Sun Belt Surprise
Arkansas State Assist Man
It's hard to find Chico Fletcher. He plays for little Arkansas State in the overlooked Sun Belt Conference, and he stands just 5'5½". His opponents tend to discover him the hard way. As Fletcher was scoring 13 points and dishing out a school-record 17 assists at Texas Christian on Nov. 23, Horned Frogs coach Billy Tubbs screeched at his point guard, Prince Fowler, "I don't care what you do—trip him, kick him in the shins, do anything, just get that little guy out of the game."
Three years ago Fletcher, an outstanding high school quarterback, went to Arkansas State on a football scholarship, but after redshirting his freshman season with a left shoulder injury, he made the Indians' basketball team as a walk-on point guard. He started the final 20 games of the 1996-97 season and led the Sun Belt with an average of 6.3 assists. Fletcher, whose first name derives from his mother's favorite 1970s sitcom, Chico and the Man, quit football in '97. He then set an Arkansas State record last basketball season with 240 assists and became the first sophomore since '83 to win the Sun Belt player of the year award. This season he averaged 16.5 points as he led the Indians to a second-place finish in the conference, which is scheduled to start its postseason tournament on Saturday. More impressive, Fletcher led the nation in assists with 8.5 a game through Sunday, reaffirming once and for all that Chico is the Man.