CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Arkansas has one of the best benches in the nation, and it would have been deeper if two Baltimore standouts had been able to stay with the Razorbacks.
In the summer of 1992, coach Nolan Richardson thought his program was getting Michael Lloyd, an All-American guard out of Dunbar, and Craig Tyson, a Southern grad and a Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, who had taken a circuitous route to Fayetteville.
Lloyd's freshman year was the last in which the Southeastern Conference accepted academic non-qualifiers, but when he didn't meet the NCAA's standards for initial eligibility he turned down the Arkansas offer and instead enrolled at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College. Richardson stopped recruiting him last year, and Lloyd is one of the most-talented junior-college guards in the country.
Tyson, who originally signed with North Carolina State, never played for the Wolfpack and attended Allegany and Hagerstown community colleges before landing at Southern Idaho for the 1991-92 season. He was ready to play for the Razorbacks last season, but suffered a severe knee injury on the first day of practice in November 1992 and underwent surgery two months later.
Tyson rehabilitated the knee, but he wasn't at full strength when Arkansas began practice last fall. That was evident in an intersquad scrimmage, after which Tyson quit the Razorbacks and his hope of playing in the NCAAs, since this is his last year of eligibility. An education major, he's still in Fayetteville, putting the finishing touches on his bachelor's degree.
Not from there
Corliss Williamson is from Russellville, Ark. Jeff Capel is from Fayetteville, N.C. Dametri Hill is from St. Petersburg, Fla.
Arizona, meanwhile, has never been known as a basketball hotbed, and that's reflected in the Wildcats' roster. Khalid Reeves is from the Queens borough of New York. Damon Stoudamire is from Portland, Ore. Big man Joseph Blair starred in Houston. Reggie Geary and Ray Owes, the other starters, are from Southern California.
The only home-grown player is seldom-used guard Andy Brown, who's from Tucson.
"A lot of great basketball schools are located in basketball
hotbeds," said coach Lute Olson, who created a tradition in Tucson. "We've got to go elsewhere for players."
Old school ties
Duke and Florida might not be all that familiar on the court, but they have several ties off it.
Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks and Florida's Craig Brown played for Florida coach Lon Kruger and the United States in the 1991 Junior World Championships. Before he went to Florida, football coach Steve Spurrier guided Duke to its first bowl game in 29 years.
Today's competition actually begins at 2 p.m. in Durham, with a women's tennis match between No. 2 Florida and No. 8 Duke.
Undercover Duke fans
Florida guard Greg Williams and Kevin Kruger, the 10-year-old son of the Gators coach, will have to give up their affection for Duke. Williams grew up in Fairfax, Va., rooting for the Blue Devils, and the younger Kruger is still a Duke fan.
"It's not going to be weird, because once we're on the court they're going to be like any other team," said Williams, a freshman who went to the same high school as Tommy Amaker, breaking the assist record of the former Duke point guard and current assistant coach. "It's going to be like a big reunion."
Meanwhile, Lon Kruger is going to check out what his son is wearing to tonight's game.
"I'm sure he'll be wearing a Gators T-shirt on the outside," said Kruger. "But I'm going to see if he's wearing a Duke T-shirt underneath."
Playing with the media
Olson has received a lot of attention lately for his tirades against the media, but the beleaguered and belligerent Arizona coach was fairly reserved in his comments at yesterday's news conference for today's NCAA semifinal against Arkansas.
Olson's counterpart, Richardson, was anything but. Asked how much basketball noted Arkansas fan Bill Clinton knew, Richardson took the opportunity to take a shot at the press.
"Basketball? I doubt if anyone in this room knows basketball, so he would fit in perfectly in this room," said Richardson.
DeClercq heard it all
Florida forward Andrew DeClercq was recruited three years ago by Duke. He went as far as to take a recruiting trip to Durham, N.C., and take in a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But the 6-foot-10 junior might have gotten an idea of his chances when he visited the same weekend as Cherokee Parks, now the team's starting center. It didn't come from the coaches, but from the fans.
"They were doing a chant where one side was yelling 'Cherokee' and the other side was yelling 'Parks'," recalled DeClercq. "Then one side yelled 'Andrew' and the other side didn't say anything."
As it was, DeClercq was fifth on a list of big men Duke was recruiting. The first four were Chris Webber, Alan Henderson, Parks and Erik Meek. When Florida offered a scholarship, DeClercq jumped.
"Obviously, he's been a pretty good player for them," said Duke assistant Mike Bray, who recruited DeClercq.
FINAL FOUR SALARIES
The salaries of the Final Four men's and women's coaches:
Coach, Team .... ....... .... .... .... Salary
Lute Olson, Arizona .... .... .... .... $137,548
Nolan Richardson, Ark. .... .... .... $99,682
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke .... .... .... NA
Lon Kruger, Florida .... .... .... $126,000
Coach, Team .... .... .... .... Salary
Rick Monday, Alabama .... .... $44,000
Leon Barmore, La. Tech .... .... $70,000
Sylvia Hatchell, N. C'lina .... $60,000
Lin Dunn, Purdue .... .... .... $65,000