Maurice Robinson and Lazerick Griffin

In 1992, one of the strongest classes of basketball players in state history graduated. Here’s a look at what happened to some of the top players from that class.

Maurice Robinson: The summer before his senior year, Robinson burst into national prominence by starring at the NIKE/ABCD camp. According to the Democrat-Gazette, the 6-7, 238-pound lived up to the billing as a senior, averaging 14.7 points, eight rebounds and shooting 69% on field goals (a drop from his junior year).

He then turned his might toward Florida State, where he played two seasons. It’s interesting to note the differences between the Dem-Gaz and the 1992-93 Seminole press guide when it comes to Robinson’s stats:

Maurice Robinson, 6-6, 235, F, Little Rock, AR (Parkview) – Extremely strong inside player who can muscle in the paint with the big boys…aggressive with the ball on the baseline…uses strength to get shot off against taller defenders…coaches would like to see him develop his 10-12 foot jumper…excellent rebounder with ability to get the outlet pass to a guard quickly…style of play reminds many of Southern Mississippi’s Clarence Weatherspoon…comfortable in either a fast break or half-court offense…disciplined player who should adjust quickly to Florida State’s system…good defender who can move people around in the lane…powerful move to the bucket…averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last year at Park View Magnet High in Little Rock…earned first team All-Arkansas honors after shooting 69 percent from the floor as a senior…also earned Little Rock All-City honors…Parkview High saw all five starters sign basketball scholarships to Division 1 schools: Dion Cross (Stanford), Kenneth Taylor (Murray State), Jamal Lindsey (Samford) and Derek Fisher (Samford)…Gibbon’s All-Star Sports ranked Robinson as the 33rd best high school recruit and reported that the signing of five players from one school was unprecedented for a non-boarding school…according to school officials, Robinson is the most heavily recruited basketball player in the history of Parkview…as a junior, Robinson connected on a school record 71 percent of his field goals…born November 25, 1973 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas…father (Maurice) played football at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff…roommate is Derrick Carroll.

Robinson started his career quickly, playing starter’s minutes, but by the end of the ACC season was only getting spare minutes. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Oklahoma State. In 1995-96, he averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a game for Eddie Sutton’s team. And that spectacular touch from on field goals? Still there, to the tune of 58%.

Robinson next surfaces on my googledar as part of a London-based traveling team, helping sharpen the 2000-01 Razorbacks. His London Leopards weren’t too shabby either; they beat Virginia and Bucknell that preseason.

In June, 2004, he was in Little Rock trying out for the Arkansas Rimrockers, an American Basketball Association expansion franchise.

Lazerick Griffin: The hub around which Eudora’s spectacular 1991-92 season rotated, the 6-5, 205-pound forward averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Class AA state champion Badgers. The south Arkansas school suffered only one in-state loss – to Parkview in the Overall final (yes, different class champions played each other back then – a blessedly just way of sorting out who’s really top dog).

Griffin started the next season for the defending Sun Belt champs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. He averaged 5.8 points.

Ol Grif’s online paper trail gets increasingly spotty from here. It appears he might have
transferred to Indiana State, where he played 31 minutes against Creighton in 1996.

Nowadays? Based on the high school photo I’ve seen of Big Grif, and the fact this Facebook profile for Lazerick Griffin has friended Eudora the town, there’s a fairly strong chance he’s calling Dallas home.

In two decades since teaming with Corliss and D-Fish, Marcus Brown has become King of European ball

I recently wrote articles for Sync magazine and ESPN.com about Marcus Brown, the West Memphis native who tore up scenes in Arkansas, Kentucky and nearly every European nation worth its salt when it comes to basketball quality.

Here are some choice excerpts from Sync:

How dominant has Brown been in the numerous nations he’s called home since 1998?

Picture Dolph Lundgren’s teched-out uberkiller character from Universal Soldier. Knock that gun out of his supernaturally strong hand, and insert a basketball complemented by an insanely accurate 10- to 15-foot jump shot. Now watch as he marches through France, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Israel and Lithuania, leaving a wake of destruction that includes at least eight MVP awards and 20 championships. Oh, and this Arkie happens to also be the Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer.

On the way Corliss, Marcus et al used to pack ’em:

Williamson, along with stars like Parkview’s Maurice Robinson (a Florida State signee) and Dion Cross (Stanford), drew 5,889 people to the state’s high school all-star game at the University of Central Arkansas’ Farris Center. That more than doubled the 2,231 high attendance mark for UCA men’s basketball last season, Williamson’s first as head coach.

Razorback connection:

By the end of the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Brown’s senior year, he was averaging 20.5 points, eight rebounds and four steals, and being recruited by Murray State, Ball State, Alabama-Birmingham and Jackson State. In the end, Murray State signed both Brown and Parkview guard Kenneth Taylor. Its coach, Scott Edgar, had been a Razorback assistant and Memphis area recruiter.

Arkansas didn’t recruit Brown as a basketball player (only as a high jumper), but he’s still part of Razorback history. As a sophomore, he played in Bud Walton Arena’s first regular season game.

Like fellow c/o ’92ers Corliss and D-Fish, Marcus Brown did get some burn in the League, though he wouldn’t be as successful there:

Even in his mid-30s, Brown was still killing folks while playing for Zalgiris. Check out the crafty runners and precision shooting he unleashes in the footage below.

Watch out, Mid South. Such skills could very well one day apotheosize Brown, already considered the “King of Europe,” into “Immortal Emperor of West Memphis Adult League Rec Basketball.”

From France to Russia, Napolean and Marcus Brown both did damage

Yes, Arkansas’ Ballers of ’92 appear to have done quite well in college and beyond. Most know how D-Fish, Corliss and Marcus ended up, but what about the other guys?
In the next few days, I’ll be posting about what to two of them.

Archie Goodwin extras: On Jarnell Stokes, Calipari’s Dominican adventures

Clearing out the notebook from recent interviews with Arkansas’ most recruited athlete and found these tidbits:

1) Goodwin and Jarnell Stokes (Memphis) are ranked in the Top 20 of most c/o 2012 prep basketball players rankings. Both are recruited by numerous elite programs, included Arkansas and Memphis. Stokes recently insinuated those schools are front runners for him. Razorback and Tiger fans alike salivate at the prospect of seeing this guard and forward teaming up next season for their team.

At the time of the most recent Sync interview, Goodwin didn’t consider himself a close friend of Stokes, but kept up with him: “He follows me on Twitter and I follow him on Twitter. We might say what’s up or whatever on Twitter. We just haven’t engaged conversations.”

Goodwin also gave a scouting report on the 6-8, 250-pound Stokes, compared by many to Corliss Williamson: “He’s a very athletic, strong post man. I haven’t seen him do any really good post moves but he has a nice touch on his jumper and he can body you in the post and use his long athleticism and strength to get a lot of rebounds.”

That much was evident at July’s EYBL Peach Jam, in which both players starred. Here’s fivestarbasketball’s recap:

Stokes carried YOMCA to the Peach Jam finals as an individual leader in points at 14.6 per game, rebounds (9 rpg) and assists (3.6 apg).

Goodwin led the entire tournament with 20.4 points per game, including dropping 30 in an upset win over Team Takeover. The Sylvan Hills (AR) swingman led an undermanned team to a Peach Jam birth and two tough wins at the tournament. Goodwin silenced the doubters who said he wouldn’t be back from injury in time by putting on an absolute show at the Peach Jam.

2) John Calipari will soon coach the Dominican national team, which this September will be vying for its first Olympic berth at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Brazil. Calipari will spend about six weeks training Dominican players and coaches in Lexington. He follows in the footsteps of other American coaches like Nolan Richardson, who coached Mexico, and Del Harris, who coached China.

Goodwin respects Calipari’s unconventional decision to coach another nation’s team: “I think it shows he wants to explore different things. This is probably something he’s not done yet and wants to do. He’s willing to take chances and see how it goes and hopefully if works out the best for him. I follow the FIBA Americas, but the only time I watch it is when America plays.”

Jake Bequette discusses Oden’s dismissal, Willy Robinson’s agility, the Ohio State loss

Below is the Sync magazine feature article I wrote on Jake Bequette this week.

If he weren’t so savagely fast, slow and steady would describe Razorback Jake Bequette almost to a tee.

It’s been that way from the beginning for the meticulous All-SEC defensive end. Since before the beginning, really.

By now, your average Arkansas football fan can just as readily spout the Bequette lineage as most any bloodline lifted from the book of Genesis.

Read the rest here

It appears that Bequette is clearly the best football player Catholic has produced in decades. But he also grew up in the Heights, right outside Cammack Village, like me. I’m guessing he’s probably the best athlete the Heights neighborhood has ever produced.
I’m interested to hear what Little Rock people have to say about this..

Also, some bonus material. Bequette is glad the Razorbacks played the entire Ohio State squad in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, despite Tatoogate.

We wanted to play their best players, and we’re glad they did. Whatever exception was made, I’m glad it was made because we wanted to play their best.

In the ensuing months, Ohio State’s head coach has been fired and their wins from last season wiped off the record books. While the Buckeyes lost their Sugar Bowl “W”, the Hogs must keep their “L.”

Honestly, I don’t think it mattered. People can write what they want in the record
books. I’m always going to remember that game for what it was. It was a great game
against their best players. we came up short, unfortunately. But it was a great experience
for our team.

Jake Bequette, Peyton Hillis and the notion of the new white pioneer

Last season, Cleveland Brown back Peyton Hillis emerged as a national star by bulldozing his way through legions of NFL defenders. Along the way, he also smashed racial typecasts. For decades, the best NFL running backs have been black. Not that it mattered to the former Razorback:

“I don’t put race into the equation,” Hillis told ESPN in October. “I’m a human being just like everybody else.”

This season, Razorback defensive lineman Jake Bequette, like Hillis, enters his senior season as one of the premier players in the SEC. He credits Hillis, along with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, with inspiring him as a redshirt freshman:

“Those guys were great teammates and great role models. Every one of them were supremely talented, but they worked their butts off and they showed me as a young freshman what it takes to get to that point.”

But Bequette shares more with Hillis than a strong work ethic. He is a rarity in his own right, an All-SEC  white defensive end who attended private school in central Arkansas. He is the only white defensive line starter in the SEC West division, taking into account projected starters listed in the 2011 Hooten’s Arkansas Football issue. The SEC East is a different story. Tennessee and Kentucky each have starting white defensive tackles, while all four of Vandy’s d-linemen are white.

Like Hillis, Bequette says race within the framework of the team doesn’t matter to him:

“I’m one of the only white guys on the defensive line, but I don’t look at it like that. We’re always just competing to see who’s the best regardless of race, gender, whatever.”

I asked him whether, in the larger picture, his race could matter. For instance,  it could inspire central Arkansas private school kids (most of whom are white) to believe they can star as defensive ends in SEC football. Bequette replied:

“Yeah, hopefully I have that effect. I’d say that’s kind of a factor in why I like Jared Allen so much. He’s one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL and happens to be a white guy. And, hey, I’m white. I hope that’s not the only reason why I’m inspiring kids, but if I am, then that’s a good thing.”

Race is a potentially dicey issue, but should be discussed in an open-minded way. Sure, most race discussions should have a much more serious objective than worrying about the prevalence of a certain skin color at various sports positions. Nobody, after all, is suffering an immediate injustice  if almost all NFL running backs and defensive ends are black. The presumption is those jobs were earned on merit, which is how just societies operate. (although some argue  socioeconomic conditions dictate why most applicants for those jobs are black to begin with)

As a journalist, I am drawn to exceptions, not the norm. Bequette’s ability already qualifies him as a rare player; his race, only more so.