Why Tyler Scaife Ultimately Chose Rutgers over Arkansas, Tennessee, Baylor et al

Latest SLAM issue profiles nation's top-ranked PG out of Little Rock.
Latest SLAM issue profiles nation’s top-ranked PG out of Little Rock.

Franklyn Calle has a nice article in SLAM magazine on the most dominant guard in recent Arkansas basketball history.

He talked to Tyler Scaife, Little Rock High’s McDonald All-American, about why she chose Rutgers over the likes of Tennessee and Baylor. Turns out, Scaife’s favorite player is Cappie Pondexter, the 5-9 Rutgers alum who in 2011 was voted as one of the top 15 players in WNBA history. Scaife, who also stands 5-9, told Calle: “[Rutgers] Coach Stringer does a great job of molding guards and putting them in the WNBA. I felt that Rutgers fit my style of play.”

Scaife will try to finish her high school career in style by bringing Hall a long-awaited title in the state playoffs over the next week and a half. In 2011-12, Scaife averaged 25.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 steals but Hall finished the season at 23-6 after losing in the 7A state semifinals to Fort Smith Northside. This year, Scaife’s numbers had dropped through early February (24 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.1 steals and 1 block) but in recent weeks she has ramped up her performance as her team has steamrolled to a 26-2 record and #1 state ranking.

Depending on how Hall finishes this season, Scaife could have a legit argument to be the best female player in state history. As I see it, her main competition for this designation is Shekinna Stricklin, who was a force of nature at Morrilton High 2005-08. Stricklin, like Scaife, won two Gatorade player of the year honors to go along with the McDonald’s All-American honor. Here are some other Stricklin benchmarks Scaife will be measured against:

  • Named all-state and all-conference all four years of her high school career
  • Started in all 120 games played and totaled 2,690 points, 1,400 rebounds, 726 assists, 474 steals and 605 blocked shots
  • Had 45 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the 2008 state finals her senior year
  • Parade Magazine All-America Second Team (2008) and Third Team (2007)
  • 2008 USA Today All-USA First Team
  • The 2006 MVP of the Arkansas State AAAA championships after her 30-point, 16-rebound, four-assist and four-block performance in the championship game to lead Morrilton to the title

Check out this month’s issue of SLAM  (Russell Westbrook cover) for the complete Scaife article. 

ADDENDUM

I just got this insight from longtime Arkansas sportswriter Walter Woodie. The man has seen plenty of good ball in his day:

Before you call her the best in the 5-on-5 era, you might want to think about Wendy Schoeltens of FS Southside.
 All-American at Vandy, played in Europe/Asia before WNBA. Also in Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Besides Stricklin, do not forget Hot Springs’ Shemeka Christon, who was the SEC Player of the Year at Arkansas.
 
She is in the argument, yes, but not the best. At least, not yet.

40, 50, 60 fold: Comparing average pro sports salaries in 1972 to 2011

I ran across some interesting numbers today in an Arkansas Gazette clipping from March, 1972.
Here are the average salaries in the major sports leagues at that time:

March 13 1972 COMPARISON OF SPORT SALARIES-page-0

From left to right, you’re looking at the NFL, MLB, ABA (which rivaled the NBA in the late 1960s/early 1970s), NHL and NBA.

The article pertaining to this graph notes that rival leagues were a main reason  NBA and NHL led the pack in average salaries:

March 13 1972 COMPARISON OF SPORT SALARIES-page-0

The NHL hasn’t been able to keep pace in recent decades, as these December, 2011 numbers show:

Sport Average Salary
National Basketball League (NBA) $5.2 Million
Major League Baseball (MLB) $2.5 Million
National Football League (NFL) $1.75 Million
National Hockey League (NHL) $1.3 Million

Source: statisticbrain.com

On the Shoulders of Non-Giants: Stellar Guards Lift Little Rock Parkview, North Little Rock programs

 

Although only a sophomore, Allen is already one of the state's best guards.
Only a sophomore, Allen is already one of the state’s best guards. Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


Two years ago, as an eighth-grader, Kevaughn Allen decided to seriously prepare for high school competition.

So he started a training regiment that would make some NBA players balk.

Every weekday, year-round, he has met his AAU coach Kahn Cotton at the North Little Rock Athletic Club at 5 a.m. For two hours, they work on skills, strength and quickness. In the offseason, Allen tacks on an afternoon session of plyometrics.

For the love of just being a kid, why does he do it?

“I just wanted to be get better as a person and as a basketball player,” Allen said. “I just didn’t want nobody else to be better than me.”

For the most part, all that sweat has paid off. Allen, one of the nation’s most promising sophomore guards, has earned scholarship offers from a host of schools including the University of Arkansas. He helps lead a North Little Rock Charging Wildcats team that has won 23 games in a row and has spent nearly all the season ranked #1 in the state.

He has teamed with fellow guard Dayshawn Watkins to form one of the state’s best backcourts. The duo combines for about 36 points and 10 assists a game, and has already helped NLR defeat other top teams around the state – Jonesboro, Little Rock Hall, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Clarksville.

Their statistics, though, wouldn’t fuel as many wins were it not for an on-court chemistry springing from off-court friendship. Last season was hard on Watkins. The point guard had just transferred from North Pulaski and had trouble jelling with new teammates. “It wasn’t easy for me to get used to my teammates, and it wasn’t easy for them to get used to me,” Watkins told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tim Cooper in December 2012. “We liked each other, but we didn’t always have the chemistry on the court.”

Continue reading On the Shoulders of Non-Giants: Stellar Guards Lift Little Rock Parkview, North Little Rock programs

Anton Beard, Kevaughn Allen, Imara Ready, Dayshawn Watkins: Recruiting and Prep Statistics Update

The Future: Anton Beard, Dayshawn Watkins, Imara Ready, Kevaughn Allen (L-R) Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The Future: Anton Beard, Dayshawn Watkins, Imara Ready, Kevaughn Allen (L-R) Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

  Last Saturday, during Arkansas’ 73-71 win against Missouri, Hog fans glimpsed on the court of Bud Walton Arena what they hope will become a common occurrence in the future – a scrambling, clawing squad which regularly knocks out the best SEC teams.

  A critical part of that future might have also been glimpsed among the fans themselves. Two Razorback recruits who rank among the nation’s best guards in their classes attended the game, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport. Freshman Adrian Moore (6-4, 170 pounds) of Conway is ranked by Future150.com as the No. 4 shooting guard in his class. Sophomore Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 170) of North Little Rock is ranked as the No. 7 shooting guard. Last summer, ESPN ranked him as the nation’s No. 21 player in the class of 2015. Arkansas has already offered scholarships to both players.

  I caught up with Allen, along with some of the state’s other top guards, in a feature article for this week’s Sync magazine. Allen has roughly 15 scholarships offers, from schools like Florida, Nebraska, Connecticut and Louisville. So far, he’s taken three unofficial visits: Arkansas, Baylor and Mississippi State. Allen doesn’t yet have a Top 5 or anything like that, but says his favorite player is former Razorback and Little Rock native Joe Johnson. Allen met Johnson after seeing him play at the  Dunbar Summer Recreational Basketball League.

  I also profiled Little Rock Parkview junior Anton Beard, who recently reopened his recruitment after decommitting from Missouri.  “I just wanted to see all my options,” the 6-0 combo guard said. “I think I committed a little bit too early. Me and my family decided that wasn’t what was best.” His Parkview coach, Al Flangian, added one factor in Beard’s decision was uncertainty swirling around the future of the Mizzou basketball program and its head coach Frank Haith. Haith had long faced allegations of unethical conduct stemming from his previous job at Miami. A Miami booster and convicted felon, Nevin Shapiro, alleged he paid $10,000 to the family of a Hurricane recruit during Haith’s 2004-11 Miami stint.

Continue reading Anton Beard, Kevaughn Allen, Imara Ready, Dayshawn Watkins: Recruiting and Prep Statistics Update

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columnist Goes Off On “Girly Men” Who Care About Concussions In Football

I recently gave myself a concussion, so forceful were the repeated slaps to my forehead as I read the following column by Democrat-Gazette columnist Bradley Gitz.
On the surface, it seems Gitz would be someone who bases his arguments on, oh, actual reason. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Illinois and teaches at Lyon College, which has a fairly high academic reputation among mid South private colleges. But Gitz packed his column with so much sloppy thinking, overgeneralizing and sophomoric name-calling,  I shudder at the prospect of him teaching our nation’s future leaders to think.

Below are the most egregious excerpts, with my own comments following:

Football’s risky—so what?

Published Feb 18, 2013

“The best thing about this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t how exciting the game was (although it was certainly that) but that there were so few of those ridiculous flags for breathing on the quarterbacks or accidentally touching the receivers that make fans groan and smack their foreheads.
Maybe Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the officials telling them to put the sissy stuff away and let the players actually play the game, for once.
The powder-puff probably won’t stay put away for long though, as  football at all levels is now squarely in the cross-hairs of our self-appointed pleasure police. They don’t much like football for the same reason they don’t like fast food, tobacco, fizzy soft drinks, SUVs, or guns—because the rest of us less-sensitive types in flyover country do.”
“Dedicated to a life of pestering their neighbors over their unhealthy habits and unenlightened attitudes, our hand-wringing “girly-men” have, in a moment of sudden revelation, noticed that football is violent and dangerous (imagine that!).”
[All the sudden, really? Sports Illustrated delved into possible long-term health consequences of violence in football in the early 1990s.]

Jeremy Evans on Scottie Pippen, Bobby Petrino and Competing Against Streetballers in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Evans is the second Arkansan to win an NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He’s also the second Ashley County native to compete in one.

In January, I interviewed 2012 NBA Slam Dunk champion Jeremy Evans for SLAM magazine. We discussed the redundancy that’s come to pervade the dunk contest and possible remedies. I proposed allowing the general public into the contest, and Evans welcomed the challenge of competing against pro streetball dunkers. Tonight, Evans will defend his title against a field of NBAers including Gerald Green and James “Flight” White, who has promised to unveil dunks never before seen by the public.

Evans, a Crossett, Ark. native, and I also touched on other subjects in the interview.  Here are some highlights:

1. Evans isn’t the first “Arkansan” to win the NBA’s slam dunk contest. Fred Jones, who grew up in Malvern and moved to Oregon in middle school, won the 2004 contest.

2. Ashley County in southeast Arkansas has about 22,000 people but has produced two NBA players besides Evans. The first was Myron Jackson, a 6-3 guard who played for UALR.  Jackson, a Hamburg native, played eight games with the Dallas Mavericks in 1986-87. The following season another Hamburg native, Scottie Pippen, made his NBA debut.

Evans said Pippen inspired him as a young player. Hamburg is only 15 miles from Crossett, and as a teen Evans believed “if he can make it, I can make it.” Evans twice met Pippen – at a basketball game in Hamburg and at Wal-Mart in Crossett.  In Wal-Mart, Evans (who is an introvert) said his mom took him over to introduce him to Pippen. “He signed my shoes and that’s about it,” he said with a chuckle.

Pippen, by the way, participated in the 1990 NBA slam dunk contest, where he threw down a free-throw line dunk (Evans says he’s completed one of these only once – during a practice in high school).

3, Evans loves to draw. “I do everything – airbrush, portrait, oil painting, colored pencils, landscapes – just about anything you can imagine.”  After his playing days end, he wants to open his own studio.

As far as he knows, he is one of the only NBA players who seriously draws. He recalls one erstwhile Oklahoma City Thunder player had a similar interest, and ultimately opened a studio in Oklahoma (he’s forgotten the player’s name).

My sportswriter friend David Harten attended Western Kentucky University with Evans in the late 2000s and told me Evans drew a portrait of CBS announcer Mike Gminski before a 2009 NCAA Tournament game. “Someone came up to me and asked me to do it,” recalled Evans, who enjoys portrait drawings the most. “I did it just because they asked me to.”

Evans’ favorite type of art is portraiture. He likes the challenge of trying to get a person’s face exactly right.

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If Mike Gminski one day needs to be portrayed in a raucous comedy titled “Announcerman,” I know exactly who should play him.

Continue reading Jeremy Evans on Scottie Pippen, Bobby Petrino and Competing Against Streetballers in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Breaking Down Home/Road SEC Team Records In Last Decade

Below are the home and road winning percentages for SEC teams in each of the last 10 seasons. You”ll notice I didn’t include Missouri and Texas A&M, which joined the SEC this season. You’ll also notice these graphs are fuzzy as hell (I apologize on behalf of my Flintstone technology), so click the image to clearly see the numbers.

SEC home percentages

SEC road percentages

Stats are current through 2/11/13. I did not include results of  neutral court games.

Comparing Hogs’ Home Court Advantage to Other SEC Road Woe-rriers

Over the last five years, no SEC basketball team has had as severe a bipolar personality as the Arkansas Razorbacks. This was confirmed on Saturday, when the Hogs stumbled through a loss at  Vanderbilt only three days after defeating #2 Florida at home.

Indeed, as the numbers point out below, no SEC team has had as large a discrepancy between its home and road winning percentages as the Hogs over the last five years. I compared Arkansas with the other three SEC teams at the bottom of the road wins barrel in that time period and found:

On average, the Hogs win 14% of their road games, compared to the second-lowest teams, Auburn and South Carolina, at 23%.

Hog bball winning on road

Yet, it’s not as if Arkansas has been an overall horrible team, which is normally expected from teams which play so woefully on the road.

Arkansas, on average, wins 77% of its home games, a full 10% more than Georgia, the second-best team at home in our small pool.

Hog Bball Winning at Home

The difference between Arkansas’ home and road winning percentage averages is 63%*, which is very extreme.

How extreme?

As a point of comparsion, consider a few years ago Maryland had the largest discrepancy in the ACC between home win percentage and road/neutral court win percentage. It was only 39.2%.

The NFL’s largest such discrepancy for the years 2003-2013 came from Detroit. The Lions won 21.2% percent more of their home games vs. road games in that decade.

Quite a few teams go winless on the road during a particular season, but you rarely see a team so persistently bad on the road as Arkansas. Especially when that same team is winning so many games at home.

Why do you think Arkansas has such an enduring road problem over the years despite head coach and roster changes ? My best guess is that whatever the problem is – whether it’s a certain attitude, or lack thereof –  it keeps getting passed on from upperclassmen to underclassmen year after year.

I wonder: Should the athletic program invest in a sports psychologist to address the issue?

*To get this number, I averaged the single season win percentages. I did not add the total number of wins and games played over the five-year period. 

Behind the Scenes Look at the Recruitment of Altee Tenpenny: My SBnation longform feature article

Beating out Alabama for top prospects is a Catch-22 for Arkansas.
Beating out Alabama for top prospects is a Catch-22 for Arkansas.

I’ve spent the last few months interviewing North Little Rock football player Altee Tenpenny and his inner circle about his recruitment.

Tenpenny, of course, has been the subject of plenty discussion in these parts. He committed to Alabama in January 2012, but it always held the door slightly ajar from the Razorbacks to make their case. When Bret Bielema came aboard as Arkansas’ new coach, with a reputation for showcasing top-notch running backs at his previous stint in Wisconsin, Tenpenny allowed that door to creak ever slightly more open.

But Monday night, with a Tweet declaring he was 100% committed to Alabama, Tenpenny slammed the door shut.

This morning, on National Signing Day, he used a pen and fax machine to deadbolt that sucker.

I still think Arkansas fans should pay attention to the story of his recruitment, however. There are so many interlocking parts to the whole process – from the coaches’ spiels, to the parents’ jobs, to the high school coach’s background and the way the media (yes, me included) not only report on this whole crazy carnival but to different degrees actually participate in it.

Every recruit has to deal with similar issues. You hope the teen has people who have his best intentions in mind to deal with a process that only becomes more pressure packed and scrutinized by the year. So, I was heartened to see that Tenpenny has good parents to help him distinguish between emotion-fueled propaganda and reasonable arguments. I know Hog fans don’t like the outcome, but they should still reflect on and pay heed to the process.

Tenpenny’s recruitment represents only the first battle between Bret Bielema’s Arkansas staff and Nick Saban’s Alabama staff. It may be a while before Arkansas can win on the field, but in the recruiting world Arkansas’ first victory could come as early as next February. Josh Frazier, a 6-4, 324-pound junior defensive lineman from Springdale Har-Ber, has offers from Arkansas and Alabama.

FLIPPING TENPENNY

Heading into his sophomore season at North Little Rock High School, running back Altee Tenpenny had never heard of a combine.

He didn’t know a summer circuit fitness test could rocket a previously obscure name onto the radar of every major college football program and secure the attention of top college football coaches. However, his high school coaches did, and in June 2010 they encouraged him to attend one. Tenpenny came back with a score of 90.91. “Everybody was looking at me like I did good,” he said. Indeed, at 15 years old, without a minute of varsity football under his belt, the native Arkansan’s score identified him as an elite athlete, the kind that made college football coaches and fans drool.

Read the entire 7,000 word article here.

Arkansas 49er: Little Rock Native John York Plays Prominent Role in Super Bowl

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Images courtesy of Arkansas Life magazine

The former co-owner, and current co-chairman, of the San Francisco 49ers is a Little Rock Catholic High graduate who grew up in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood and learned statistics by playing the horses at Oakland Park. In 2010, former Arkansas Life editor Kane Webb flew to the Bay Area for the following profile of John York:

(click on the images to make them easier to read)

IMAG1742

Continue reading Arkansas 49er: Little Rock Native John York Plays Prominent Role in Super Bowl