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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Boykin's presidential art goes public


California's Jamal Boykin was sitting idle in the Spokane airport, on the way to Seattle in between the Bears' two Washington road games, when he saw a magazine photo of then President-elect Barack Obama.

He tore out half the picture and started drawing the other half, looking at the original to ensure that it matched.

Boykin hadn't drawn in three years. It was his passion when he was in high school in the Visual Arts Magnet program at Fairfax High in Los Angeles. As his basketball career continued to soar, his patience for drawing waned. He hadn't drawn when he was at Duke for his freshman season. He hadn't drawn in two years at Cal. But he made a New Year's resolution that he would return to his long-lost hobby.

Obama Art
Obama was his impetus.

Boykin didn't stop with the one drawing, either. He made 43 more. This Saturday, Boykin is holding an exhibition of his Obama drawings at the Alphonse Berber Gallery in Berkeley, Calif.

The 44 hand-drawn portraits of the 44th President of the United States will be on display with -- get this, cynical college basketball fans -- poetry about love read by Boykin's teammate Patrick Christopher, a likely candidate for Pac-10 player of the year next season. Donations collected at the event will buy art supplies for nearby Malcolm X Elementary School. Boykin's plan is to hold similar exhibitions of his work in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C., with the hope that the president and his brother-in-law, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, might attend.

Robinson confirmed that Boykin did approach him about going to D.C. and said he was impressed with the portraits. Boykin is hopeful that Robinson can help him get the portraits to the president.

"I felt a spiritual connection with the president and the whole campaign," Boykin said. "I had a passion about it and had the talent to draw."

Obama Art

Boykin said all of his portraits were inspired by photographs that originally appeared in magazines. He cuts out sections of the photos and then draws the rest free-hand.

"I started out in pencil with the first 16 in my sketch book and then I went to colored pencils, charcoal, pastels, acrylic and oil paint," Boykin said. "I wanted to switch up every two or three pictures with a different style."

Boykin said of Obama as an inspiration, "I like the fact that he sees himself as our employee and I really like everything he's doing. He really sees himself as serving the people of America. I feel his dedication to improving the community and that's what I want to do with this benefit for kids."

Boykin also referenced Malcolm X in saying, "You can't save the world, but you can improve the world you live in."

As for Christopher, he said he's been writing poetry since the eighth grade when his grandfather passed away.

"It's an expression for me and it gets heavy at times," he said.

"What this shows is the versatility of athletes here," Christopher added. "I'm pretty amazed with Jamal's art. I had heard he could draw, and a lot of people say that, but then when I saw it, it was on a professional level. I was like, 'Wow.' It's real cool to see athletes do different things off the court."

With all five starters returning, led by Christopher and Jerome Randle in the backcourt, the Bears are projected to be the Pac-10 favorite and, at least in my rankings, a top-10 team for the 2009-10 season.

Christopher opted not to declare for the NBA draft and Cal coach Mike Montgomery is about to enter his second season as head coach. Things are looking up in Berkeley.

"Everyone was counting us out last season but we overcame it," Christopher said of the Bears reaching the NCAA tournament, in which they lost to Maryland in the first round. "We've really grown as a team, the majority of us are back and now we've got the hype. The timing of all of this is great."

• Let's keep up the good vibe thread:

Davidson BuzzKill, a 3-on-3 tournament for kids that was started by Wildcats guard Bryant Barr, raised $15,000 on campus for the "Nothing but Nets" campaign. The organization provides anti-mosquito bed nets for families to sleep under to prevent malaria in Africa. The money will help send 1,500 insecticide-covered bed nets to African villages. The hope is that it would protect more than 6,000 people from malaria.

There were 27 teams in the event and coaches were selected, led by former Davidson guard and likely top-10 draft pick Stephen Curry.

• All on his own, Arkansas assistant Rob Evans has been quietly going about recognizing New Mexico State's 1970 Final Four team, which will be honored with a banquet on May 16. Evans said the NMSU Final Four team, which he helped coach as an assistant, was never properly recognized -- not receiving Final Four rings until now. Evans said that he and his wife, Carolyn, always felt the team deserved to get rings and, through support from others, were able to finally achieve it.

All but two of the team's coaches and players will be in attendance. Milton Horne died recently and two of his sons will be in attendance. Bill Moore died last week, but prior to his death, Rob and Carolyn met with him and presented him with his ring in Las Cruces, N.M. His wife and daughter will be in attendance at the event. Moore was on the freshman team that Evans coached.

The rest of the team members from the Aggies' Final Four team were: Jimmy Collins, Sam Lacey, Charlie Criss, John Burgess, Jeff Smith, Chito Reyes, Roy Neal, Lonnie LeFevre, Tom McCarthy and Rudy Franco. The staff was led by head coach Lou Henson, Evans and Ed Murphy. The Aggies lost to UCLA in the national semifinal and then beat St. Bonaventure in the consolation game in College Park, Md. It's the only time the school has ever reached the Final Four.

• The New Orleans Hornets, led by owner George Shinn, New Orleans businessman John Georges and the New Orleans city council have rallied around the athletic programs at the University of New Orleans to deal with a $1.4 million shortfall next year as a result of budget cuts, the Times-Picayune reported Monday. Georges and former UNO player Gabe Corchiani donated $1 million last year to the men's basketball team. Now Shinn is joining the effort.

"We want to fight for things that can help New Orleans, and protecting an institution that strives for excellence only benefits our community," Shinn said in a statement. "We are willing to work with UNO to make a difference in the lives of these student-athletes and write a new chapter in the rich history of UNO athletics."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.