Barrage of National Publicity Doesn’t Change OU’s Tisdale
BY MARK J. KREIDLER Associated Press
Feb 16, 1983
Mr. Wonderful, Wayman Tisdale, the big kid from the small church in Tulsa, is adjusting to life as a national celebrity quite well, thank you.
The folks in Oklahoma knew about his basketball-playing brother, William, before they were introduced to the 6-9, 240-pound freshman who dominates opponents with such overwhelming confidence and style that he’s become the darling of the national media.
But the last two weeks have marked the coast-to-coast coming out of young Mr. Tisdale, and it is becoming apparent that the residents of the Sooner State no longer may claim him as a personal commodity.
His body appeared on last week’s cover of The Sporting News, one of the most respected sports journals in America. He was airborne, apparently in the process of netting two of the 654 points he has scored this season.
Wednesday the new issue of Sports Illustrated should arrive, bearing either on or inside the cover the face of the same guy, the one who always seems to be smiling, whether he’s giving an interview to a reporter or basketball lessons to men four years his senior.
He’s been interviewed by writers from the home towns of each of the 18 teams the Sooners have beaten this year and the five that have beaten them (Oklahoma lost to Missouri twice), and says he feels like he’s been called by just about every paper in America. He’s been filmed by all three major networks and an armload of cable operations.
But Wayman Tisdale is an 18-year-old kid. A particularly self-confident, wonderfully talented ball player, to be sure, but still just a young man enjoying his first year at a big school.
He fidgets when praised. He shrugs when asked questions about his popularity. He is excited, but not overwhelmed, that the cameras of the country have begun to focus on him.
And focus they have. Tisdale was to have been included in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition last week, but the editors of the magazine held back the article because they weren’t satisfied with the photographs. Wayman received a double session – two weeks of picture sessions – to make sure the publication got what it wanted.
He also has been the subject of an article by USA Today, the Gannett-owned newspaper that is circulated nationwide.
Tisdale takes it all in stride. After all, he only came to Norman to play ball.
“I think it’s kind of funny. I mean it’s real nice,” Tisdale says. “I made the cover of Sporting News and you know that was all right. But I guess I just think more about the ball games than what happens before or after.
“We’ve got to go play Oklahoma State Wednesday night. That’s what I’m thinking about. We’ll take it to then. That’s what I’m thinking about.”
His concentration has paid off handsomely. He is the fourth-leading scorer in the nation with a 27-point average, the highest-scoring freshman in Oklahoma and Big Eight Conference history, the leading rebounder in the conference and one of the 20 best field-goal percentage shooters in the country.
But some things don’t change. Tisdale and his brother still travel to Tulsa most weekends to sing and play music at their father’s small Baptist Church.
He and William, who is one year older and five inches shorter, still share a room in the athletic dormitory on the Norman campus. And he still must worry about grades, if only for purposes of maintaining his eligibility. His future seems secure enough.
In the meantime, Tisdale is satisfied he isn’t anxious to grow up too fast.