Anton Beard Nearly Beat Chris Paul One-on-One

I just got off the phone with Razorback signee Anton Beard’s dad and he gave a little of the back story to Anton’s one-on-one game against future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in the summer of 2012. It happened at one of the CP3 Youth Camps in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Beard had to win an in-house tournament involving about 15-20 high schoolers to earn the right to challenge Paul, Floyd Beard told me.

In the video below (shot by Beard’s mother) you will see Beard give Paul a good challenge. Granted, Paul isn’t playing 100%  – or anything near – but there are nonetheless promising signs: Beard’s strong frame helps hold Paul to 3 of 9 shooting, and he causes two turnovers. Beard ends up losing 3-2, after being up 2-0, but you can’t realistically hope for more from a rising high school junior against the best point guard in the world.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3gcRQUfe-U&w=560&h=315]

Beard admits he was a bit nervous playing against Paul, but it’s hard to tell from the clip. He adds that Paul is one of his basketball role models and indeed originally committed to Missouri because an assistant there – Tim Fuller – was Paul’s high school coach.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_laNMeewH5c&w=560&h=315]

Beard has a long way to go before legit comparisons to Paul can be made – especially on the defensive side of the ball – but physically they are not far apart if we compare them as high schoolers. Paul is slightly taller and quicker (with much quicker hands), but Beard is stronger and has a more refined three point shot. Look for Beard to be given as big of an opportunity to star for the Hogs next season as Paul had for Wake Forest as a freshman.

The Hogs, after all, desperately need a prolific combo guard who can penetrate the lane and finish or kick out to marksmen like Ky Madden or Anthlon Bell.

History’s First Dunkers (w/ Arkansas-centric Twist)

This is the second-earliest known photograph of a dunk shot. (Jan. 9, 1938; The Hutchison, Kansas News-Herald)

As a child I used to think about the fate of the first interstellar spacecrafts launched in the 1970s to study the outer Solar System. These brave hunks of metal, named Pioneer and Voyager, did their task and after Neptune have just kept going – they are going still, far past our solar system and into the dimly lit airlessness beyond. These spacecraft have ventured farther than any manmade object before them, heading into unknown dark.

A not-dissimilar feeling of endlessness washes over me when I think about searching for record of the first dunk. Given the likelihood that basketball’s first actual dunk was never recorded, this is close to an impossible piece of investigative history. I’d have more luck finding the Garden of Eden’s coordinates on Google Earth.

And yet, I could not help myself in a recent piece for the Daily Beast.

Something deep within compelled me to suss out the earliest known dunks in history and I did (for now, at least). The first known in-game unassisted dunk happened in California in 1935, but – as you can read here – a cage-assisted dunk happened more than 20 years before that. I also tracked down the earliest known photograph of a dunk – which dates to 1937.

I don’t pretend to be able to even get close to finding the first known dunker in Arkansas basketball history. It is simply too big of a project to mess with. However, I did pick up some kernals that will serve anyone else willing to go down this path.  Here are some piecemeal insights:

1. Rick Schaeffer, Arkansas’ former sports information director, doesn’t know who the first Razorback dunker was, but if he had to guess, he’s going with 6-10 George Kok, who was Arkansas’ first All-American center in the late 1940s.

At the end of this passage is the first known reference to a dunk (Jan. 12, 1935; Woodland Daily Democrat)
At the end of this passage is the first known reference to a dunk (Jan. 12, 1935; Woodland Daily Democrat)

2. It doesn’t appear there was much dunking at the University of Arkansas around 1960, when Jerry Carlton lettered for the Razorbacks and earned All-SWC honors. “During my college playing days (1958-62) I can not ever recall anyone “dunking” the ball during a game or during warm-up,” he wrote in an e-mail. “If it was legal during this time I am sure someone would have ‘dunked.’ Showboating would be a term our coach would use for the ‘dunk’ shot as well as behind the back passes. Try a behind the back pass in a game with Coach [Glen] Rose and I am sure we would be on the bench.”

He recalled the dunk was not allowed in his Southwestern Conference, not even in practice (n.b. I have not double-checked this; I do know the dunk shot was outlawed in the entire NCAA in 1967). The game was played a little more above the rim in other parts of the state, he added: “I lived in Pine Bluff from 1963-65 and would go to see AM&N play. Was an all black school at that time. They had a drill in warm-up where all the team would ‘dunk’ the ball with one exception. They had one player who could not “dunk” the ball so the guy in front of him would lean over and this guy would step on his back and ‘dunk’ it. They put on a show for the fans. However, they could not ‘dunk’ during game.”

3. Arkansas basketball was starting to emerge from its floorbound ice age in other parts of the state, too. In the mid 1960s, William Hatchette, a freshman at the College of Ozarks who had a 42-inch vertical jump, angered fans when he dunked the ball in warm ups at Arkansas Tech. He “kind of hung on the rim. The crowd was ready to kill him,” then Ozarks coach Sam Starkey recalled in Untold Stories: Black Sports Heroes Before Integration. “We hadn’t beaten them in 17 years, but we won that game.” [N.B. Hatchette would go on to transfer to UALR, where he was that program’s first black player]

By the late 1960s, there were skyrisers doing their thing in actual games. In Altheimier, 6-3 superstar guard Jackie Ridgle was inspiring Earl Manigault-like tales of being able to grab a dollar off the top of the backboard. Ridgle would go on to average more than 30 points a game as a UC-Berkeley freshman. Around this same time, 5-11 guard Al Flanigan was earning a reputation as an explosive dunker at the all-black Columbia High School in Magnolia and later as a two-time Little All-American for Magnolia’s Southern State Muleriders.

********

In recent years, Arkansas players have produced some of the best dunks in the world. With the levitating likes of Michael Qualls, KeVaughn Allen, Malik Monk and Victor Dukes, the future looks very bright.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrSdpi85fKk&w=560&h=315]

Is Joe Johnson the worst All-Star selection in modern NBA history?

Joe Johnson now has more All-Star appearances than Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Chris Mullin,  Reggie Miller and Chris Webber. Is this a travesty? In the well-researched blog below, David Brown makes the case that it is.

I do agree Joe has a strong case this season for being the least deserving All-Star in NBA history – from a statistical standpoint. But David fails to mention two factors that played into his selection this year. First, the Nets are one of the league’s best teams since January 1. They very well may end up storming into the Playoffs and contend in the East – just as was originally forecasted. A big reason for that turnaround will have been Joe’s stellar play over a dozen-game period in January when he hit two game winners. Overall, his season hasn’t been All-Star worthy, but the coaches are likely voting for him because of this first-team All-NBA stretch he had.

Another factor to consider: Joe’s intangibles. He’s a better leader and team unifier than many NBA fans give him credit for. Consider what his presence did for the careers of Josh Smith , Al Horford and even Marvin Williams towards the end of his time in Atlanta. He’s steady, and you can count on him from an emotional standpoint – in this way, he’s similar to Tim Duncan. That kind of consistency is huge in a locker room culture where high pressure and outsized egos are often combustible combinations. My feeling is that some coaches voted for Joe less for his streaky three-point shooting and more the respect they have developed for who he is as a consummate team player.

Yes, rewarding someone for team play is not the purpose of an All-Star selection. But you’ll never convince those silly coaches of that.

List of All Division I Football Players Born in Arkansas

There are so many Arkansans who play Division I football. You know this, on a gut level. What you don’t know – on any level – is the name of every single last one of those Arkansans. That ends now.

So come, brother, and let the waters below sate your parched mind:

Arkansas has produced two Harvard football players - including Andrew Flesher, two-time Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.
Arkansas is home to two current Harvard football players – including Andrew Flesher, two-time Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.

The below stats are current as of fall 2013. I have listed the most recent 2014 signees at the bottom.

20140205_123716 20140205_123726 20140205_123733 20140205_123738 20140205_12374320140205_123754

All spreadsheets courtesy of Benn Stencil of Mode. Check here for a breakdown of which Arkansas counties produce the most talent per capita. 

2014 Signees

ARKANSASHereARKANSAS STATEHereCENTRAL ARKANSAS
Tyler Colquitt – LB 5-10 235 Pulaski Academy
Toney Hawkins – QB 6-1 185 Morrilton
Will Jones – OT 6-4 300 Parkers Chapel
Curtis Parker – OG 6-2 280 North Little Rock
Dalvin Simmons – DE 6-2 220 LR Central
Josiah Wymer – TE 6-4 262 Springdale

ALABAMA
PLAYER POS. HT. WT. SCHOOL
Josh Frazier – DT 6-3 330 Springdale Har-Ber

GRAMBLING STATE
Devohn Lindsey – WR 6-2 198 North Little Rock

LOUISIANA-MONROE
Tyrone Carter – WR 6-2 175 Rayville, La./Arkansas Baptist JC
Isaac Jackson – QB 6-2 210 FS Southside
Jake Snyder – OT 6-3 270 Wynne

LOUISIANA TECH
Ty Mullens# – DL 6-1 220 Smackover

MEMPHIS
Jarvis Cooper – DL/LB 6-2 245 West Memphis

MISSOURI STATE
Daryl Coburn – DT 6-1 325 LR Central
Deion Holliman – WR 5-9 165 Camden Fairview
Colby Isbell – DE 6-2 240 Rogers Heritage

PURDUE
Austin McGehee – PK/P 6-0 200 Pine Bluff

TULSA
Jabe Burgess* – QB 6-2 200 Greenwood
Jordan Dennis – ATH 6-1 175 Fayetteville
Isaac Johnson – OT 6-6 275 Springdale Har-Ber
Tim Quickel – LB 6-1 200 North Little Rock

WAKE FOREST
Zack Wary – LB 6-4 215 Rogers
#Walk on *Enrolled NOTE – Most players listed for Lyon are signees

UAPB

Kavin Alexander DB 5’10 190 North Little Rock HS (North Little Rock, AR)
Lawrence Berry WR 5’11 170 Parkview HS (Little Rock, AR)
Kyron Lawson DL 6’6 230 Mills HS (Little Rock, AR)
Patrick Rowland WR 5’10 165 Parkview HS (Little Rock, AR)

The University of Arkansas Professor who Created a Sports Dystopia

roller ball

More than 40 years ago, around the time public outcry was peaking about brutality in football, a University of Arkansas English professor attended a basketball game at Barnhill Arena*. There, with the Razorbacks trailing, a fight broke out. It was, apparently, quite a vicious squabble, so much so it inspired the Hogs to roar back for a win.

It also inspired the professor, William Harrison, to wonder just how violent sports in the future may become. He was moved to pen “a little experimental story.”

That story, “Roller Ball Murder,” published in Esquire and inspired the screenplays for two movies. The story centers on a highly popular futuristic sport involving balls and big, strong men flying at each other at increasingly high velocities. Rules are changed to make the game more violent and drive up ratings. The result: higher rates of in-game injuries, and frequent death. Crowd noise for the first movie, released in 1975, was actually recorded during a live game at Barnhill Arena.

The NFL, of course, is currently changing its rules to make the game ostensibly more safe in light of the concussion debate. Yet while it focuses on concussions, the rate of musculoskeletal injuries keeps rising as players get bigger, stronger and faster.
William Harrison passed away last year, but his vision of a dark sports future should not be forgotten. He raised an important question in the 1970s that is just as perinent now: Where are American sports – in particular, football – headed? If its players keep getting bigger and faster, it cannot help but get more dangerous – no matter how much fancy equipment is stuffed into their lockers.
This is a topic I explore in my piece below for the Daily Beast:

Long before studies of former NFL players’ brain tissue shook America’s football-industrial complex to its stem, the sport had undergone other crises involving player safety. In the 1970s, no microscope was needed to see neck and spine injuries among players of all levels were escalating fast. One main culprit was the hard-shell helmet that had essentially become a spearing weapon. Too many coaches were teaching players a head-first form of tackling that left a path of mangled bodies in its wake, sending insurance premiums through the roof.Rollerball, a movie about a dystopian society fixated with an ultra-violent sport, became an international hit in 1975 and triggered more debate on brutality in sports within the general public. A former Penn State University president became so worried about the direction football was headed he made a plea in the form of a prediction to Joe Paterno, the former Nittany Lions head coach. “Joe, if football doesn’t do something about the injuries, soccer will be our national sport in 10 years.”

This didn’t happen, of course.

It is Manning, not Messi, Sherman, not Suarez, who dominate the headlines before Sunday’s massively anticipated Super Bowl. Denver’s greatest passing offense of all time is on a collision course with Seattle and its most fearsome pass defense in recent history. This here is tectonic heat, a contrast hitting at the heart of why we love sport in the first place. The NFL has most of me in its grasp for this one.

And yet, there is unease. Questions of whether the game’s brutality has gone too far persist. In terms of quantity and severity, there are signs we are on the cusp of the most violent Super Bowl yet.

The violence and danger of football extends far past professional stadiums.

Start with the increasing size, strength, and speed of players at almost all positions that has contributed to a rise in overall injuries over the last decade—from 2,623 in 2004 to 3,126 in 2012. Kam Chancellor, Seattle’s all-league safety, stands 6’3”, 232 pounds—specs that in the 1950s could have belonged to a defensive tackle. Nobody mixes mass, acceleration, and aggression quite like Chancellor, who appears to have the perfect mindset for somebody paid to do stuff like this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78qF72JwJwA&w=560&h=315]

“When I go out there, all of these hard hits and laying dudes out, that’s just my passion for the game,” he told the Seattle Times. “That’s just showing how much I love this game.”

*I haven’t been able to find an original interview source in which Harrison cites Barnhill as the site of the basketball game, but I have found secondary sources like this. Plus, it just makes sense. Very few English and creative writing professors bother to follow a team on the road.