for academic reasons and is now eligible). Reid, a 5'11" point guard who was a McDonald's All-America two years ago, will be the most exciting to watch.
Plenty of potential here, but not enough to earn Arkansas any preseason buzz as a Final Four contender.