Funderburke made an oral commitment to Indiana in January 1989, after word got out that his relationship with a Kentucky fan named Bill Chupil was one reason that the NCAA was investigating the Wildcats. "When the NCAA stuff was going on, Kentucky stopped recruiting me," says Funderburke. "I heard the NCAA disallowed me to go there." According to Chuck Smrt, a director of enforcement at the NCAA, Kentucky, which was ultimately put on probation for recruiting and academic infractions, would have to go through an appeals process if it had any interest in Funderburke, because a player linked to recruiting violations is permanently ineligible at that school.
By May, Funderburke still hadn't signed with Indiana. After Wright and another Hoosier assistant, Ron Felling, traveled to Louisville to watch Funderburke play in an all-star game—and deliver the letter of intent that may be the focal point of the lawsuit—they were turned in for breaking a new NCAA rule, prohibiting visits to prospects at all-star sites. The NCAA decided not to penalize either Indiana or Funderburke, but Knight was nonetheless furious. He maintains that Indiana was reported to the NCAA by Eddie Ford, who helps organize schoolboy summer all-star games in Kentucky and is the father of Travis Ford, a close friend of Funderburke's and now a freshman reserve at Missouri. Eddie calls Knight's charge "100 percent false."
Knight believes Eddie is a big reason that Funderburke wants to transfer to Kentucky. "Tampering? How can it be tampering if I'm a friend of Lawrence's?" says Ford. "He's like a son to me. Indiana's been the wrong program for him from the start, but I don't have any ulterior motives. My concern is for Lawrence and where he'll be comfortable. Everybody in the country is after the kid. I know Vegas has called Knight. Tennessee wants him. Louisville has done everything in the world to get him. [ Kentucky athletic director] CM. Newton's saying Kentucky has no interest is a smoke screen. [Wildcat coachj Rick Pitino would love to have Lawrence. Y'all get your money right, and I'll give you a great story. Naw, just joking."
Much of Funderburke's life has been anything but a laughing matter. His father left home before Lawrence got to know him; his mother, Laura, is something of a recluse whom college recruiters never saw. They only talked to her on the phone. Says one college coach. "None of us ever got a home visit. It was obvious Lawrence was embarrassed with his home life."
Wehrle High coach Chuck Kemper kicked Funderburke off the team seven games into his senior season for missing practices and a curfew. Still, Funderburke was considered one of the top five prospects in the land. "Self-centered," says Kemper about Funderburke. " Lawrence thinks the world revolves around him."
Which made it so stunning when Funderburke chose to play for Knight. He said he needed Knight's discipline. "Maybe his problems aren't his own doing," said Knight shortly after Funderburke finally signed with Indiana at the end of May. "I like the kid, where he's coming from, what he's about. There's something there that's really worth working with."
But even before the start of the season, there was much speculation on how long Funderburke would last in Bloomington. Even Knight's son, Tim, was skeptical. Over the summer Tim, 26, helped direct an AAU team featuring Funderburke and the rest of Indiana's incoming freshmen. Funderburke made a questionable impression when he refused to sit with the other players at meals.
"Enjoy Lawrence in November," Tim told his father on a fishing trip. "You won't see him after December."
As Knight terrorizes each new class of Hoosiers, they become not so much a close fraternity as a platoon under fire, blood-bonded. "But Lawrence never got along," says a man who is close to the troops. "I've never seen an Indiana player so disliked by his teammates."
Not too long ago, Todd Leary, a freshman guard at Indiana, asked a friend how hard he thought Funderburke played in games. The friend said about 75%. Leary said, "Divide that by three, and you've got his practices."