On any Sunday, from the pulpit of Tulsa's Friendship Baptist Church, the Reverend L.L. Tisdale can patch you through to the Lord. On a Monday, when his brow has dried, he'll speak of how he came up from Fort Worth in 1969 to serve the people of Tulsa's hardscrabble North Side. And he'll tell how he returned from a revival in Wichita about 10 years ago with a present for the youngest of his and Deborah Tisdale's six kids. He had a guitar for 9-year-old Wayman.
Today a guitar fits Wayman Tisdale the way a basketball player fits the football-obsessed University of Oklahoma: loosely, like an incongruity with a long neck. But there's a felicitous ring to the phrase: Wayman Tisdale, country & western star.
Which would make rednecked Billy Tubbs a down-home impresario. At age 47, in only his third season as coach at Oklahoma, Tubbs has found his ticket to the big time. The Reverend Tisdale's youngest son is 18 now, with a dulcet jump shot and a gutbucket inside game that at week's end had lifted the Sooners to a 19-7 record. When Tubbs was hired he gave himself 20 years to turn Oklahoma into a power. "If I'm not there by the time I'm 65," he said, "I'll give up the ship, baby." With Tisdale, he'll get there a lot sooner, though last weekend Tubbs himself was dealt a temporary setback. While jogging on Sunday morning he suffered a skull fracture when he was hit by a car on a Norman street. As this issue went to press, his condition was listed as fair, and he appeared to be out of danger.
As we'll soon see, Tubbs has always been a survivor. Once released from Oklahoma City's St. Anthony Hospital, he'll be back explaining to anyone who'll listen just how simple basketball can be.
Players should shoot, often and well. "My definition of a good shot is anything that goes in," he says. "Players who can't shoot drive me up the wall because they always wind up open."
The best defense is a good offense. "If I've got guys who can score, I know I can find out a way to stop the other team. But if I can't score, it's devastating sitting there knowing I've still got to stop the other people."
The spectators should get a show. "People in Oklahoma are used to seeing exciting things happen on the football field. We want to fill our arena." As every showman knows, nothing fills a building like a star. Tubbs's arena is 10,871-seat Lloyd Noble Center. His star is Tisdale.
When Booker T. Washington High ran off with the Oklahoma Class 5-A basketball title two years ago, Wayman threw so many outlet passes to his older brother, William, then a senior, that William was named Tulsa's high school Player of the Year. Now the brothers are roommates, teammates and constant sources of amusement for each other. William, 6'4", 210 pounds, impersonates his sociology professor and Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy in Tootsie; Wayman, 6'9", 235 pounds, sends up Richard Nixon and Mr. Magoo's valet Charlie. The brothers study together, eat together and bunk together. "If we flunk, we'll flunk together," says Wayman.
"You scored better against Abilene Christian than you did on that first communications test," says William, teasing.
That's close to the truth, though Wayman is a solid B student. What Wayman did at home against the Wildcats on Dec. 6—specifically to the two ill-fated Abilene Christian players assigned to guard him—was shoot 22 for 27 and score 51 points, an NCAA single-game scoring record for freshmen. His performance also eclipsed Oklahoma's single-game scoring mark of 43 set in 1975 by Alvin Adams, the longtime star of the Phoenix Suns. Tubbs, who recognizes a good opportunity to get a little ink when he sees one, kept Tisdale onstage during the Sooners' 110-61 rout so that he could set the records.