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Chris Webber: Lawrence Funderburke was recruiting against IU basketball before he transferred

Lawrence Funderburke is a highly intelligent and misunderstood individual.

And the same of course can be said for former Indiana coach Bob Knight.

But that didn’t mean they were a good match when Funderburke chose to play at Indiana in 1989.  And it didn’t take long to confirm that they weren’t.

Just six games into his freshman season at IU, the 6-foot-9 Columbus, Ohio product was averaging 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds for the 1989-90 Hoosiers.  But that was it.  He left after practice on Dec. 14, 1989, quit the program and dropped out of school.

After a dispute arose involving Knight’s refusal to give Funderburke a release from IU if he chose certain schools, he ultimately landed at Knight’s alma mater, Ohio State, where he had three productive seasons and then an eight-year NBA career.  Funderburke was enthusiastically booed by IU fans each time he played for the Buckeyes in Bloomington.

Funderburke told the Indiana Daily Student he questioned his decision to attend IU long before practice began.  And that meant he likely wasn’t the best resource to have around when recruiting prospects were on campus.

Even during his brief stint in Bloomington, Funderburke apparently managed to deter one of the most talented players in the class of 1991 from even considering Indiana.

Funderburke (34) was part of the “Magnificent 7” 1989 recruiting class that also included Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Chris Reynolds, Todd Leary, Pat Graham, and Chris Lawson. Photo: IU Archives

During a radio interview with Dan Patrick on Wednesday, former Michigan star Chris Webber told the story of the day he visited Indiana.

Webber came to IU as a guest of his high school teammate who was there on a visit.  Growing up in Detroit, the eventual McDonald’s All-American was well aware of Indiana and Knight.

“I was a Big Ten fan so I wanted to meet Bobby Knight, and I couldn’t believe he could look me in my eye.  He was tall and big and had on that red sweater and everything,” Webber told Patrick.  “So I get a chance to go into that locker room, and all of them are huddled up, Calbert Cheaney, and all of them.  And I had a hat on, and the (Indiana) guys were like ‘you better take that hat off or Bobby Knight is going to come in here and smack you in the head,’ scaring me, teasing me, I don’t know what’s going on.

“And then I figure out that they are joking, and I’m thinking man this is nice, I love the way the arena the way the seats go all the way up to the top.  It’s cool here.  And Funderburke is doing like this (gesturing no with hands while shaking head side-to-side) and coach comes in and he’s like this (sits straight up with arms to side).

“And then the next year he transfers, so he saved me from even thinking about Indiana.”

Knight knew he was taking a chance with Funderburke, but he saw something in the bright kid from a rough upbringing.

“There’s something there that’s really worth working with,” he said when Funderburke signed in 1989.

That turned out to be true.

Funderburke graduated magna cum laude in 1994 from the Ohio State business school and made millions playing professional basketball.

And he may have helped alter the course of college basketball history, by discouraging Webber from considering IU, and keeping the infamous Michigan Fab Five in tact.

Was he ever going to actually consider playing at Indiana?  Probably not.  He told Patrick in the interview he liked Magic Johnson as a kid and preferred Michigan State, although Isiah Thomas also had a strong influence in his life as a teen.

As it turned out, Michigan’s current coach, Juwan Howard, was the first of the Fab Five to commit, and he helped bring Webber to Ann Arbor.

See also:  Indiana went 3-1 against Michigan’s Fab Five

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