As Prep Basketball’s Regular Season Winds Down, Defending Champion Parkview Heats Up

After a 5-5 conference start, Emmanuel Adoyi and the Parkview Patriots weren't exactly sitting pretty. The story has changed in recent games, though. - photo courtesy Sync magazine

They’re back.

Or at least they seem to be.

After an at-times rocky conference season, the 6A state champs appear poised to defend their title heading into the start of next season’s state championship. After three consecutive wins, the Little Rock Parkview Patriots (20-5, 8-5) seem to have regained the momentum with which they tore  through one of the nation’s most prestigious holiday hoops tournaments nearly two months ago.

On Dec. 30, Parkview stood at the top of the Mid-South basketball world. Head Coach Al Flanigan and his small but tenacious Patriots had just become the first team outside of Texas to win the north Texas-based Whataburger Tournament since 1992. Already #1 in Arkansas, Parkview was now breaking into some national top-25 rankings. There was even talk of Parkview returning to the same lofty national status achieved 20 years earlier, when Derek Fisher, Maurice Robinson, Dion Cross, Kenneth Taylor and Jamal Lindsey finished a 29-1 record, a perfect 14-0 in conference – and at one point achieved a #4 national ranking.

In early January, all that stood between this season’s Patriots matching  those ’92 Patriots was a hellacious meat-grinder of a conference schedule – a 7A/6A East gamut that ranks among the toughest in state history.

Why?

Besides Parkview, three words: Hall, Jacksonville, Jonesboro. Other conference teams – West Memphis, Marion – aren’t exactly pushovers, either. Each of these teams has multiple players who will go on to play to play college ball; the conference’s eight teams altogether produced 17 college players who graduated last year, according to VYPE magazine.

Parkview struggled early on, losing half of its first 10 conference games. Four of those losses came to archrivals Jacksonville and Hall. But after that last loss to Hall, on Feb. 10, the team has gelled to reel off three straight wins: 69-26 vs. Searcy, 55-39 vs. Jonesboro and 51-34 vs. Marion. A Parkview win at West Memphis on Friday could lock up a #3 seed heading into the state tournament.  [more discussion of that game and others in central Arkansas at ARPreps’ weekly prepscast].

Not surprisingly, Parkview co-captains Emmanuel Adoyi, a senior, and Nebraska commit I.J Ready, a junior, have led the way. Sophomore guard Anton Beard, who ESPN reports has offers from UConn, Arkansas and Georgetown among others, also stars. Here’s the damage they’ve done through 25 games:

Emmanuel Adoyi

Points per game: 8.1

FG%: 48.6 (72-148)

3-Pt FG% 33.3 (1-3)

FT%: 68.1 (62-91)

Total Rebounds:  220  (Offensive 91 Defensive 129)

Assists: 13

Turnovers: 34

Blocks: 26

Steals: 54

I.J. Ready

Points per game: 18.0

FG%: 56.3 (138-245)

3-Pt FG% 30.7 (35-114)

FT%: 85.8% (73-85)

Total Rebounds: 42  (Offensive 7 Defensive 35)

Assists: 83

Turnovers: 41

Blocks: 2

Steals: 78

Anton Beard

Points per game: 16.5

FG%: 57.9 (124-214)

3-Pt FG% 30.1 (22-73)

FT%: 66.2 (100-151)

Total Rebounds: 108   (Offensive 43 Defensive 65)

Assists: 59

Turnovers: 55

Blocks: 4

Steals: 52

Stats courtesy of Parkview assistant coach Champ Watson

Making the Cut: The Vanishing Legacy of Arkansas’ All-Black Sports

During illustrious high school careers, All-Americans Eddie Miles and Jackie Ridgle took center stage in nearly every game they played. In a recent Associated Press list, though, they don’t even get off the bench. 

It may be a tired truism,  but those in power determine the history which will be passed down to future generations.

Eddie Miles should be included among the state's official list of 2,000 point scorers in prep basketball.

Segregation between races was Arkansas’ status quo for 120 years before the Civil Rights movement began picking up speed in the state during during the mid-1950s.  In the state’s northeast corner, the Hoxie school district became the state’s first K-12 institution to integrate in 1955. Two years later, the Little Rock Central High crisis was broadcast to every corner of the world.

A half century later, the accomplishments of the brave pioneers in these stories are now threaded into the state’s official history – into its textbooks, holidays and cultural encyclopedia.

It took another decade, but pioneers also integrated the state’s basketball courts and football fields. I was reminded of their legacy when last week when I saw a news brief about a Newport teenager becoming the state’s fourth basketball player to score 2,000 points in a high school career. The Associated Press fired this out to multiple news outlets in a couple paragraphs, wiped its hands and was done with it. A seemingly simple milestone duly recorded for posterity, then on to the next newsmakers.

But the full story doesn’t end there.

Continue reading Making the Cut: The Vanishing Legacy of Arkansas’ All-Black Sports

Comparing Hog Freshmen to the Best First-year Classes in Program History

Have B.J. Young and his frosh teammates risen to meet standards set by the likes of Sidney Moncrief, Todd Day and Scotty Thurman? Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Seldom does an Arkansas freshman class enter the season with as many expectations as this year’s quartet of B.J. Young, Hunter Mickelson, Rashad Madden and Devonta Abron. Rarely are they needed to play as urgently as this group, which – following a summer of transfers and winter of injuries – now makes up half of Arkansas’ eight scholarship players.

But there is precedent.

In previous eras, new Razorbacks have made substantial splashes, kicking off the most celebrated three-year runs in program history. In the mid-1970s, the “Triplets,” three Arkansas natives within two years of each other, got it rolling for Eddie Sutton. The next two waves came under Nolan Richardson, and formed the nuclei of three Final Four appearances in the 1990s.
As a whole, this year’s freshmen haven’t played as many minutes as their predecessors. Expect that to change soon, though. As senior Michael Sanchez recovers from a shoulder injury, Mickelson and Abron will play more. Already, the new guys are setting records – Mickelson has blocked more shots than any previous Arkansas freshman, and these Hogs have won 17 home games, the most in program history.

Still, the Razorbacks lost their first seven games outside of Arkansas. Each of the previous celebrated freshmen classes had won at least three road games by this point in the season. By their second years, they led teams among the nation’s best on the road. Sure, the anticipated return of a healthy Marshawn Powell next season helps. But if this year’s freshmen wait until then to start living up to their predecessors’ standards, it will be too late. Their legacy won’t be determined by how many hearts they can win in their own arena. It will be set by how many are broken in other arenas.

Player

First season

Points per game

FG%

FT%

Rebounds per game

Minutes per game

Games

M. Delph

1974-75

6.2

50%

81%

2.5

N/A

26

R. Brewer*

1975-76

11.9

58%

75%

3.8

N/A

28

S. Moncrief

1975-76

12.6

67%

73%

7.6

N/A

28

1975-76 record through 25 games: 17-8
1975-76 record outside of Arkansas thru 25 games: 3-7
1976-77 overall record: 26-2
1977-78 overall record: 32-4

Skipping the Super Bowl, and Loving It

Last Sunday, I skipped the Super Bowl for the first time as a sentient sports fan. Believe me, I still partied. But I wanted to know if I’d feel empty not watching America’s biggest sports spectacle.

 That resolution crept into my head sometime on Saturday while considering the NFL will probably be around forever. Its bloated spectacle of a title game will, apparently, just get longer, more watched and more ridiculous each and every year. So, why not take a break once in a while from my usual four to six hours reading up on the showdown, then watching the game and post-game? That time could be used to catch up on other things.

 And if ever one were to skip a Super Bowl, this seemed to be the year. The game rehashed a much more enticing recent version of the same matchup. The 2008 version featured an 18-0 New England team against the clear underdog New York. But Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in his Super Bowl debut, led an epic 17-14 upset of the Patriots. It seemed highly unlikely this year’s Super Bowl would create the same kind of drama. Anything less would be a disappointment. Continue reading Skipping the Super Bowl, and Loving It

Sneak Peek at ESPN’s “40 Minutes of Hell” documentary: Part 2

“He used to tell us all the time if you see me and and a bear fighting, you better help that damn bear. I ain’t gonna need you to help me” – former Razorback Corey Beck on coach Nolan Richardson
This is Part 2 of a two-part preview of ESPN’s upcoming “40 Minutes of Hell”

Richardson had never shied away from provocative accusations of racial inequality, but at these conferences he unleashed more vitriol than ever. After a loss in Lexington, Ky. he said he’d leave the university if the remainder of his $7.21 million contract was bought out. The worst of it came in Fayetteville:

When I look at all of you people in this room, I see no one who looks like me, talks like me or acts like me,” he said the white reporters at the Ark. press conference. ”Now, why don’t you recruit? Why don’t the editors recruit like I’m recruiting?”

Richardson, the only black among the Fayetteville campus’s 17 head coaches according to a New York Times article, also said he was treated differently because of his race.

”See, my great-great-grandfather came over on the ship, I didn’t,” he said. ”And I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. My great-great-grandfather came over on the ship. Not Nolan Richardson.
”I did not come over on that ship, so I expect to be treated a little bit different. Because I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches around this school play on.”

In the ESPNU video, former Arkansas chancellor John White says the anger had boiled to a point that it could burn the university:

It was important for me that he send the message that he was happy at the University of Arkansas. Because people all over the state – particularly African Americans in this state – were watching Coach Richardson and they were making decisions about whether their sons and daughters should come to the University of Arkansas to go to school.

In the end, Richardson’s greatest strength became his ultimate undoing, Bradburd says. “We can never escape ourselves and what made him a great coach was this us-against-the-world mentality.”

Continue reading Sneak Peek at ESPN’s “40 Minutes of Hell” documentary: Part 2

Talking Hogs basketball with Ronnie Brewer

Ronnie Brewer also barely trails his father in Arkansas' record books. Ronnie is #16 all-time with 1,416 career points. Ron is #15 all-time, with 1,440 points.

The following interview occurred during last month’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a time in which many Americans get away from the daily grind. Not so for  former Razorback Ronnie Brewer, whose Chicago Bulls played in Memphis.

MEMPHIS – Everything is rushed for this interview.

The reporters jam into the visitors’ locker room and mass around one Chicago Bull, then another, seeking soundbites. The players look bone tired, but dutifully dispense post-game Pez into the recorders in front of them.

This is NBA life circa 2012, on the heels of a lockout that has forced 66 games to be played with four months. That’s a game every 1.8 days, alongside a slog of hotel check-ins, arena commutes and flights in and out of cities from Portland to Miami.

And sometimes the cards fall just wrong, producing hellacious stretches like the one the Bulls are in now. Seven games in nine days, folks. Even hey-day Jordan might have had trouble getting up
for that.

Another result?

Continue reading Talking Hogs basketball with Ronnie Brewer

Sneak peek at “40 Minutes of Hell,” ESPN documentary on Arkansas’ 1994 team and Nolan Richardson: Part 1


“A lot of people didn’t get him. They had too many expectations about how they should talk and how he should talk and how they should all behave, which in the end is what I think led to the end of his tenure. Which I always regretted. I always thought the guy had real power.” - Bill Clinton

Nolan Richardson and his Arkansas Razorbacks faced no more daunting obstacle on their path to the 1994 national championship than the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, Ky. Since losing to the Hogs in 1992, the #4 Wildcats had reeled off 33 consecutive victories at home. When the #3 Hogs entered Rupp Arena on Feb. 9, 1994, the Wildcats roared to a 39-24 lead with 4:44 left in the first half. Arkansas, though, kept up the full-court pressure.“The style that we play, there’s a lot of times you’re gonna get down in the ballgame,” former Arkansas coach Richardon tells ESPNU in its upcoming documentary “40 Minutes of Hell.” “But if you stay after it and stay after it, it’s like wear and tear constantly. Something’s gonna break. And if that breaks then we’re gonna be in position to do something about it.”

By the end of that Feb. 9 game, Kentucky’s endurance was shattered and Arkansas’ confidence had never been stronger. The documentary uncovers footage of Razorback Corliss Williamson walking off the court carrying teammate Al Dillard on his back, and of Scotty Thurman busting out some kind of celebratory shimmy shake amidst the ensuing locker room hoopla.

In his postgame talk, Richardson roars: “We were supposed to do that. That’s how you look at it. That’s why I say it’s a day at the office.”

Such heady times might have become the norm in the mid-1990s, but the Razorbacks program has not seen similar success then. “40 Minutes of Hell” doesn’t explore why success dwindled in the last seven years of Richardson’s 1985-2002 tenure. Instead, it focuses on how the very same forces driving Richardson to that 1994 title led to his fall following two 2002 press conferences.

The video presents original footage and commentary from some of the most pivotal Razorback games of the era, including the 1991 showdown between #1 UNLV and #2 Arkansas at Barnhill Arena and 1993’s 120-68 victory over eventual Big Eight champ Missouri. It also packs in interviews with former President Bill Clinton, current Hog coach Mike Anderson, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and a few key members of Arkansas’ championship team.

Here are some of the most interesting excerpts:

In 1985, Richardson initially declined the Arkansas job. But his daughter Yvonne convinced him to change his mind, pointing out Fayetteville was only 90 miles away and he already had fans there. With only 12 wins in his first season, it was a rocky start:

It wasn’t the easiest place to start a career. I had a lot of racial slurs, I had a lot of hate mail. We weren’t very good. There was one night I could not even go in my condo because of a bomb threat. I wasn’t winning so ‘Get him out of here.’ – Nolan Richardson

Yvonne was diagnosed with leukemia in 1985. Mike Anderson, then an Arkansas assistant coach, helped the Richardsons by regularly driving her 100 miles to Tulsa for treatments. Two years later, however, Yvonne died at age 15.

I think from her I gathered some more strength. It was like ‘I got to show these people something. I got to show them something before I get out of here.’ And you’re gonna help me do this, because you brought me here. Let’s show them. Let’s show them it can be done. – Richardson

Many national pundits favored Duke over Arkansas heading into the 1994 title game. The Blue Devils were deemed more intelligent. This perception, unsurprisingly, irritated Richardson, who used it as fuel to further motivate his team.

Well, it was the smart kids versus the dumb kids. The smart coach against the dumb coach.
How smart do you have to be to block a shot? How smart do you have to be to trap? How smart do you have to be? You have to be smart to do that? What is smart? You don’t have to be as smart as everybody says you need to be. All you have to do is understand the game… [Duke coach Mike] Krzyzewski is no doubt one of the masters of the game, but my team played a little bit better than his.” – Richardson

Arkansas hasn’t returned to the Sweet 16 since 1996. By the early 2000s, the mounting demands seemed to be getting to Richardson.

“I think as the team started to take a dip, the pressure is building. The years of anger and feeling like he had to prove himself, he’s not able to forget that stuff or leave that stuff behind. I think that all came to a head” – Rus Bradburd, author of “40 Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson.”

“I had the impression for several weeks leading up to it, that Nolan was growing tired of pushing the big, big ball up the mountain” – former Arkansas Chancellor John White

Then it all unraveled for Richardson within about a week in February, 2002. At two press conferences – first at Kentucky, then in Fayetteville…

“40 Minutes of Hell premieres Saturday, Feb.11 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU. Its preview continues here.

Clash of the Titans: A Jacksonville and Hall video grab bag

UPDATE:

Hall won 47-43, after not leading until 1:15 into the third quarter. Aaron Walton, little brother to Baylor point guard A.J. Walton, scored 11 of 13 points in the second half. If the score wasn’t enough of an indication, the stats back it up: defenses dominated this game. Neither shot more than 40% FG, and they combined for 3-of-16 on 3-pointers.

Read more at ARPreps.com.

Every week, it seems Little Rock Hall High is one half of the equation in the latest game of the week.

That’s what happens when the last time you lost was December 6th. Since that loss against North Little Rock, though, Hall has not played a hotter team in a more hostile environment than Jacksonville. True, the Warriors already beat the Red Devils by 13 points, but don’t let silly Maxpreps fool ya’ – that Jan. 5 game was very much in Little Rock. Since that loss, Jacksonville has been on a tear all its own – walloping the likes of Parkview, Jonesboro and West Memphis. Get a preview of this game and others at the latest ARPreps.com prepscast.

In the last few weeks, Hall has become the favorite in these CenArk Top-5 clashes as it surges to the top of the 7A/6A East. But tonight in Lonoke County, Jacksonville has its best shot at stealing momentum from the defending champs.

Here are some clips to get you ready:

Physically, nobody in state can deal with Bobby Portis. But can the Red Devils’ home court crazies unnerve Hall’s star center?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0yR1pAyWSg&w=560&h=315]

It should be fun watching Jacksonville’s Justin McCleary match up with Hall perimeter players such as Dauda Berete:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2PpG0zz1RE&w=560&h=315]

Let’s not forget about the girls game, which also promises to be an intense match up with plenty of talent on the floor:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt_2rff61m0&w=560&h=315]

Gus Malzahn resurrects former Hog QB Mitch Mustain through the magic of PowerPoint

As a freshman all those years ago, Mitch Mustain went 8-0 at Arkansas and was one of the key figures in some of the controversy that enveloped first-year college coach Gus Malzahn and head coach Houston Nutt as the 2006 season wore on.

We know the aftermath: Malzahn to Tulsa, Nutt out, Petrino in and Mustain gone to USC. Mustain had thrived in high school, then in college, under Malzahn but he never really worked out in SoCal. Aside from a start against Notre Dame, Mitch had pretty much faded into shades-wearin’ obscurity by last December.

Well, Mustain’s back. Not in the flesh, but in bullet form. His UA success – however fleeting – forms the base of a national recruiting pitch new ASU coach Gus Malzahn unleashed on ESPNU on signing day:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNbE0cB11yE&w=560&h=315]

In this next video, you’ll notice in the following analysis that Mustain’s inclusion trips up ESPNU analyst David Pollack some, but it’s interesting to note that while Mustain’s playing days in the state of Arkansas are long over, he could still play a role in Malzahn’s ability to recruit future recruits.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBncr-RAjoo&w=560&h=315]

Of course, ASU hopes to end up with QBs who pan out more in line with Malzahn’s latest star college quarterback, Cam Newton, rather than his first.

Why if Fredi Knighten and Michael Dyer Risk It, They May Just Get that Biscuit for ASU

This guy was so good there's never not a good time to talk about him.

Little Rock Central hasn’t had an All-America caliber football player in decades, but that sure doesn’t mean the neighborhood cupboard’s bare. Two speedsters who have recently grown up in an area a few blocks southwest of the downtown high school both merited Parade All-America honors as seniors: Darren McFadden (who attended what is now Maumelle High School) and Fredi Knighten of Pulaski Academy. No, they didn’t know each other – not like McFadden befriended another high profile private school star soon to be Knighten’s teammate.

But Fredi was certainly aware of the McFaddens, who lived three blocks away from the home into which his mother moved when he started middle school. On many evenings, he recalls hearing stereos booming from McFadden’s car as it rumbled down his street. Of course, McFadden was also making all kinds of noise in Fayetteville, where he solidified his place as the best Razorback running back of all time with consecutive Heisman runner-up finishes.

It’s yet to be seen whether Knighten, a quarterback, can translate his own outstanding prep success to the college level. But if he does, it will likely be to the Razorbacks’ recruiting detriment in central Arkansas. Arkansas State now has three new inroads into central Arkansas it didn’t have during its record-setting 2010 season – Gus Malzahn, a longtime Arkansas high school coach, along with Michael Dyer and Knighten, the area’s last two Parade All-Americans. If ASU continues to build on its recent success, Jonesboro can’t help but become a hotter destination for central Arkansas high school players. A Little Rock native like Knighten, or Dyer, throwing up All-American-type numbers while at ASU would likely lavish unprecedented amounts of media attention on the Red Wolves program.

At the same time, it’s important to note as a Top 5 team the Razorbacks are also becoming a hotter name, not just at home but everywhere around the nation. Arkansas no longer needs to rely on nabbing every 5-star recruit that comes out of central Arkansas (or Springfield, Mo., for that matter). Sure,  Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock’s star running back, recently said “aye” to Alabama. But with the wide net Petrino and his coaches are casting over the nation – especially Western states – that loss doesn’t hurt the program like it would have in the Houston Nutt years.

Continue reading Why if Fredi Knighten and Michael Dyer Risk It, They May Just Get that Biscuit for ASU