Wally Hall, the Arkansas Activities Association & the Loss of a State’s Athletic Heritage

Before Malik Monk, this man torched local nets like no other. His name, though, keeps being forgotten.

We’re taught in school that history, at its core, is comprised of facts: so-and-so did such-and-such on a certain date. Learn enough of those, and you know enough to write an essay, make your passing grade, and get on with graduation.

Unfortunately, history is a lot less clear cut than that.

The people wielding the most power often determine what the “facts” are, and which ones are passed down to following generations. Our past, it turns out, is riddled with voids. We can’t fill them all, but it can be enough of a start to acknowledge they are there.FullSizeRender

This came to mind when reading today’s column by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall. At the end, he praises Jim Bryan, an Arkansas prep basketball legend who recently suffered an embolism. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Hall’s pretty generous when it comes to wishing folks well.

What concerns me is the part where Bryan is described as “the second all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball history.” That’s not true. In terms of all-time career points scored, Bryan is listed as the state’s fourth greatest scorer.

INDIVIDUAL – REGULAR SEASON OFFENSE – MOST POINTS SCORED
Career

4,896 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1968-71

3,619 Jacob Roark, Concord, 2011-14

3,238 James Anderson, Junction City, 2004-07

2,792 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1955-58

2,755 Dederick Lee, Clarksville, 2009-13

2,317 Ronnie Parrott, Tuckerman, 1976-79

2,239 Payton Henson, Siloam Springs, 2009-13

2,018 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1963-66

The above records are kept by the Arkansas Activities Association, the state’s governing body of high school athletics. The fact that Hall missed Bryan’s standing by a place or two, to me, isn’t too big of a deal. What’s far more important is what the records don’t include. Namely, any mention of Jackie Ridgle and Eddie Miles – potentially the two most potent scorers in Arkansas high school history before current Bentonville star Malik Monk.

Miles, for one, averaged 21 points as a freshman, and then upped that each year to top out at around 32 points points a game as a senior. With numbers like that, there’s no doubt the North Little Rock native deserves a spot near the top of the all-time scoring list. But he’s not there, nor is Ridgle, because they played for all-black schools with records that have been largely lost, forgotten or destroyed. Even those which still exist and can be verified – such as Miles’ and Ridgle’s – haven’t been incorporated into the AAA’s record book. Until that happens, it shouldn’t be viewed as a true, official account of the state’s prep history.

This is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve written about it time and time again. To the credit of the AAA, its assistant executive director Wadie Moore has been sympathetic to this problem and he has added Miles’ name to one category. But one mention isn’t enough when he (and Ridgle) deserve mention in multiple categories:

Per Game – Season

50.9 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970-71

46.0 Larry Stidman, Mount Ida, 1989

32.7 Josh Smith, Prairie Grove, 1996-97

31.0 Steven Delph, Guy-Perkins, 1987-88

30.3 Eddie Miles, NLR Jones, 1958

30.2 Marvin Newton, Viola, 1956-57

29.2 Glen Fenter, Charleston, 1977-78

28.8 Bill James, Armorel, 1957

28.0 Randy Porter, Luxora, 1979-80

28.0 Kyle James, Brinkley, 1986-87

The AAA means well, but I want it to do a more thorough job with its record books. Jim Bryan, for instance, owns the top two spots in the season scoring totals below. But where are the season point totals for the three people in front of him in the all-time career scoring list? Surely, a Bennie Fuller season or two should be here. Same with Jacob Roark and James Anderson, not to mention the likes of Eddie Miles or Jackie Ridgle.

 Season

1,190 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1957-58

1,152 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1956-57

1,125 Jermaine Mansko, Tuckerman, 1992

1,059 Matt Secrease, Weiner, 2002-2003 Season

1,041 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1965-66

This issue doesn’t just apply to Arkansas. It’s occurring in other states, too, especially in the South. But some states – like Texas – do a better job than others. Arkansas should join their ranks.


Below are more scoring marks, according to the AAA’s 2014 record book. (One glance down the names shows why Rex Nelson tabbed Bennie Fuller as the “Wilt Chamberlin of the Deaf“)

Single Game

108 Morris Dale Mathis (St. Joe), 1-25-1955

102 Bennie Fuller Ark. Deaf School, 12-4-1971

98 Bennie Fuller, Ark. Deaf School, 1970

77 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1970

65 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970

64 Bill McElduff, Marianna, 1944

61 Brooks Taylor, Buffalo Island Central, 2006

59 Wayne Lemon,s Dyess, 1952

58 Chester Barner, Jr., Marmaduke, 1959

58 Josh Bateman, Marmaduke, 2002

7 thoughts on “Wally Hall, the Arkansas Activities Association & the Loss of a State’s Athletic Heritage”

  1. I noticed the name of a player from Marianna who scored 64 points in 1944.

    I had no idea of this single game scoring – but I can correct his name. His name “was” (he is deceased) Bill McElduff. He was the senior boys basketball coach in DeWitt back when I was in the eighth and ninth grades at DeWitt. That would have been the seasons of 1954-55 and 1955-56. Sadly, Coach McElduff had marital problems and left DeWitt during the summer of 1956. I believe he moved to Texas and I assume he found employment there. I really, really wish he had stayed in DeWitt and been my coach while I was in high school. He was a GREAT coach. He also was a good baseball player. I knew he was from Marianna – and I know he went to Arkansas Tech – I assume he played baseball and basketball at Arkansas Tech.

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  2. Dear Evin,
    I would like to clarify that I (Jim Bryan’s granddaughter) was the one who mentioned him as “the second all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball history” in a Facebook post primarily regarding my grandfather’s pulmonary embolism. In the closing of that post, I stated: “Rex Nelson can tell you that no one comes close to Bennie Fuller for career points, but just for the record, I’d like to note that 3-pointers didn’t exist when Jim Bryan played the game!
    Either way, you can’t keep a good man down.”
    I do not know every facet of how Arkansas’ rich basketball history is recorded, but after Jim Bryan had three code-blues in the hospital that night, it is just little reminders like these that kept our family going right before Christmas–the one that we were supposed to spend with him.
    Wally did nothing other than take a fact I had read about my grandfather from Rex Nelson and repeated it in the newspaper article. It was a truly gracious gesture and my grandfather even faintly joked; “This is not how I like to make the paper, but tell Wally thanks” after he had his endotracheal tube extubation.
    I would actually love to go over the records with you, as my grandfather is still admitted to the Baptist Rehabilitation Hospital a month after his embolism.
    As sports fans, I know we all love to keep scores. In reality, I think all that matters in the context of that article is that my grandfather Jim Bryan was not only a 2nd (or 5th) state leading basketball scorer, but is also still a great man, husband, father, and grandfather, who survived with the odds of 1 to 100,000,000 against him.
    Thank you for your mention of him though. I’m sure he’ll find it an interesting read in the hospital. Just be sure all facts are checked, because he will have them triple-checked!
    Feel free to email me with your thoughts.

    Sincerely,
    Laura C. Bryan

    1. Thank for your detailed response and the update on your grandfather, Laura. I am glad to hear that he survived. How is he doing now?

      Indeed, to me, where specifically Jim was ranked wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as who I know is NOT being ranked (or included in the record books at all). The exclusions of African Americans in the AAA record books is something I hope one day can be rectified as well as possible. But that will take a lot of work.

      I digress – best wishes to Jim, an Arkansas prep basketball legend no matter the ranking!

      1. I would have to agree with you there, and I think my grandfather would say the same. Up until his recent medical issues, Jim Bryan would travel all over the state to watch high school basketball games in person, keep records of the games and players, and report stats back to the AAA. He has always been a great researcher and steward for Arkansas high school basketball (and Arkansas athletics in general.) He and a few others have been known to update any unrecorded statistics, to a degree being past just a hobby.
        Thank you for your response.
        My grandfather is a trooper and he is quickly regaining muscle memory through Baptist Hospital’s great rehabilitation and PT programs.
        I hope you’ll have the opportunity to go over the record books with him someday soon!

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