Guyton: Indiana’s forgotten star

Guyton: Indiana’s forgotten star

Big Ten MVP played during Knight

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

January 15, 2007

A.J. Guyton wrapped up his career in 2000 as the Hoosiers’ fourth all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in 3-pointers. H-T file photo
From the Jan. 15, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

If it were possible to appear in every game in a four-year career, score 2,100 points, hit more 3-pointers than any other player in your school’s history, become a Big Ten MVP and an All-American – and do it “quietly” – then A.J. Guyton did it.

Hardly any other Hoosier in memory did as much with as little fanfare as Guyton, a four-year starter for Bob Knight from 1996-2000. When he left, Guyton was IU’s all-time leader in 3-point baskets and fourth in all-time scoring.

And yet when you mention great players at IU, Guyton’s name often gets left out.

Part of that can be attributed to the lack of Big Ten titles or postseason successes in his career, a career sometimes overshadowed by the mounting discontent of Knight’s final years at IU.

“Those were tumultuous times,” Guyton said by phone from his Peoria home last week. “All the pressure building up (on Knight), all the guys leaving … I just played through it all.”

Guyton stuck it out for four years under Knight when two more prominent recruits, Luke Recker and Jason Collier, lasted two years or less.

The pride of Peoria

Guyton was an unheralded recruit coming out of Peoria Central in 1997. It didn’t take Knight and his staff long to recognize they had something special in this smooth, 6-foot-1 guard.

Guyton’s classic jump shot was a thing of beauty and his range seemed unlimited. His 3-point shot was a weapon to be feared.

It may be a while before his 3-point record is broken. With 283 on the books, he is 83 ahead of the runner-up, Tom Coverdale.

Guyton’s first year saw him become only the second Hoosier freshman to collect 400 points, 100 steals and 100 assists. To this day, the only other to pull that off is Isiah Thomas.

Guyton made All-Big Ten his sophomore year and the Playboy pre-season All-American Team his last two seasons.

Although he didn’t get to hang any banners in Assembly Hall, Guyton was a part of many quality wins. Indiana beat 15 ranked opponents in his four years, including an 85-69 surprise of sixth-ranked Duke in the title game of the 1996 pre-season NIT.

In his senior year, the Hoosiers beat three top 10 teams: Michigan State, North Carolina and Temple. In the 81-79 win over Michigan State, Guyton scored a career-high 34 points against the Spartans, who went on to win the NCAA title that year.

“I remember it all like it was yesterday,” he said. “Those are nights you live for. I felt back then I couldn’t be guarded.”

Hanging in there

Guyton was rumored to be leaving IU following his junior year, but after Recker departed the team one week after the season, Guyton announced he was staying.

“I stayed because I felt it would help my draft status,” he said. “It was an opportunity to show people I had the talent.”

Guyton’s senior year rewarded him with Big Ten MVP honors and a spot on the All-America Team.

However, the year ended in a swarm of controversy when former Hoosier teammate Neil Reed went public with an accusation that Knight had put a choke hold on him in practice three years before. Calling a special press conference to give the players’ point of view were Guyton and his four-year running mate at guard, Michael Lewis.

“We wanted to stand up for coach Knight,” Guyton said. “We wanted to tell people what they didn’t know. People always think it’s coach Knight’s fault. For him (Reed) to pick that time, our senior year, to come out and tell his story, it showed a lack of respect for our team.”

Knight had zero chance

When Knight later had the “Zero Tolerance” policy levied on him, Guyton knew the coach’s days were numbered.

“You can’t put Zero Tolerance on Coach Knight,” he said. “Coach Knight is Coach Knight. That was a means to an end. Whoever put that in place knew that.”

Guyton grew to appreciate Knight more after he graduated and went on to professional basketball. He was drafted in the second round by the Bulls and spent three years in the NBA before jumping to pro ball in Italy.

“It is more evident when you get out of school,” Guyton said. “Then you understand. Coach Knight was a father figure. If I’ve needed anything in the six years I’ve been out, he has been helping me any way he can.”

A fork in the pro road

Guyton is currently at a crossroads in his basketball career. In the last year he has been diagnosed with glaucoma in each eye and is currently undergoing treatment for it.

“One day in Italy, I looked up for a rebound and lost sight of the ball,” he said. “I started having cloudy vision, seeing rings around the lights.”

Guyton just had a surgical procedure on one eye and will have the other treated this week. It should be mid-February before he can think about giving pro ball one more go.

He doesn’t feel he got a fair shot his first time around. He played 33 games for the Bulls in 2000-01 and 45 games in 2001-02. He averaged 5.7 points in those games. He signed with Golden State the following year but was cut after two games. The Lakers invited him to training camp for the 2003-04 season but cut him before the season opener. That’s when Guyton decided to take his game overseas.

“When I got a chance to play, I did pretty well,” he said of his abbreviated NBA career. “I never understood why I didn’t stick. I guess it came at a time when I didn’t understand the NBA game. It’s a lot different than playing motion offense under coach Knight.”

Guyton still feels he could help some club if given the chance.

“Right now my career is on hold,” he said. “When I get this eye situation straightened out, I’m going to give it another shot. I’ve had a lot of time off to think about it and I think I still fit in. Now it’s up to me to prove it. You don’t want to say later in life that you didn’t give it a try.”

In the meantime, Guyton is kept busy by his daughter of seven months, Aaliyah. If it turns out that his playing days are over, he is considering coaching. It was his years under Knight that gave him a taste for that.

“I wasn’t a super talented guy, but Coach maximized my talent,” he said. “We had a lot of good wins. Those were the best four years of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. I would go back to Indiana and do it all over again.”

A.J. GUYTON:

IU CAREER (1996-2000)

• Big Ten MVP, 2000

• All-America Team, 2000

• IU’s 4th all-time scorer (2,100)

• IU’s 2nd all-time scorer in Big Ten (1,487)

• IU’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (283)

• 33 straight games with a 3-pointer (1st)

• 403 assists (8th)

• 128 steals (10th)

PRO CAREER

• Drafted in 2nd round by Chicago (2000)

• Played in Europe from 2003-06