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Ron Huery recently gave an oral commitment to attend Arkansas, but this time around it had nothing to do with bouncing basketballs.
"I'm planning on coming back to Arkansas next year," said Huery
, who turns 35 today."I've got 29 hours left to complete my degree."Funny thing is, Huery's already logged more than enough hours to earn a degree from a different kind of school, the one offering a major in hard knocks.
"Man, you wouldn't believe some of the things that have happened in my life," Huery
said."My life could be a best-seller."Huery's story, at least as far as Razorbacks fans are concerned, started with his starring at Memphis' Whitehaven High School, where he won a state championship and caught the eye of college recruiters nationwide.
Enter Nolan Richardson, who convinced Huery
to take a chance and spend his
college days in Fayetteville, and the plot thickens.Huery
arrived at Arkansas in the fall of 1986, the first big-name recruit to sign with Richardson, thereby endorsing the "40 Minutes of Hell" playing style Richardson was trying to establish in a state that cut its basketball teeth under the watch of Hank Iba disciple Eddie Sutton.
, a 6-7 forward, was an immediate success.He
averaged 11.7 points a game as a freshman, helping take Arkansas into the National Invitation Tournament.He
averaged 13.4 points and was named All-Southwest Conference the next season as the Razorbacks advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Richardson.
There seemed to be a direct pipeline from Memphis to Fayetteville after Huery
signed with Arkansas, with players funneling to Richardson during his
most dynamic seasons as Boss Hog.
Problem was, as hard as Huery
played on the court, he
often partied even harder away from it.Drinking, drugs -- you name it, Huery
"I was a great people person, I was a great school person, I was a great basketball person," Huery
said."But I wanted to go to the [NBA], and I was spending so much time working on my game that it took its toll.I found out the hard way I couldn't please everyone."
There was a pistol-waving incident at a fraternity house on campus, too, and Huery
soon found himself separated from the game he
thought was his
ticket to fortune and fame.He
sat out the 1988-1989 season -- Day's, Mayberry's and Oliver Miller's first at Arkansas -- because of a suspension, his
rebounded, coming back to play a vital although supporting role as the Razorbacks roared to the 1990 Final Four in Denver.Arkansas made it as far as the Elite Eight the next season, and Huery
career with his
name sprinkled throughout the Razorbacks' record book.He
still ranks in the top 10 in five career categories, including fourth in assists, and is 12th on Arkansas' all-time scoring list.
The NBA didn't come calling, and Huery
began a ricocheting run through the Continental Basketball Association
"I played for just about every team in the CBA," he
still held tightly to his
dreams of playing in the NBA, but a real-life nightmare was just around the corner.In 1994, Huery
was placed on eight years' probation after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to sell, two counts of second-offense drunk driving, and driving on a revoked license.His
basketball career and life were spinning out of control.
Eight years later, Huery
still hasn't driven, a result of the $3,000 in fines and interest Huery owes the city of Memphis from his
traffic violations.Until the fines are settled, Huery
can't get a driver's license.
The recent auction of Huery's Final Four ring on eBay.com should take care of half his
That still leaves $700 unpaid, but Huery
, who earns minimum wage driving a forklift in Memphis, is upbeat.
"I spent a lot of time looking for my hoop dream just like a lot of other people, but God showed me there's a goal higher than 10 feet," Huery
said.That goal, Huery said, is to complete his degree work in secondary education and work with at-risk children.
"I want to deal with kids that people never gave a chance," he
said."I know what that's like, and that's what God put upon my heart."
became a born-again Christian five years ago, after ending his
playing career and moving back to Memphis.He
has bounced from job to job since then, trying to stay ahead of his
bills while being limited in employment options because of his
lack of a driver's license.
The endeavor to pay off his
traffic debts, and a meeting with Richardson in January, have renewed Huery's hope he
can finish what he
started at Arkansas nearly 16 years ago.Huery
met with Richardson in his
former coach's hotel room before Arkansas' game with Memphis last season.
"Coach Richardson's been on my tail for 10 years, telling me I have to come back and get my degree," Huery
said."Trust me, he's
stayed on me hard for a long time, and I'm glad he
intends to stay in Memphis for another year, watching his
son, Joshua Stafford, a 6-3 sophomore point guard at Sheffield High School
.After that, Huery hopes to lead by example.
"I want to show my son how important it is to graduate," he
said with a laugh, his
son might soon be the one making an oral commitment, and the recruiting already has begun.
"We need to get this Memphis thing started again."Peacock Golf